Welcome to ecotourism, Dubai-style. Forget travelling in trucks and camping in tents with nothing but Mother Earth for a toilet; Al Maha, which recently made the Condé Nast Traveler 2007 “Gold List”, offers a luxurious way to be at one with nature, for around Dh4,000 a night ($1090), depending on the season.
In the desert, 45km from the city, Al Maha is part of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, the emirate's first national park, which boasts an impressive herd of rare oryx. The gazelle-like creatures, indigenous to the UAE, were on the verge of extinction 50 years ago, and the reserve is breeding and reintroducing them into the wild. It all seems pretty compelling when you’re nursing a gin and tonic on your private terrace.
The resort is designed to resemble a Bedouin camp, but tribesmen during the Prophet Muhammad's time probably never enjoyed the walk-in showers, minibars and air conditioning that greet today’s guests. All the opulence is in frightfully good taste and manages to avoid imposing itself on the landscape. Some of the quirky activities on offer, such as falconry, camel-riding and archery, make good dinner-party material when the holiday is over. The Timeless Spa is also a highlight, with potions made from frankincense and Arabian dates.
Al Maha's distance from Dubai proper need cause no problems: the staff can arrange airport transfer. If taking a taxi, contact the resort in advance, as not all of Dubai's drivers will be familiar with the remote location.