For a real getaway on the doorstep, you can’t get much more secluded – and luxurious – than The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert resort, a mesmerising mirage situated amidst the shimmering dunes of the UAE’s striking desertscape.
Nestled within a beautiful 1,235-acre protected nature preserve, the resort features 101 luxurious private pool lodges, comprising of spacious villas with Bedouin-inspired architecture and beautiful tented yurt-style accommodation, designed by Dubai-based architect and interior designer Kristina Zanic.
The design of The Ritz-Carlton hotel and its villas is inspired by a trader’s journey along the historic caravan route of the Silk Road, with oryx, camels and gazelles roaming freely, tented villas, traditional Arabesque design details, and the discrete luxuries one would expect of a five-star resort.
Formerly a Banyan Tree hotel, The Ritz-Carlton took over the management of the resort in December 2016, renovating the villas and gardens and updating the dining venues.
The arrival experience is something to savour, driving down a palm-tree-lined track with donkeys and camels grazing on either side, towards a newly-built stone wall where the hotel’s name is carved into a large boulder. The entrance is grand yet unobtrusive against the background of the nature reserve and the rolling dunes. A long, high-pillared walkway adorned with huge Moroccan-style sconces and lanterns in perfect symmetry lead to a beautifully furnished lobby with high windows and drapes, delicate Islamic patterns peppering fabrics and decorative side tables, and an ancient olive tree at its centre under a glass dome ceiling.
Hop on a bicycle and take a scenic ride around the winding pathways and past desert fauna and turreted fortresses – the lookout towers from bygone days. The sand-coloured Al Rimal private pool villas offer a home-from-home feel (if you’re from the Middle East) that’s perfect for families, clustered in little cul-de-sacs creating a quiet, rural community ambience.
If you want a true escape, soak up the luxurious feeling of solitude and privacy amid the vast desert in one of the hotel’s Al Khaimah tented pool villas. Beyond the private entrance and manicured front terrace a heavy wooden door opens onto a glass front that looks out over a blue infinity pool and the wonderfully empty desert beyond. Draped with creamy-coloured curtains edged with Arabesque stitching in olive green, floor-to-ceiling windows feature on all sides and are topped by camouflaged canopies that peak and trough like the dunes.
Neutral shades of sand, tan, dark wood and green create a serene, relaxing ambience. Moroccan lanterns hang overhead, Islamic motifs pattern the thick creamy rugs underfoot and Arabesque details are woven into the fabrics and embossed into the furniture. There’s a sense of equestrianism, too, with tan leather upholstery and reign-style curtain tiebacks – a nod to the mode of transport vital to trading caravans on the Silk Road. The square bar in the spacious bedroom is custom-made to look like a luxurious leather travelling trunk, with strap handles on the sides as if one could flip it over and heave it away.
On the other side of the tented villa the bathroom is exquisite, with a standalone tub framed by a large wood and tan leather mirror that reflects the scenic views outside, surrounding you with the quiet desert vista.
Further on, the dressing room is elegantly designed within a round tented space, with heavy wooden armoires and floor-standing vanity units. At the far end, the toilet is hidden behind a marble and glass shower cubicle, so the refined ambience of the bathroom and dressing room are not marred by such necessities.
In the day, first-class spa treatments, archery, falconry or a canter around the grounds cater to every age and wont. Start the evening with a gentle stroll to the Farmhouse restaurant terrace for sundowners overlooking a tree-lined pond, where herons perch and oryx gather to drink. Inside, the venue has been transformed from a Thai restaurant to a chic farmhouse-inspired dining spot, in keeping with the natural, organic surroundings.
The large, barn-like structure features thick wooden beams and A-frame rafters, patterned ceramic floor tiles, and mix-and-match chairs in tan and teal leather around wooden dining tables. Antique country-kitchen items like butter churns and metal weighing scales, large vases of dried lavender, and a display wall of eclectic decorations, including vintage gramophones and mason jars, create a space full of interest and detail.
While the Farmhouse has an Americanised rural-chic feel, the a la carte dining venue Kaheela Restaurant carries a similar aesthetic to the lobby and tented villas, drawing upon the UAE’s heritage and history. This hotel is culturally rich in its design details and a wonderful desert escape for those living in the UAE. For those travelling from further afield, don’t let the drive from the airport put you off; it’s certainly worth the extra kilometres.
Find out more about The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert resort.