The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert Near+Far rating: 8/10
Why stay at The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert
The terracotta-hued dunes of Ras Al Khaimah’s desert hide plenty of wonders: grazing camels, blood-orange sunsets towering sand dunes, and one of the Middle East’s most opulent and loved desert retreats, The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert. The property opened under the luxurious Ritz-Carlton name in 2017, taking over from an existing Banyan Tree resort, and while few changes were made, it’s thriving under its new moniker.
This is the hotel for people looking to get away, without travelling too far: it’s set in 1,235 acres of protected nature reserve and has all feels of a remote luxury safari camp, but it is just 12 miles from the coast and a one-hour drive from Downtown Dubai. Guests reside in villas with private pools, all with views over the ethereal dunes, and cycle around lantern-lit pathways to go on desert drives, visit the spa or enjoy one of its many restaurants – some of which are worth the drive out from Dubai, without even staying the night. With free-roaming wildlife – camels, Arabian oryx and sand gazelles, and ask-for-nothing luxury, this is a desert escape done right.
The location: 9/10
Just a one-hour drive from Downtown Dubai and a 50-minute drive from Dubai International Airport. The property is accessed via a short dirt track – meaning minimal off-roading time to get to what (blissfully) feels like the middle of nowhere. While the best part of staying here is switching off and connecting with the desert, Al Hamra (with its golf course, shopping mall and beach) and Ras Al Khaimah City are just a short drive away.
The rooms: 9/10
There are no rooms at Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert, just private pool villas, backing out onto the desert dunes and offering magical views from their private terraces. Elegant entry-level Al Rimal Pool Villas are perfect for a cosy couple’s stay or long weekend – with elegant Arabic decor and an outdoor bathroom – but book into a tented pool villa for the ultimate Bedouin-inspired experience. The sweeping tented ceilings, ornate Arabesque furnishings and fabulous terraces with sunloungers, seating, a large infinity pool and desert views are truly magical – and wandering up the steps to our tented villa, we passed two grazing gazelles. Guests can luxuriate in the giant soaking tub using Asprey London toiletries and not want for a thing, thanks to an ample supply of towels, a yoga mat and, delightfully, an iron and ironing board. Don’t be surprised to spot an Arabian oryx grazing near the pool when night falls.
Food and drink: 8/10
Unlike many of the UAE’s desert escapes, The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert has a wide range of restaurants and dining options, making it quite easy to enjoy a long stay here. For casual all-day dining, there’s Kaheela Restaurant, a breezy, Arabian-inspired restaurant serving Levantine and international cuisine. Kaheela also doubles as the setting for one of the best breakfasts around: stacks of stations spanning breakfast classics, egg dishes, sweets, savouries and healthy options. Health-conscious guests and those with dietary requirements are very well taken care of – again, a rarity for a Middle Eastern desert resort.
The most upscale is Moorish, the hotel’s cavernous Moroccan restaurant with a rooftop Moon Bar offering picturesque views of the desert. This view is equally, if not more stunning, from your villa, and in-villa dining is very popular with guests. The stand-out restaurant is Farmhouse, The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert’s rustic, yet modern, eatery set around a watering hole frequented by a constant stream of wildlife.
The spa and facilities: 8/10
The resort is home to an Arabian-inspired spa where guests can get all the usual treatments like massages, facials and other body experiences. But the best thing you can do here is make the most of its expansive, desert grounds. There’s archery, horse riding, falconry, fishing, desert biking, horseback riding, stargazing and other activities. Make sure to book a wildlife tour, a real insight into the arid landscape and the animals that call it home, where you’ll trundle across the dunes spotting sand gazelles, herds of Arabian oryx, and, hopefully, the elusive trio of black buck.
The vibe: 8/10
Life slows down at this resort, and at times you’ll feel like the only one around. This is because guests are enjoying their villas and terraces. An Arabian oryx trots past as you cross into the cool, Arabesque lobby – focused around a fountain – and switch off with a glass of something cold and a fragrant towelette. You’re likely to see more animals than guests here, apart from in the surprisingly vibey restaurants, and guests are largely well-to-do couples and families.
The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert has earned its stripes as a total bucket-list hotel for a UAE staycation or vacation. Its location in the heart of the desert makes it feel almost on another planet, yet it’s under an hour’s drive from Dubai and a short drive to Ras Al Khaimah’s communities. This property ticks all the boxes: culinary, wildlife, decor, vibe, setting, and is arguably one of the most romantic resorts in the world – the perfect proposal spot.
Villas from AED 1,550 a night; Al Mazraa Wadi Khadija; ritzcarlton.com