It’s an oryx! It’s only a fully-grown, desert-living oryx! Just casually walking over the sand dunes that separate our tented villa from the rest of civilisation. I want to jump up and grab my phone to take a picture of the antelope but I’m trapped in water… well, I’m swimming in my full-size private pool, which is actually the only thing stopping this beautifully graceful beast from waltzing into the villa and taking a snooze in the most comfortable bed I’ve ever had the pleasure of sleeping in.
Luckily, the oryx isn’t spooked when, after a good 15 minutes, I decide to creep out of the pool and indeed start taking pictures. I feel like I could be on a safari stay in Africa but I’m actually just over an hour outside of Dubai at the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert resort in Ras Al Khaimah.
This is my second stay at Al Wadi since the Ritz Carlton took over from Banyan Tree and re-branded it at the end of last year. Last November we opted for the smaller pool villa but this time we paid the ‘upgrade on the day’ of Dh400 and opted for the tented pool villa – and (despite some confusion at check-in with the room not being ready until 4.30pm) it’s worth every one of those extra 400 dizzles once you’re in.
The tented villa is beautiful. As you walk in there’s a living area, bedroom and study to the right and a very spacious bath area to the left, complete with a free-standing bath. That leads to a dressing room area with a rather fetching giant pouffe and then a small glass room, which actually turns out to be a rain shower.
This villa is a huge 2,723sqft but the pièce de résistance is actually the outside area, there’s sun loungers to the left, table and chairs to the right and holding court in front of the pool is a giant daybed complete with a pretty canopy. And beyond the pool area you can see nothing but desert. Everything about this accommodation says ‘relax’ – well, apart from the annoying flies that sit on you while you sunbathe and then follow you in because the doors don’t quite open or shut properly. But honestly, the setting soon makes you forget about that those little niggles.
We didn’t really want to leave the villa but hunger and all that. Dinner options are Kaheela, the Arabic restaurant, and Farmhouse which specialises in meat dishes, but unfortunately has no vegetarian options, unless you’re happy with a side of vegetables (I was seriously offered that as an alternative, despite ringing ahead to see if they’d be able to rustle something up). But no big deal, we jumped in another buggy and headed to Kaheela, where the delicious vegetable curry and camel milk ice cream with fruit more than made up for things.
We were back at Farmhouse for breakfast and this time we weren’t disappointed. This is a well-thought-out breakfast, with a room for cereal, yoghurts and fruits in the centre, an egg station that also does pancakes and waffles, a bread and pastry section: the blueberry muffins are divine with dollops of blueberry jam pouring out of the middle, there’s also cold cuts, Arabic offerings and your usual fry-up options.
If you can bear to spend any more time out of your villa then check out the spa, or better still do it once you’ve checked out. For a small cost you can enjoy the ‘Rainforest Experience’, a journey through various hydrotherapy stations culminating in a giant pool.
Overall, Al Wadi is luxurious, it’s relaxing, the accommodation and food is to a high standard but there’s still some work to be done – then again teething problems are to be expected when a resort is still in its opening stages and management are trying to rectify the problems: offering us a free upgrade and late check out after we faced a few problems. I would say: Give it go and treat yourself.
Also read: Spend a weekend at Alma Retreat
Rooms start at around Dh1,600 per night for weeknights (with taxes on top) but this starting price can almost double for a weekend stay. The larger tented villas start at around Dh2,400 but can be more like Dh4,000 (before taxes) on the weekend. The journey time is around 90 minutes from Dubai Marina. Visit ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/uae/al-wadi-desert