We stayed in Al Maha for 4 nights in September 2006. We had the standard room which comprises a completely segregated individual building with bedroom and lounge area overlooking a private pool through patio doors, with a bathroom behind it the bedroom, which has a separate side patio door onto the terrace as well. There is a useful small desk area with WiFi as you come through the front door. The pictures on their website are accurate as to the room etc, that’s exactly what you get in a standard room - there are 2 bigger suites with multiple bedrooms etc - not needed for your average person staying there.
This was unquestionably the best hotel we have ever stayed in. It is interesting to read some of the negative reviews below. The issue here is that Al Maha is a specific type of ambience and clientele, that if you don’t fit in you won't like. I found it absolutely perfect. Yes it is absolutely dead quiet, no you never bump into other guests, yes dinner is a quiet affair in the evening. Brilliant! I am happy to pay for that to avoid children (prohibited at Al Maha), general unruliness or anything that disturbs my relaxation time. I have limited amounts of it, and I want it to be unspoiled, which is exactly what Al Maha delivers. If you are looking for an energetic venue, don’t book the Al Maha - its entirely designed to be a total relaxation experience - there is not much "to do", that's the whole idea....
The resort is an "all inclusive" basis, save that alcoholic beverages are extra, but not extortionate (though not cheap!) . It was still very hot when we went (and also Ramadan) so we weren't particularly in the mood for heavy drinking - a couple of G&Ts on the balcony pre dinner from Upul the excellent barman were great, and a bottle of red with dinner. Any other beverages are complimentary and you can order them from room service at any time, or if you walk to the Spa they will also make all sorts of smoothies fruit juices etc for you there.
We were there during Ramadan, and there was no issue with alcohol at all, other than, please don’t walk around during the day with it - broadly this translated as they couldn’t serve alcohol at the Main Pool, other than that do whatever you like - again order form room service if needed.
The arrival process as others have commented involves being sat in a little staging area with some drinks and dates whilst they explain how the resort works and introduce your personal resort guide and activities guide. I guess the idea here is to generate integration and personalisation which does work well. We didn’t particularly see either of those again, not for any positive or negative reason, but we didn’t their services.
People complaining about a lack of golf karts below. Not an issue for us, we chose to walk. It was pleasant to walk to dinner in the evening and breakfast in the morning, I don’t particularly feel the need to summon a driver for a 100m walk. Frankly I would have been embarrassed to call room service to send someone to pick me up for such a short distance. Admittedly some of the outer rooms are a little further but not a long distance at all.
The central pool and spa area was generally deserted for most of the day! Brilliant - we found the whole place to be so quiet and peaceful it was truly a supremely relaxing time. We tended to slip over in the afternoon for some smoothies and a swim in the bigger pool, pending the arrival of the daily camel trek.
The comments about the game drive etc being a little faux, or missing something, I can understand. It is a little bit touristy (think Big cameras, bigger voices and even bigger spare tyres depending on your fellow guests...). However, that is entirely surpassed by the seclusion you have at all other times. Certainly if you are looking for a safari, don’t go to Al Maha, do it properly in SA. It is not intended to be a full on safari experience. The camel trek out at sunset is great fun. We skipped the game spotting, walking stuff, and did the Dune Drive and the Falconry. We only ever had 3 guests plus a guide in the 4WDs which was fine for us. 4 guests would be unacceptable and I would refuse that for the dune drive as it is a little violent at times, and you need to be strapped in and have something to hold on to. We had both pre-departure drinks and snacks available in the ante room behind the bar, so not sure if other reviewers didn’t find this or there was some problem - we didn’t struggle to get a refreshment at any time.
The food was fantastic at breakfast , we were generally so full we generally skipped lunch and afternoon tea, and just took dinner. The lunch and afternoon tea looked great from when we walked by, but we didn’t indulge. The evening food is not 3 Michelin *, but its worthy of 1. It's perfectly pleasant, very tasty, carefully thought out menus, well executed, with pleasant service - absolutely fine. You can have better dining experiences of course, but not in the middle of the dessert, under flame cauldrons providing the light, with just the silence of the dessert to hear and a water hole to look at.
We didn’t order room service so cant comment on wait times, but we did have dinner one night on our own terrace, like a fellow reviewer the Sri Lankan curry recommended by Upul. I love curry, and this was fantastic - one of the top 5 curry experiences of all time. Certainly better than Benares, Cinnamon Club etc in London.
The local Oryx were certainly very inquisitive and plentiful when we were there - always in the morning one could be found sitting just beyond the end of our pool and you could see them on the plains during the day sitting under the trees. They do wander round the resort, and we had a slightly unnerving experience where one seemed to take a dislike to us, dropped down a little and had a mini charge at us, but then broke off and went back to nibbling the grass - one of those wild animal things.
I am genuinely surprised at how anyone, who had the same experience we did, could rate this as anything other than perfect. Maybe their experiences, were not as good, mine however was perfect. I would unequivocally recommend this hotel. But if you're looking for activity, it will not be your thing.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Exclusive Hotel designed to resemble a traditional Bedouin encampment - Set within a 25-sq.-kilometer desert conservation reserve. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Al Maha Desert Hotel Dubai
- Al Maha Desert Dubai
- Al Maha Desert Resort
- Al Maha Resort