Undulating sand dunes blurred in the distance to show a mirage of an oasis, and I felt completely immersed in the Arabian landscape as we arrived at our hotel in the heart of the desert of Wadi Khadeja in Ras Al Khaimah. It was not just the scenery but also the sensuous feeling of isolation that was so breathtaking. With the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi a little highly developed and congested for our tastes, my partner and I were seeking a more tranquil and cultural experience in the UAE, which still offered the pampering that we had craved. With no hesitation, we were both captured by this up-and-coming emirate, which offered just the right balance of relaxation and Middle Eastern charm that we desired.
Admiring the lightly rippling waters of the Arabian Gulf to the west, you cannot escape the sense of calm, with undertones of adventure that the place has. On arriving at our chosen lodging—the 5* Banyan Tree Al Wadi, situated in the middle of a private natural reserve, the only hotel of its kind in the UAE—we were immediately torn between enjoying the endless choice of luxurious treatments, or getting out into the wild surroundings.
The towering Hajjar Mountains were calling, so after a detoxifying, cleansing and utterly relaxing break in the hammam, which was much needed after the long journey, we headed out in our hired Pajero. A ramble up the mountains to the east of Ras Al Khaimah, which reach up to 1,900 meters, offers views across the developing city and miles of virgin terrain, a chance to get away and enjoy another feature of the unique landscape. The remaining authenticity of the emirate compared with Dubai and Abu Dhabi is what makes it special, still manifesting unspoilt heritage sites and tradition, including Al Jazirah Al Hamra, a ghost town which is the only traditional one left in the UAE—all worth a visit before development reaches the levels it has in nearby emirates.
Of course, Ras Al Khaimah has many things in commmon with its neighbouring emirates too. One attraction that will bring a smile to anyone’s face is Al Sawan Camel Track, where jockeys race the odd looking animals, cheered on by hordes of tourists and emiratis. Another highlight, and an opportunity that should not be passed, is the chance to do some wadi bashing. Bouncing boldly over the miles of golden dunes was a hilarious and exhilarating following morning, which had my partner and I fighting for the wheel. I wished the experience would continue forever, but covered head to toe in sand by the end of it, another sumptuous spa treatment in the rainforest rain shower was
called for. Having made the trip in mid-October, the searing heat had begun to die down, though the following day, when temperatures reached over 35°c, we decided to stay at the hotel and travel around the resort with desert buggies. Just outside our private villa was a gazelle feasting on the shrubbery of our well manicured garden, so as it turned out that you needn’t even leave the resort to experience the wildlife. Unwinding and soaking up some rays at our pool, from which we had a view across the vast desert, we could continue to enjoy our surroundings as well as the top-class service that was on hand. Ras Al Khaimah, we were satisfied, was an excellent place to indulge in ultimate luxury in seclusion, while also getting to know the UAE’s exceptional heritage.