Dunes by Al Nahda is a 17-acre luxury tented camp in the middle of the enchanting Omani dessert – as soon as you spot the individual white tents laid out in the distance, you know you are about to stay somewhere very special indeed.
Access to the resort is via two-minute bumpy 4WD journey across Wadi Al Abyad. As water flows down from the valley, this can flood, meaning guests can’t get in or out for four or five hours at a time – we were already in situ when this happened and as pleased as punch to stay put.
Arriving guests are offered an icy towel and a minty drink in an open-air reception area surrounded by desert sand; slip off your shoes and let the warmth caress your feet – the start of many a sand-induced foot massage.
Accommodation comes in the form of 30 tents in three categories (luxury, suite and two-bed royals), each with flowing red and cream furnishings, king-size beds, air conditioning, and bathrooms with sunken baths and fancy gold taps. No expense has been spared on the design, which is Arabian in style, modern in comfort. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, the wi-fi is strong enough to work at the large desk provided; after dinner, flick on the huge flat-screen and settle down to catch up with the news or watch a movie.
The star of the Dunes by Al Nahda is undoubtedly the 20-metre infinity pool with killer sandy views – whether cooling off in the afternoon heat or sipping something cold on a squishy lounger, an afternoon here is an absolute must.
The Dunes by Al Nahda resort also offers an open-air restaurant and bar with 360-degree views, an air-conditioned meeting room and URU, an open-air spa with two treatment rooms.
Stop and say hello to the resident camel as you pass – you’ll find him sitting majestically on the sand as if it’s the most normal thing in the world.
We tried the Sand Spa (90 minutes, £188).
My therapist, Yuda, met me outside the spa and led me into a rustic open-air treatment room where she invited me to change into black disposable shorts, a shower cap and a pair of slippers.
Yuda then gently helped me down into a sunken bath filled with naturally heated sand and asked me to lie down – the sand felt instantly warm on my back.
Yuda began covering my body in sand, beginning at my feet and ending at my neck; I found it oddly constraining and hard to keep still despite instructions to do so. Sensing my nerves, Yuda pointed up at the deep blue sky so that I could look at the white half-crescent moon above; a sense of calm washed over me.
After assessing I was OK, Yuda painted a yellow paste of aloe vera, saffron and cucumber onto my face – designed to rehydrate the skin after a day in the hot sun - and placed cotton pads dipped in rose water over my eyes to encourage me to fully relax. This felt tingly but refreshing.
After 30 minutes, Yuda gently roused me from my sleepy state, helped me out the sand – which fell away like dust - and invited me into a third room with an open-air shower so that I could wash the sand off (not as easy as it sounds). A clean sarong and disposable pants later I was ready for the second part of the treatment: a massage using natural yoghurt as a moisturiser.
Yuda invited me to sit on a treatment bed laden with a fresh sarong, and slathered my back and shoulders with a yoghurty paste; she then asked me to lie down so that she could do the same on my legs, tummy, neck and arms. One final scrub in the open-air shower and I could feel how soft my skin had already become in a short space a time – a feeling that lasted well into the next day.
The URU spa offers a select range of Arabian-themed massages, scrubs and facials using natural herbs, wild cactus, powered almonds and desert sand.
Guests eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in the open-air restaurant where the chef will cook anything you fancy – we tucked into hummus with freshly-made flat-bread, stuffed vine leaves, juicy chicken skewers, salmon with creamy mashed potato and fish goujons day after day.
The highlight of our stay was a traditional Shuwa – a large slab of lamb marinated in herbs and spices, wrapped in leaves and cooked overnight in a fire pit in the ground. After an evening G&T in the bar, we followed the chef across the sand to watch our dinner being pulled out of the fire pit. We sat on cushions and helped ourselves to the shredded lamb served on a silver platter with large chunks of tomato, hard boiled eggs and fragrant rice.
The infinity pool: As pools with amazing views go, Dunes by Al Nahda is up there with the best.
Our Shuwa dinner: Sharing this meal with friends while looking up at the twinkling stars is an experience we will never forget.
The staff: Everybody that works at Dunes by Al Nahda is attentive, kind and thoughtful without being too intrusive – a hard balance to maintain.
We didn’t love
Having to leave... (could that Wadi not flood just one more time?)
Couples: With its breathtaking views, cosy tents and delectable meals under the stars, Dunes by Al Nahda is designed for romance.
Adventurer travellers: Guests can try quad biking, dune bashing and camel rides on the sand.
Business guests: After a day of meetings in air-conditioned comfort, relax by the pool, enjoy a spa treatment or make the sand your playground.
Cox and Kings offers five nights at Dunes by Al Nahda from £1,995 per person, based on two sharing, including economy fights with Oman air, private airport transfers from Muscat airport and accommodation on a half-board basis.
15th January 2020
Minimalist lines; organic products; facial massage; tranquillity; interesting people-watching.
Discarded towels on loungers; steam rooms that aren't steamy; mobile phones.
Behind the scenes