A desert city playground with a unique combination of Arabian culture, mega-malls and audacious architecture in a setting of year-round sun, sand and sea. Great family hotels and a ridiculous number of family attractions too.
Travel bucket list idea:
A night in the desert
Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)|
Desert safaris – that include a checklist of outdoor desert adventures – are one of Dubai’s top attractions. But many miss out on the rare opportunity to spend a night in the desert. When the tour group hordes head back after their Beduin-style dinner, the desert returns to a place of utter tranquillity, overlooked by a carpet of twinkling stars for mesmerising star-gazing.
Luxury local operator Nara offers you the chance to stay a night, or two, at their ‘Nest’ camp. You can go straight there for sunset drinks, followed by dinner. Meals range from simple barbecues to multi-course feasts, with most evenings ending with glasses of steaming mint tea, taken around a flickering fire. You can try your hand at archery, or perhaps ride a camel, and learn some astronomy – the starry night sky is magnificent and clear.
Alternatively, you can choose to dine at the Sonara Camp, where dinner is taken in a hollow carved out of the sands, strewn with fairy lights, with an open kitchen and a stage, where the evening’s performances include a whirling dervish and fire show. Dishes infused with regional flavours include lamb shoulder with Ras el Hanout spices, slow-cooked hammour fish from Umm Al Quwain, and roasted cauliflower with tahini. There’s also an entire menu dedicated to vegan guests. Afterwards, you return to The Nets to sleep.
A more budget-conscious ‘desert glamping’ experience of offered by the Hatta Dome Park, where you sleep in specially-created dome tents, with views over the Hitta mountains. For the top-end experience, at a desert oasis no less, then book yourself in for a night or two at the uber-luxurious Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa.
All ages are welcome, but there are minimum ages for activities – for example, children must be 5 and over to ride a camel.
Getting there & doing it
Many safari camps offer transfers – by camel or Landcruiser – from the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve Gate, which is easily accessible by taxi from the city. Some offer a chauffeur service from the hotel, which includes waiting near the camp until you’re ready to go home at the end of the evening. Allow around 3-4 hours.
When to do it
While most camps are open year-round, the appeal of spending time in the desert when the temperatures are in the mid-40s Celsius is limited. Ideal times to visit are between October and May.
It can get chilly in the desert in winter so be sure to take something warm to wear when the temperatures drop in the evening.
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