Check in | Diamonds in the rough

29 Oct 2017
7 min read
We explore four of the Middle East’s most luxurious desert hotels with the added benefit of spectacular spas…
Al Areen Palace & Spa |Bahrain

Nestled in an oasis in 131,000 metre-squared of the Arabian desert, Al Areen Palace & Spa is an uncompromisingly luxurious haven. The resort is home to 78 opulent villas, pools, six dining options and a spa and health club. Enchantingly beautiful, the resort offers guests a unique experience of traditional Arabian hospitality and culture and contemporary luxury style.

Choose from one-bedroom Desert Pool villas or two-bedroom Royal villas, both of which include private courtyards, luxury en-suite facilities, temperature-controlled pools and Jacuzzi whirlpools, and in-villa catering. The Desert Pool villas, of which there are 56 offer a secluded and intimate sanctuary, meld modern design elements with traditional Middle Eastern character throughout, boasting a king sized bed, ensuite bathroom, and separate indoor and outdoor rainfall showers. The Royal villas take the luxury of the Desert Pool villas and stretch it to new heights, with the opportunity to accommodate up to six guests for private dining and ten guests to stay in a private majilis.

While in-villa catering is a wonderful way to enjoy your stay at the Al Areen, exploring the restaurants is highly recommended. The Saffron restaurant offers a refined menu inspired by modern Bahraini dishes, combining elements of European and Khaleeji cuisine in a resplendent room with a beautiful high ceiling and traditional Middle Eastern accents. Alternatively, Keizo restaurant offers dishes inspired by Japanese, Thai and Chinese flavours amidst stylish architecture and chic interiors. The Rimal restaurant offers laidback all-day Middle Eastern and international cuisine in a light and airy setting. Or, enjoy a quick bite in the Senses Lounge or pool bar.

Being as much a world-class spa as it is a luxury hotel, it is worth indulging in Al Areen’s selection of hydrothermal treatments and wellness experiences. Inspired by the Chinese Five Elements philosophy and ancient Asian traditions, the setting is opulent yet serene. The hydrothermal garden is based on the great spa cultures of the world and combines three of nature’s most powerful elements; heat, water and air. One of the world’s most extensive hydrothermal facilities, it consists of nine different hydrotherapy stations as well as eight hydrothermal cabins including the Ice Igloo, Brine Cavern and Herbal Ceramic Sauna. Al Areen Palace & Spa Health Club includes a gym, two tennis courts, a squash court, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, wellness studio, kids club and a fitness studio, alongside personal trainers, with a backdrop onto the majestic Arabian desert.


Six Senses Zinghy Bay |Oman

Six Senses Zinghy Bay is located on the northern Musandam Peninsula in the Sultanate of Oman. Home to 82 authentic, village-style pool villas, as well as two speciality villas and suites, the hotel is guarded by the dramatic Hajar Mountains and gives onto an idyllic private beach.

Each of thepool villascan sleep up to four people and comes with its own private infinity pool. Located at the secluded end of Zinghy Bay on its own stretch of private beach, The Private Reserve offers the ultimate luxury experience, as the largest villa in the Middle East. A grand four-bedroomed retreat with views onto the Gulf of Oman, the villa is designed to reflect traditional Omani architecture. With a multitude of living and dining areas for entertaining, a private spa suite, gym, yoga studio, wine cellar, and 17-metre infinity pool, the villa is also home to a live-in butler to cater to your every need.

Sitting at either end of beautiful Zinghy Bay are two Retreats, overlooking the calm sea and offering an unsurpassed level of comfort and privacy. Each Retreat is a blend of the surrounding traditional Omani, indigenous village style with modern amenities which provide a relaxing lifestyle amidst local cultural themes. There is a personal spa suite, a wine cellar and state-of-the-art entertainment systems, as well as a huge outside space within the privacy of high cobblestone walls. Plumped up sun loungers and shaded living and dining areas including a traditional Arabic summer house, surround the large infinity-edge swimming pool.

Choose from a range of dining options at Six Senses Zinghy Bay, which stay true to Arabic cuisine’s world-renowned fantastic cuisine. From a mountain top restaurant serving international cuisine with spectacular views over the Gulf of Oman, to regional specialties at the Wine Tower and Wine Cellar, and an authentic Bedouin dining experience at Shua Shack restaurant. Regional food including cold and hot mezze, Omani Shua lamb, vegetable salona, and a selection of local desserts are on the menu, all served on the beach under a traditional fabric tent. Watch as chefs create local favourites on live grills and gain an insight into the time-honoured techniques and flavours of local cuisine.

In addition to indulging in feasts, the resort’s spa combines peace, tranquillity, fitness and health with ancient and modern holistic treatments from in-house experts and visiting wellness experts. The yoga detox program–suitable for the more experienced yoga practitioner–draws on hatha yoga cleansing techniques and detox treatments for stays from five to fourteen nights, while there is also an option for beginners. Also available to those who would like to immerse themselves into local customs, the Sense of Oman program integrates indigenous plants, herbs and fruits into spa treatments, like a the basil and mint scrub, and combines sports with local sights, like the private morning village jogging.

However, if something a little more adventurous is up your street, choose from a paraglide arrival into Zighy Bay, Dhow cruises, trekking, mountain biking or rock climbing and customized tours.


Qasr Al Sarab |UAE

In the dunes of the Liwa Desert lies Qasr Al Sarab resort. Offering a serene oasis of luxury and comfort, the resort is made up of 205 rooms, villas and suites, exceptional restaurants, facilities and adventures, which weave a luxury experience with Arabian highlights and local culture.

The rooms, villas and suites are elegantly designed with spectacular desert views. Combining earthy tones, lush Middle Eastern fabrics, jewel-embedded silver and bronze chandeliers and local artefacts, with plush modern facilities and exceptional standards of hospitality, every room, suite or villa is a demonstration of the luxury lifestyle that Qasr Al Sarab nurtures. From the Deluxe Garden room, which gives uninterrupted views of the desert from king-sized beds, oversized round baths and a terrace and garden. Moving up through the Deluxe Balcony room and Deluxe Terrace room, the Anantara suites come with a palatial-sized bedroom, living room and option to connect extra rooms. However, it is the one-, two- and three-bedroom Anantara Pool villas that take the resort’s accommodation to the ultimate luxury experience. Featuring the finest five star services, including a 24/7 butler, these private palaces benefit from two bedrooms with King beds, one bedroom with Twin beds, a common lounge area, pantry, private pool, sundecks, oversized bathtubs and rain showers.

However, if you were to want to explore the surrounding areas, Qasr Al Sarab offers a plethora of activities. Visit the Bedouin Tent by the Falaj to immerse yourself in the local way of life and savour a string of authentic Arabian customs, against the backdrop of vast dunes and enchanting desert surroundings. Or explore the desert with a guide from atop a camel, and discover the range of wildlife and beauty of the area, including the crystallised sand formations known as ‘Desert Roses’ that embellish the dunes.

Back in the resort, indulge in the enticing dining choices. Suhail rooftop bar and grill offers meat and seafood, giving sweeping views of the starlit dunes in the distance; enjoy Middle Eastern and international delights at Al Waha restaurant. Or the poolside restaurant Ghadeer offers a relaxed atmosphere during the day, and dinner by candlelight at night, with delectable cuisine hailing from the local area, complemented by flavours of the Mediterranean. For light bites or treats at anytime Al Liwan lobby lounge is an idyllic rendezvous spot for friends and family, offering traditional blends of tea, rich Middle Eastern coffee and fine snacks.

Anantara Spa offers five spacious desert view treatment rooms, the highlight of which is the Moroccan-style Hammam, which includes double heated marble beds, Jacuzzis, steam rooms and an exclusive Ice Cave pamper. Or enjoy the resort’s signature experiences, inspired by the region and fused with the finest local ingredients.


The Oberoi, Sahl Hasheeh, Red Sea |Egypt

The Oberoi, Sahl Hasheesh is located directly on the shore of the Red Sea in a spectacular 48 acres of private land. The all-suite hotel showcases traditional Arabic décor, with spacious and airy accommodation, domed ceilings and the traditional Islamic eight-point star, while accommodating modern guests with the ultra-opulent suites, contemporary facilities, a selection of exceptional restaurants, a certified PADI dive centre and an 850-metre private beach.

The suites at The Oberoi are secluded and serene, dotted around the huge grounds. Accessible by foot or a golf buggy chauffer-ride away, they range from Deluxe suites to the royal suite. All decorated in neutral tones with splashes of Arabic influence, the opulence of the suites is in the details. Each of the 63 Deluxe suites has its own private terrace, in addition to a spacious bedroom and living room and marble baths, while the Superior Deluxe suites also boast a beachside location. The 12 Grand suites all the features and amenities of a Deluxe suite, but with the addition of a beautiful private swimming pool. Set in the privacy of a courtyard garden, the pools are heated in the cooler months. Last but not least, the Royal suite, of which there are six, offers the ultimate luxury. With elegant interiors, they offer a separate living room with a dining area, pantry and guest bathroom, as well as the king size bedroom. The outdoor dining pavilion and private heated swimming pool are set in a lush courtyard garden.

With commanding views of the sea and with an al fresco dining option, the resort restaurants, Zaafran and The Pergola serve International and Middle Eastern cuisine. Zaafran is elegantly styled in shades of blue and silver, serving eclectic Indian cuisine at dinner only. A silver leafed central roof complements the blue fabric-panelled walls, while live oud music is played. The Pergola, on the other hand is located by the pool, overlooking the turquoise waters of the Red Sea. Open during the day, the menu is complemented by refreshing cocktails.
Dotted with coral reefs and fringed by ancient ports, the Red is home to a huge variety of fish species and rich coral reefs, and is a perfect location for either the first time or experienced diver. The Oberoi has a PADI certified dive centre on site located at the beachfront.

If something more relaxing is on the cards while at The Obereroi, Sahl Hasheesh, the spa is definitely where you should head. For thousands of years, Egyptians have understood the philosophy of renewal and the celebration of body and soul. Using essential oils, blended herbs, spices and aromas in treatments and personalised programs, the Spa is the place for complete relaxation.