Get away from it all at these luxury desert hotels in the Middle East. New for 2022
SIX SENSES SHAHARUT, ISRAEL
Stay: If you are looking for a desert oasis, look no further than Six Senses Shaharut, Israel. This stone-built village sits high on a clifftop overlooking a valley. Push open the teak door to your villa and find one of the best desert resorts. Think super-soft sofas in the living room, a roomy bathroom, and an artisan wall hanging that slides back to reveal a flats-creen TV. When you step out onto your private terrace, you’ll find your own pool with panoramic views of the desert.
Eat: The views of each restaurant are hard to beat and so are its dishes. Revel in mouthwatering bites such as Tabun smoked lamb chops or fish kebabs wrapped in vine leaves. You can also ask for a private chef to prepare a meal for you in the villa or enjoy a Bedouin picnic among the dunes.
Play: During the day you can go mountain biking along the desert trails, trek with camels, or explore the ancient incense route on an off-road 4WD adventure. If you need some pampering, you can visit the Six Senses spa with a steam hammam, sauna and indoor relaxation pool. In the evening you can relax with a cocktail in the outdoor amphitheatre and watch the sun go down over the desert.
ZULAL WELLNESS RESORT, QATAR
Stay: Celebrity favourite Chiva Som has arrived on the shores of Qatar. The world-renowned spa has opened its first resort in the Middle East. Here you can enjoy the tranquil vibe of the famous Thai wellness retreat, but within Middle Eastern surroundings. While it may be designed to look like an ancient village, the wellness resort that focuses on traditional Arabic medicine is state-of-the-art. Choose from one-, two- or three-bedroom villas, which wrap around a lagoon filled with seawater. Rumour has it the German World Cup team will stay here in 2022.
Eat: You can dine at one of Zulal’s two healthy eating restaurants or take a seat around the campfire and enjoy barbecued treats at sunset. Another must-visit for gourmands is the tea house, where you can enjoy an array of herbal teas from across the globe.
Play: You’ll be able to keep moving from dawn to dusk. Start with yoga as the sun comes up, then take part in Pilates classes, cooking sessions, meditation, and Thai boxing. The wellness centre features 64 treatment rooms, as well as a Watsu pool, gyrotronic centre and a private gym where you’re the only member. At the end of the day, you can take a seat at the cinema under the stars.
ANANTARA WORLD ISLANDS DUBAI RESORT
Stay: Ride a glassbottomed speed boat from the shores of the Palm to the Anantara World Islands Resort. As you draw closer, you’ll see what appears to be an oasis dotted with palm trees rising from the water. This is your private desert island for your stay. The raffia-lined ceiling of your suite or villa gives a desert island feel. Yet, the marble-lined bathroom, freestanding tub and private pool remind you it is a Dubai desert island after all.
Eat: If you have a pool, you can enjoy a floating breakfast or lunch. You can keep your cool in the pool, while you dine from the floating tray of goodies in front of you. Otherwise, you can ride a buggy to the Greek-inspired restaurant, Helios, where you can dine indoors or outside overlooking the water, or visit the palm-tree-lined Middle Eastern-style Qamar with majlis-style seating on the terrace.
Play: Explore the calm waters of the Gulf by paddleboard, eFoil electric surfboard or relax in a HamacLand, your own hammock under a sunshade on a private floating pontoon. If you want to stay on dry land, you can go for a horse ride along the beach, and practise your golf shots at the island's own eco-friendly driving range, where you tee off with biodegradable balls made from fish food. You can ease any aching muscles with a signature shell massage in the spa.
BANYAN TREE ALULA, SAUDI
Stay: Among the sandstorm cliffs sculpted by the winds of time, you’ll find Banyan Tree AlUla. Bedouin tents blend into the dunes. The grounds of this unique desert hotel were once part of the spice trading route. Choose from one-, two- or three-bedroom villas that even come with private pools.
Eat: Dine in the Thai-inspired Saffron eatery or at the sofa-filled Alban restaurant serving Middle Eastern dishes.
Play: You can take a dip in the resort’s pool which is nestled between two mountains, work out in the gym, or book a treatment in the Banyan Tree spa. However, you’ll also want to take a drive around AlUla where more than 600 monuments can be found. Within this heritage area, you’ll find rocks inscribed with an ancient script and ancient buildings carved into the cliffs. The Acropolis of Mada’in Saleh, which is one of its most striking features was built by the same people who lived in Petra, Jordan. AlUlu also keeps its former old town, which the last resident left in 1980, as a living museum. You'll also be able to see Desert X, an al fresco art exhibition that was founded in Coachella, go hot-air ballooning, ride a zipline or go rock climbing in the desert.