Bab Al Shams is about 45 minutes drive out of Dubai, past the palaces, past the construction work and past the giant billboards for developments that may never see the light of day, and out into the desert. As such, it is quite some way from a beach and Dubai’s malls and attractions. In fact, it’s quite some way from anywhere. But it’s this seclusion and sandy isolation that makes its location all the more special.
As you might imagine given its setting, the theme for the rooms is rustic Arabia, with intricately patterned carpets and traditional regional trinkets and artwork. The standard Deluxe Rooms come with access to a terrace or patio, along with a large tub in the bathroom. Garden rooms look out over a landscaped garden or the desert.
The entire ‘fortress’ of Bab Al Shams is yours to explore, with winding alleyways and courtyards lit up by Moroccan lamps, imposing wooden doors and giant arches. Relax on the rooftop amid the wind towers and soak in the vastness of the setting around you. You'll wish you had a pith helmet.
Eating and drinking
Seeing as you’re staying in the desert, you may as well as eat there as well. Al Hadheerah is, quite literally, a buffet in the sand, with a wide array of dishes from across the region. There’s also some dubious ‘traditional’ entertainment, including belly-dancing and falconry displays and a rather lacklustre dancing troupe. For something a little more casual (and certainly a lot quieter), the Al Shurouq Lounge, overlooking the fortress and sand dunes, has a good selection of Arabic-infused snacks, a cool spot for lunch or evening shisha. The main problem with the eating options is that they're not particularly cheap, but seeing as you're out in the desert, you're going to have to eat something. Save bringing along a few cheese sandwiches to keep you going, the food could bump the price up considerably.
As bizarre as it may sound, this desert resort has a gorgeous infinity pool, plus jacuzzi, surrounded by comfortable sun loungers. Equally odd, on a large patch of well-trimmed grass that borders the sand dunes, there’s fun mini-golf and croquet courses, with equipment available to hire. Activities more in tune with the setting include camel rides and 4x4 adventures. The Satori Spa has a range of relaxation and rejuvenation treatments after a day in the sun and sand. By evening falconry displays and camel rides take place in the desert as the sun sets in the distance. It's all quite cheesy and touristy, but still rather magical.
Usually friendly and attentive, especially around the reception and pool, although there have been a few minor issues that suggest this service isn't replicated across the hotel's other areas.
Who stays there
It's very popular with tourists wanting something very different from the usual Dubai visit. Often people will take a few days out from their Dubai trip to spend at Bab Al Shams. It's also popular with Dubai's expat community wanting a weekend from the city.
The Summer Break Package (15 May - 30 September 2010) is good value and includes breakfast and two children under the age of 16 staying and eating for free. With this package, you also get free access to Wild Wadi Water Park and Madinat Beach in Dubai and one hour complimentary message for two at the Satori Spa. This package price is inclusive of all municipality charges and service fees.
- Families with younger children
- First-time travellers
- Mature travellers
Pros & Cons
- Unique experience
- Great for kids
- Expensive restaurants
- Miles from anywhere