Dubai: I hear the nice crunch of dirt before my fat bike groans as I reach a sandy terrain. I pedal harder as I navigate through the dunes, breathtaking views of the desert unravelling before me. Not far away I see a camel handler walking the gentle giant.
Only an hour ago I was hitting the gas pedal on the concrete jungle that is Shaikh Zayed Road, now here I was exploring the different terrains of Al Qudra desert surrounding Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa, my beautiful home for the weekend.
Dubai’s best kept secret? Definitely. The five-star desert resort takes you to a different world that you quickly forget you are actually just 30 minutes away from the city centre.
The resort is made up of one- and two-storey villas inspired by traditional Middle East architecture. My room - one of property’s 115 rooms and suites - made me feel like a shaikha with its soft bed, intricately designed heavy wood furniture and stucco walls in warm yellow colour.
Even the Moroccan-inspired bathtub did not fail to impress.
One look at the uniquely designed bedroom slippers made of coconut fibre and I knew that they’ve thought of even the smallest details to make this place a truly unique getaway.
What to do
There’s surprisingly a lot to do here, depending on one’s adrenaline levels: camel rides, horse rides and other adventures. I was Katniss Everdeen for two hours as I took my first date with the bow and arrow with a 60-minute archery class. It was super fun, and the instructor was exceptionally kind even as I kept missing the target!
I unwinded with a soothing massage at their award-winning Satori Spa, which smelled really good and delivered an exceptionally relaxing massage. Heaven in 60 minutes.
Tip: Don’t forget to check in the scenic relaxation room before you leave and get a free cup of their invigorating ginger-lime infused tea.
The resort’s pools are also a must-visit. I loved cooling in the twin inifinity pools with fantastic views of the dunes and Jacuzzi spots in shaded areas. Just watch your steps as you wade in (the floor rises and falls in two different places).
Tip: Head up to the elevated relaxation pool for some privacy as well as a bird’s eye view of the pool area.
I was also pleasantly surprised to hop on a desert ride on an open-top Land Rover Defender where I got to see desert gazelle and Arabian Oryx before we went on a roller coaster ride through the dunes. And I thought I had to drive all the way to Hatta for these things!
But what I enjoyed the most was the fat bike ride through the desert, which allowed me to pedal my way through the nearby horse and camel stables, explore the desert and re-capture my childhood love for cycling.
Where to eat
My first worry about staying in a resort literally in the middle of nowhere was where to eat. But it turns out I need not have worried as there are plenty of restaurants here.
At the all-day dining Al Forsan, I enjoyed an international breakfast buffet with views of the greens overlooking the desert. Its kitchen also serves the pool bar if you’re feeling hungry after wading through the infinity pool. Prices are reasonable and the most expensive item on the menu is perfectly grilled steak for Dh175. Don’t miss the wagyu beef burger for Dh90!
If the weather isn’t too harsh, the rooftop lounge Al Sarab is perfect for some late afternoon drinks followed by live entertainment just before sunset.
Masala gave me a slice of how the maharajas dined in their days. The authentic North Indian restaurant is somewhat pricey but the food and service are exceptional. No wonder celebs and Dubai shaikhs dine here.
My all-time favourite place to dine is Al Hadheerah, the open-air dining spot that has everything I love about desert entertainment and food.
I keep coming back here for that classy taste of Arabia, with its five-star buffet, live cooking stations, live entertainment and a desert play! If you love the sit-down barbecue dinners at the end of those desert safaris, I swear you’ll love this place 20 times more.
Location: Al Qudra Road, Dubai
Room rates start at Dh1,100 this summer. excluding service charge and municipality fees. Telephone: 04 3813231. Email: BAS.email@example.com