It’s just after midnight in Dubai, U.A.E., and my driver, a young Emirati named Omar, just made a sharp right turn off the highway. “Shortcut,” Omar tells me. We’re driving north from Dubai International Airport to the seaside emirate Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) and all I can see out the passenger side window, save for the occasional factory and camel farm, are vast swathes of desert that surround us. “OK,” I said. Not that I had much say in the matter.
Thirty minutes of desolately dark desert road later, our destination, Waldorf Ras Al Khaimah came into view. A colossal oasis shining so bright I wouldn’t be surprised if you could see it from the reaches of outer space. Pulling in to the grand Porte Cochère, it soon became clear that this was not only reminiscent of the palace in my Arabian desert dreams, it was actually designed to embody the look and feel of one.
Walking inside the grand foyer, a large open atrium with sand and sea inspired colors and décor, a nod to the properties windswept sand dunes and Arabian Seaside surroundings were only secondary to the 20-foot grand lobby clock. Designed to honor the regional Arabic culture, the clocks dials include the five daily prayer times and is inscribed with a traditional Bedouin poem “From your homeland travel abroad to find glory,” around its circumference.
With a total of 346 rooms, I made my way to the third floor where my one-bedroom sea-view suite was waiting and didn’t waste any time ordering a glass of red wine and a club sandwich from room service before sliding my balcony door open and letting the sound of ocean waves crashing against the shoreline lull me to sleep.
The next morning I put on my most modest floor-length maxi dress and made my way down to Azure—a Mediterranean inspired breakfast buffet when I was immediately struck by something. A woman in a cut-off tank top and shorts, standing behind another woman in a fuchsia bathing-suit and polka-dot sarong. This was not the “modest attire” I was expecting to see in U.A.E. I soon learned, RAK, unlike it’s emirate counterparts, is known for its relaxed, easy going ways. Because of it’s proximity to nearby Hajar mountains, local hot-springs, Bedouin camp sites and thousands of acres of desert where dune-bashing, a colloquialism for off-roading, and sand surfing have become popular pastimes, it’s only recently that RAK has firmly established itself as a premier adventure-seeker destination, with all the modern luxuries and over the top elegance you would expect to find in U.A.E of course.
I spent the next four days both off, but mostly on property. One of several five-star hotels in the area, with nine bars, lounges and restaurants, including my personal favorite Marjan—a stylish Middle Eastern eatery serving up local specialties including camel and reindeer meat, destination spa complete with a variety of steam and herbal sauna rooms, as well as my personal favorite amenity—pillow service menu, not to mention heated pools, water sports and 18-hole golf course, this really is seaside luxury at its finest. Even if you do have to trek through a dark desert road to get there.