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This review is part of a three-week, round-the-world holiday with my partner that we paid for using reward points.
During the planning of this trip in May 2017, SPG announced its ‘Paradise is Closer’ campaign, offering 35% off redemption bookings at many of its most aspirational properties.
After booking The St. Regis Maldives, I noticed the Al Maha was also included in the promotion. As we were heading home via the Middle East in an Etihad A380 First Class Apartment, we decided to spend two nights in Dubai to break up our journey.
Research & Booking
At the time of writing this review, this property was classified as an SPG Category 7 property, costing 70,000 Starpoints per night.
Due to the merger of SPG into Marriott Rewards, this is now a Marriott Category 8 property, costing 70,000/85,000/100,000 Marriott Rewards points per night (off-peak/standard/peak). However, between August and December 2018, this property can be booked at the Category 7 price of 60,000 Marriott Rewards points.
We booked two nights in a Bedouin Suite for a total of 78,000 Starpoints—it was 60,000 points per night before the promotion.
At the time of booking, the suite was valued at AU$3,780 for two nights! Most redemption stays and paid rates are all-inclusive, including two desert activities per person, per day, as well as breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.
The Al Maha is located in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR), approximately 50 minutes from Dubai Airport and 1 hour and 45 minutes from Abu Dhabi Airport. We hailed an Uber inbound from Dubai Airport, which was inexpensive, and thankfully were able to utilise the complimentary Etihad chauffeur on our departure (unfortunately that has since been cut for redemption bookings).
On arrival, the friendly Joan welcomed us with a soy and yoghurt drink which was very refreshing. I opted for the points for my SPG Platinum welcome amenity, considering all meals were included. No Platinum upgrades are available as this is an all-suite property.
The Room: Bedouin Suite
Our suite, number 40, was located at the very far end of the property, which was either a 20-minute walk or a brisk buggy transfer.
The Bedouin Suite was absolutely beautiful. They have a tent-like ceiling and are beautifully decorated with Arabian furniture, featuring dark wood-textures and gold detailing.
The custom-made super king-sized bed is the largest I’ve slept in.
A selection of complimentary fruit, dates and nuts were sitting on the coffee table waiting for us.
The room features a Bose speaker, two lounge chairs, desk and an art easel if you’re feeling creative.
Upon stepping outside, my jaw dropped—the view out to the desert landscape was spectacular. There is a private heated plunge pool (which was actually warmer than the air temperature), dining table and chairs and two deck chairs. As we were at the edge of the property, it was incredibly private; we never saw another guest or staff member from the suite.
The entrance hallway includes a small desk, Nespresso machine and kettle.
It’s hard to believe the property has been open for over 18 years, as everything has been well-maintained and enhanced over the years.
The bathroom features a double vanity, large bathtub, walk-in shower and separate toilet with bidet.
Cinq Mondes and MALIN+GOETZ toiletries are supplied.
On the trip, you’ll notice gazelles wandering along the property next to the suites and we also caught a glimpse of an oryx next to the main pool.
In keeping with the rest of the property, the lobby features traditional Arabian décor, which is flooded with light and is the meeting place for all activities.
You will not go hungry at the Al Maha!
The included morning and afternoon tea is held in a room off the lobby, which has a balcony overlooking the desert.
There are a self-serve coffee machine, teas, juice, water and a huge selection of cakes, pastries, macarons, dates, nuts, yoghurt, fruit and cookies.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the Al Diwaan restaurant downstairs overlooking the desert; otherwise, meals can be ordered to your room.
For breakfast, you can order off the à la carte menu:
or make use of the buffet:
Dinner begins with an amuse-bouche and courses are broken up with a serve of sorbet to cleanse the palate. The quality, presentation and flavours of everything we tried were amazing.
Alcoholic beverages were not included, however, the wine was reasonably priced—for a hotel in the middle of the desert—and started at AU$80 a bottle.
Our most memorable meal was lunch in our suite. Soon after the food arrived, we had two gazelles join us and watch us eat!
Complimentary activities include nature walk, Ghaf tree walk, wildlife drive, sunset camel trek, sundowners, falconry and archery. There are three other optional activities which are 250 AED per person (~AU$90) per activity, namely horseriding, desert e-bikes and the desert drive/4×4 dune bashing.
We opted for the:
- Sundowners: the sunset and sparkling wine without the camel trek. Considering the price of the stay, we were quite surprised to find the resort serving AU$6 Killawarra Brut sparkling wine!
Falconry: interesting history of falconry and a flying display of a couple resident falcons and owls. The owl strangely squawks instead of hooting
Wildlife drive: to see camels and oryx
Sunset camel trek: a 25-minute trek into the dunes to watch the sunset
Desert drive: a more extreme 4×4 drive out into the Sharjah desert
Unfortunately, we couldn’t arrange a late checkout as the property was fully booked, however, the hotel arranged for us to spend the afternoon by the main pool, where we enjoyed our included lunch. No other guests were by the main pool, probably because each suite has its own private plunge pool.
There is also a spa facility and a compact gym, which I couldn’t photograph as there were a few guests using it to burn off the calories from the incredible, all-inclusive food.
The wifi coverage around the suites and in the common areas was fine. I didn’t test the speeds because I didn’t spend any time working during the stay.
With a staff to guest ratio of 2:1 and incredibly friendly personnel, the service couldn’t be faulted.
The staff surprised us on our first night with a hand-written anniversary note and cake which, unfortunately, we couldn’t eat after the fantastic five-course meal, so we saved it for our second night.
After the dinner on the second night, the maître d’ asked us how we had enjoyed our stay and then offered to take us on a tour of their commercial kitchen. The staff are incredibly proud of their reputation for their food and showed us the internal Marriott Food & Beverage charts for quality, service and hygiene, in which they top every category.
Around the hotel
There’s not much around in the immediate surroundings of the resort, as it is located within the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
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The Al Maha is an incredibly unique property and is perfect for a relaxing getaway and for those looking for a totally different hotel experience.
The suites are very comfortable, well-appointed and private. And even at full occupancy, with just 42 suites, the property never felt busy during our stay.
Two nights was also the perfect amount of time to relax by the pool and do the activities we were most interested in. I could have possibly stayed an extra night just to try some of the amazing dishes on the menu.
February was also the perfect time of year, with comfortably warm days yet cool in the evening—don’t forget to pack a jumper!
From the friendly service and a range of all-inclusive activities to the amazing food, you will not be disappointed, be bored or go hungry at the Al Maha.