Staycation review: Bab al Shams Desert Resort
Bab Al Shams is one of the longest-standing hotels in the region, but does it still deliver?
Nineteen years ago, legendary five-star resort Bab Al Shams opened its doors. Now, after closing nine months for renovation, under the new Rare Finds group of Kerzner International, how does the transformed hotel compare with the beloved old Bab al Shams? We checked in to find out…
Less than an hour’s drive away from Dubai, this desert oasis is surprisingly close to the city. The dreamy resort is located just off Al Qudra Road and is surrounded by endless dunes, nature reserves, wildlife such as oryx and gazelles, and man-made lakes. Arriving through the big wooden gates we’re immediately calm, feeling far removed from the hustle and bustle of Dubai life.
Look and feel
Those who have stayed at the resort previously will instantly recognise the exteriors and iconic architecture. We are pleased to see the authentic bedouin aesthetic remains, with earthy tones, water features, swaying palm trees, courtyards, and even the infinity pool. It was only upon entering the hotel that we noticed the difference. The reception area was bright, welcoming, and modern. The lobby feels intimate and homely, like a living room with dim lighting, comfortable couches, coffee table books, and colourful flower arrangements.
The rooms and suites have also received a serious upgrade and extensive refurbishment into an Arabian palace. We’re staying in a deluxe desert-view room with endless views of the desert and plenty of natural light flooding in. Sitting on the window seat listening to the birds, looking out at the endless dunes, and sipping a cuppa tea from the generous refreshments cabinet is a blissful experience. The en-suite bathroom is modern and newly tiled, cream with gleaming gold touches, and the bathtubs have been replaced by huge showers. The sunrise view out of the window is beautiful enough to frame. Other room options include the terrace room with a mini garden, a deluxe suite with a lounge area and terrace, and a junior suite with a private balcony.
Just like before, there are a host of amazing experiences on offer including fat biking, desert safari, archery, horse riding, and more. It’s a shame that not all of the activities are included in the stay packages but the desert safari with a knowledgeable guide is well-worth the extra dirhams. Next to the infinity pool, there are games on the lawn to keep the little ones entertained, including table tennis and an outdoor park with a zipline.
Food and drink
The all-day dining restaurant has a brand new look and name: Zala. The layout is completely open-plan with theatrical kitchens offering contemporary Ottoman and Mediterranean cuisines and an impressive breakfast buffet. For dinner, the restaurant was quiet, empty almost, but the alfresco entertainment restaurant, Al Hadheerah is the go-to spot for a wow-worthy dinner experience although we wouldn’t say it’s very family-friendly. We were disappointed to hear the Indian restaurant is not reopening but excited about the upcoming pan-Asian rooftop lounge, Anwa.
Room rates start from Dhs1,500 per night for a twin room inclusive of breakfast, a short camel ride, and a falconry display. Or you can upgrade around Dhs400 per room for dinner for two at Al Hadheerah.
Bab Al Shams, Al Qudra Road, Dubai, rates from Dhs1,500. Tel: (0)4 809 6100, babalshams.com