March 11, 2017

Review: Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa

Planning & Booking
British Airways First Class 747-400 Denver to London
British Airways Concorde Room LHR
British Airways First Class 747-400 London to Dubai
JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Dubai
Park Hyatt Dubai
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways First Class 777-200LR Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles

We left the JW Marriott Dubai en route to Al Maha around 11AM.  Our driver was super friendly and explained a number of sites along the road as we exited the city and headed out into the desert.  30 minutes later we were pulling up to the first gate to enter the conservation reserve.

Welcome to DDCR
Al Maha!
Upon seeing the small footprint of Al Maha set against the desert, both of us were so excited to be back again.

Jump on the bed excited

Al Maha is a very special place - like not other resort either of us have been to.  If it wasn't so cost prohibitive, we'd make an annual pilgrimage here.  There is something about the desert that is calming, cleansing, unique and fun at the same time.  It doesn't hurt that the service, food, and amenities and five star.

Since we were here in 2015 and I did a full review, I'm going to skip that this time around.  But I will describe the activities we did and our suite since it was a different layout than the last visit.

We were warmly greeted upon check-in and discussed activities and decided on early morning falconry (more on this later) and the camel ride.  We could have selected two additional activities at no charge but just wanted to chill and hangout in our suite.

Our room wasn't ready so we were offered lunch downstairs in the restaurant.  As usual, the service and food were ridiculous - the staff is unbelievably friendly and everyone's English is impeccable.

Al Maha mezze 
Overlooking the desert
Al Diwaan restaurant
By the time we finished up, our room was ready and we were driven to our suite (22).  This would be a "regular" suite vs. the royal suite upgrade we stayed in last year.

Suite 22
Essentially, the royal suite has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a larger pool.  While that was certainly cool, we didn't need all the space and suite 22 was more than adequate.  It was located on the lower level of the resort at the corner (rooms are arranged in rows) so we had an amazing amount of privacy with great views.  The only thing that wasn't great was the road in front of the suite that the guides use to go back and forth between the resort and some of the back of the house facilities.  But that was a small issue.  While I did like being on the lower level where we could walk right into the desert, the upper level has better views of the sunrise, desert, and mountains of Oman.  So if that is your thing, you can likely request to be up there.

A few photos of the room.

And of course the coffee, water, and brandy setup which is top notch.

The hotel was nice enough to send over a bottle of sparkling wine and a thank you for "returning to our home."

The highlight of course is the outdoor areas.  The pool, dining table, and loungers.

And the gazelle's.

We relaxed in our suite for the rest of the afternoon.  The weather was perfect for just laying around, alternating between pool and chairs.

That evening we headed out for a camel ride.  I'm not a huge fan of camels or the 25 minute trek into the desert but Emily loves it for some reason so we did it again this year.  Once out in the middle of the dunes, I was happy.  Al Maha does a fantastic job with this - bar setup in what feels like the middle of nowhere.  You watch the sunset, have a glass of Champagne and then head back on the camels.

The next morning we did the falconry activity which I highly recommend.  I've seen pictures of the activity where there are 10-15 people.  This morning, it was just us and two guides.  Keep in mind, it starts around 6AM so it's an early morning.

Watching these animals fly around is amazing.  The guides do a great job of explaining the history of falconry, the popularity in the UAE, and then do their best (sometimes the falcons don't cooperate) to put on a show.  During our activity, one of the falcons took himself for a flight and didn't come back.  That meant a third guide joined us to hunt for the falcon and a bit of anxiety/drama for the guides until he was found.  They were overly apologetic about the interruption to the activity which obviously wasn't a big deal.  We we were able to hold a couple of the birds and take pictures.

On Thanksgiving morning, we watched the sunrise over the desert from our pool.  While part of me wished I was eating turkey and watching football back in Denver, this was not a bad way to start the day.

We had room service breakfast on the deck next to the pool prior to departing for Dubai.  These guys really put on a show in terms of room service.  We both ordered cappuccinos.  The foam was brought in a separate container and the server essentially "made" the cappuccino in front of us.  Highly impressive.  We had a couple of visitors that joined us for breakfast.

Prior to departure we hung out in the lobby a bit to snap a few pictures of the coffee, tea, and Arabic coffee setup.  The main building is just gorgeous and a great place to read a book or work for a bit.

Our driver arrived and soon we were off for the Park Hyatt.

Final Thoughts:
Al Maha is our favorite resort in the world.  It feels a million miles away from everything yet is only a quick drive from Dubai - one of the most accessible cities in the world.  If Denver had a direct flight to Dubai, it would be doable for a long weekend.  2 nights is great and I think 3 would be perfect.  4 would be too many.  The resort is completely turnkey.  You show up and everything is taken care of.  Food and activities are included.  There's a gym.  A large pool and a pool at your suite.  Both of us cannot wait to return.

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