Arabian Nights Village: Glamping it Up in Dubai –

Arabian Nights Village: Glamping it Up in Dubai

For a true desert getaway, look no further than Arabian Nights Village.

Snuggled in a desert dip, this complex of traditional style dwellings really is off the cliched beaten track. Your Lawrence of Arabia-style adventure begins via a graded road – more of a rubble track – from the main road into the resort, which boasts an oasis-style swimming pool and so much peace and quiet it’s deafening.

While the resort can arrange transport from your city location, driving from Dubai is truly an adventure. We recommend using a GPS, (and its location is @23.886966,55.021972, in case you were wondering), but there are signposts once you get closer to the site, which lies between Abu Dhabi and Al Ain in Razeen, Al Khatim.

It’s around 200 kilometres from Dubai, and 2.5 hours drive. From Abu Dhabi, it’s 120 kilometres, around two hours, and a perfect cruise if you’re self-driving. If you’re flying in, the resort offers airport pick-up.
Never heard of this place? Neither had we. And that’s part of the charm. You feel truly off the map – and off the grid.

On arrival, you turn off the track onto another smaller track – and there it is, looking like a long lost desert fort, with two crenelated towers either side of a grand entrance door. A camel enclosure near to the front entrance hints at the resort’s entertainment (more of that later), but as you kick the sand off your shoes and enter reception, you are immediately greeted with air conditioning, dates, gawah (Arabic coffee) and the heady, evocative fragrance of bakhoor.

Laid out like a small Bedouin village, the different types of rooms – essentially tiny detached cottages – reflect different aspects of Emirati culture. There are rooms which reflect the culture of the desert dwelling nomads – bayt al shaaer, or ‘woven house’ which re-create the ambiance of Bedouin tents with richly weaved wall coverings.

Some of the accommodation pays homage to the pearl-diving era and the importance of the ocean – with the bayt al bahar, ‘sea house’, featuring woven palm-clad walls.

A third type of accommodation, bayt al bar, or ‘desert house’ offers guests a glimpse into the more modern era in Abu Dhabi’s architectural and cultural history, offering dwellings inspired by the mud-built houses created as the Emirates moved towards settled living and urbanization.

These simple rooms all offer a romantic setting; built in small clusters, each property brings privacy, peace and a sense of tranquility. They come as double rooms or suites, which feature a second bedroom/lounge, and a private terrace.

If you want something more impressive, you can rent one of the fortified towers – a stunning suite spread over two floors, similar in design to the rooms, but on a grand scale.

The royally-monickered Al Manhal Fort Tower Suite is in the grandest house at Arabian Nights Village. Three presidential bedrooms, each with their own opulent bathrooms, and lavish interiors mean this is a place for a family weekend, or a large party. This 188 square meters suite also features a central lounge/majlis.

Seen from above, Arabian Nights Village is laid out like a palm tree, with the clusters of different accommodation types positioned like dates hanging from the fronds. The idea behind Arabian Nights is to offer a traditional mix of Arab hospitality and entertainment, with modern concierge and hotel service.

While our mobile phones worked, we wondered how in such a remote spot – until one of the staff pointed out that a particularly tall palm tree at one side of the resort is actually fake, and masks a communications tower.

But there’s no TV here, no telephones in the rooms, no in-room dining service and no ‘do not disturb’ signs. This is a truly wonderful thing; as you immediately feel swept away to a different era; a different place and somewhere a little special.

Food is served communally in a large restaurant, bedecked in traditional Arabic decoration; with low majlis-style seating for a truly authentic dining experience as well as modern furniture for those less inclined to get down with their food.

The pool, for us, was a highlight. Large, with a waterfall cascading over rocks at one end, this true (man made) oasis is surrounded by loungers and funky egg-shaped swinging seats. Relax all day here and watch the sunset over the surrounding, dramatic dunes.

As night falls, you are invited to join the evening buffet and entertainment. An exciting culinary journey for tourists, the buffet comprises traditional Emirati starters and main courses, taken outside sitting on low traditional seating in a social, sharing environment. At the middle of the tables is a stage, where we were charmed firstly by an oud player, then a belly dancer who certainly did her best to rouse the crowd.

Each evening, buses of tourists are shipped in to enjoy the buffet and entertainment; they can opt to stay the night if they wish. We felt delighted that we were staying to experience the true desert night, with a little luxury.

With every booking, you get not only the room, but pick up and drop off if required (we found it more relaxing and convenient to drive ourselves); dune bashing in a land cruiser, including a break at a camel farm, sand sledging, camel riding, henna painting, dinner and breakfast.

Quad biking is also available at an hourly rate, a fine way to discover the dunes if you really want to get away from it all. Quite a deal.

There’s the chance to take tea and relax in a tent in the cooler winter months; and nothing beats lying by the pool watching the night sky. Another highlight was when the entertainment and all the resort’s lights are switched off for a few moments, simply to enjoy a less polluted night sky. A rare treat in our light-polluted environment.

What’s not included is alcohol – which is served at the resort, and any extras, lunch or gifts from the tiny gift shop, which only seemed to be open sporadically during our visit.

You buy Arabian Nights Village currency at reception to pay for extras – a fun way of doing things – each large, heavy gold coin is worth AED20, and you carry them around in a special woven purse.

Al Maqam, ‘the gathering place’ is the stunning restaurant, built in traditional style, which serves a host of traditional Emirati and Arabic cuisines. There’s an open air terrace, fire pits in winter and, of course, the chance to sample some sheesha.

This out-of-the ordinary experience is also available for corporate events. The resort can cater on a grand scale, and with the desert – or despite it – as a backdrop, it seems anything’s possible. Car launches, events, annual meetings, all are held at this venue, for a real chance to escape the outside world and concentrate on work.

The night before we stayed, a company had actually projected film onto the large dune immediately behind the resort. Large floor coverings can be laid out over the desert, allowing for catering outside of the resort itself.

The worst thing about Arabian Nights Village was leaving. In a country rammed with five star resorts, the Village provides a reality check and a chance to re-connect with nature, even if it is with a hint of that five-star luxury.

Go there, and feel truly refreshed and re-charged.

About the Author: Jennifer Morgan

Hello fellow readers! My name is Jennifer and I love to travel. Join me each week as I post a new article on various destinations, events, adventures, and more. Writing is a true passion of mine and I hope you enjoy taking this journey with me. Thank you for reading and safe travels!