Review: Al Maha Bedouin Suite

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Introduction
From Airbus To Megabus: A Trip Of Contrasts
Review: Six Senses Zighy Bay Villa
Review: Six Senses Zighy Bay Activities & Dining
Review: Al Maha Bedouin Suite
Review: Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai Dining
Review: Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai Activities
Review: Dubai International First Class Lounge DXB
Review: Qatar Airways First Class A320 Dubai To Doha
Review: Qatar Airways First Class A380 Doha To London
Review: British Airways First Class A380 London To Los Angeles
Review: British Airways A380 First Class Tasting Menu
Review: Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Airport LAX
Review: American Flagship Lounge Los Angeles LAX
Review: American First Class A321 Los Angeles To New York
Review: Hilton Austin Airport


I’ll say it right off the bat — I loved Al Maha Resort, the Starwood Luxury Collection property just outside of Dubai. It was one of my favorite uses of Starpoints ever.

To back up a bit, ordinarily redeeming points at this property is outrageously expensive, at 60,000 Starpoints per night. Why is it so expensive, given that Starwood’s highest category is just 30,000 Starpoints per night? Well, because this hotel technically doesn’t have any standard rooms, which means it’s not available at the “standard” award levels. Instead you’d have to pay 60,000 Starpoints per night.

However, I think SPG realizes that pricing is a bit excessive, so for the past few years they’ve had fairly widespread promotions offering discounted redemptions at these types of properties.

Last September I wrote about Starwood’s promotion offering 35% off select resort redemptions, including at Al Maha. The promotion is actually valid through March 8, 2016, so you can still take advantage of it.

SPG-Resorts

That lowered the cost of a redemption from 60,000 Starpoints to 39,000 Starpoints per night. That might still sound high, but there are some aspects to redeeming here which make it an especially good value:

  • All rooms are standalone villas with plunge pools
  • All rates at this hotel include full board (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
  • All rates at this hotel include two activities per day, like dune bashing, camel riding, falconry, etc.

When you factor in how much you’d otherwise spend on three meals per day plus activities, that’s quite some value.

So we decided to book two nights at the resort. For what it’s worth, the pre-paid rate at this resort would have been ~$1,700 per night including taxes and service charge.

Al-Maha-Rate

I sure was happy to be redeeming just 39,000 Starpoints per night. The best ways to rack up those points is through the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.

We were driven from the Six Senses Zighy Bay to Al Maha, which took about 2hr30min. Driving to Al Maha required driving almost directly through Dubai.

It’s amazing how close Al Maha Resort is to Dubai — it’s only about 60km away, and the drive only takes about 45 minutes. But you feel like you’re a world apart.

Al-Maha-Map

Once you enter through the main gate of the hotel, it’s still a ~10 minute drive to get to the actual resort. That’s because the resort is in the 225 square kilometer Dubai Desert Reserve.

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Driving to Al Maha Dubai

As we drove towards the main building of the hotel I noticed just how spread out all the suites were. The hotel has ~42 standalone suites, and they’re extremely spread out, which is great in terms of privacy.

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Al Maha Resort Dubai exterior

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Al Maha Resort Dubai exterior

The main lobby building was gorgeous, and upon our arrival we were greeted by the guest service coordinator, Maria. She was lovely, and took our passports and invited us to roam around the lobby while she processed our check-in at the reception desk.

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Al Maha Resort Dubai lobby

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Al Maha Resort Dubai reception

I’m not sure how to describe the decor in the lobby, other than to say that it feels sort of like an Arabic lodge. It’s not the most modern lobby ever, but it blends so well into the environment and is charming.

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Al Maha Resort Dubai lobby

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Al Maha Resort Dubai lobby

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Al Maha Resort Dubai lobby

There were a set of couches in the far corner of the lobby, where people would meet prior to the activities.

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Al Maha Resort Dubai lobby

There was also a pretty cool shop in the lobby, with all kinds of local art.

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Al Maha Resort Dubai lobby shop

After processing our check-in, Maria explained the basics of the resort to us. The resort includes full board, meaning you’re given three meals a day. In other words, if you’re staying for two days, you get a total of six meals. Water, coffee, and tea were included, though soft drinks and alcohol cost extra.

For each meal you also have the option of dining in the privacy of your suite (for lunch and dinner you were entitled to a three course meal off the in-room dining menu), or otherwise in the hotel’s restaurant, where a five course dinner was served. There was tons of flexibility in terms of when you could dine in your villa, though if you wanted to eat in the restaurant, the hours were as follows:

  • Breakfast: 7AM-10:30AM
  • Lunch: 12:30PM-2:30PM
  • Dinner: 7:30PM to 10PM

On top of that there was an all day coffee center with espresso available. There were also snacks in the morning from 5AM until 8:30AM (croissants, danishes, etc.), and then there was afternoon tea from 4PM until 5:30PM.

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I’ll talk a lot more about the food in the next installment, though.

After Maria explained the dining at the resort, we were introduced to Bryan, the activities coordinator. He provided a rundown of the activities at the resort, and explained we were entitled to two per day. The choices were as follows:

  • Falconry
  • Nature walk
  • Ghaf tree walk
  • Horse riding
  • Desert drive
  • Wild life drive
  • Camel trek
  • Sundowners
  • Archery

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With those formalities out of the way, we were driven in a golf cart to our suite, which was room #22. The rooms are sufficiently spread out here that from most rooms you’ll want to call for a golf cart anytime you want to leave your room. Fortunately they’re great about picking up within minutes.

I requested a golf cart every time because I knew I’d get lost if I had to find my way on my own (I suck with directions).

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Al Maha Resort Dubai golf cart to room

The paths around the resort are pretty narrow, and almost exclusively used by golf carts, since most guests seemed to request them.

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Driving to suite at Al Maha Dubai

The resort is in a desert conservation reserve, and there are animals roaming around the property freely, including gazelles and oryx. They seemed to be friendly, though going up to them was discouraged. Seeing the animals roam around in such close proximity was one of my favorite things about the resort (more on that later).

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Arabian oryx at Al Maha Dubai

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Gazelle at Al Maha Resort Dubai

Suite 22 was one of the further rooms from the main building, meaning it was extremely private.

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Al Maha Resort map

The suites blend beautifully into the environment, and look like they have tents as roofs, though best I could tell that was just a design feature.

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Bedouin Suite exterior Al Maha Resort

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Bedouin Suite exterior Al Maha Resort

Through the double entry door was the desk, with the bathroom to the right and the main room straight ahead.

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Bedouin Suite entryway Al Maha Resort

The room was stunning, and featured what must have been a California king bed. It was extremely comfortable, and spacious.

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Bedouin Suite Al Maha Resort

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Bedouin Suite Al Maha Resort

Then past the bed were two daybeds of sorts, arranged around a coffee table.

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Bedouin Suite living area Al Maha Resort

Waiting on the coffee table was an SPG Platinum welcome amenity consisting of a fresh bowl of fruit, a bottle of red wine, and some Arabic sweets.

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Bedouin Suite welcome amenity Al Maha Resort

Then on the far right of the room was a second desk with two chairs, along with the directory, room service menu, a pair of binoculars, etc.

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Bedouin Suite desk Al Maha Resort

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Bedouin Suite desk Al Maha Resort

Then on the left of the room was an easel, for anyone feeling especially inspired by the landscape.

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Bedouin Suite easel Al Maha Resort

The room had double doors which led outside to the patio and pool. More on that later.

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Bedouin Suite patio Al Maha Resort

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Bedouin Suite pool Al Maha Resort

Back on the desk by the entrance was a Nespresso coffee machine, as well as huge bottles of water (the local water was free, while there was a charge for Evian).

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Bedouin Suite espresso machine Al Maha Resort

There were three dozen Nespresso pods, which is the most impressive selection I’ve ever seen in a hotel room.

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Bedouin Suite pods Al Maha Resort

There were also six types of tea, with several bags for each variety.

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Bedouin Suite tea Al Maha Resort

Next to the desk was a kettle. There were also minibar items, all of which were chargeable.

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Bedouin Suite minibar Al Maha Resort

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Bedouin Suite minibar Al Maha Resort

The bathroom was located “behind” the bedroom, and to the right as you enter through the main door. The bathroom featured a spacious walk-in shower, soaking tub, and double sinks.

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Bedouin Suite bathroom Al Maha Resort

There’s even direct access outside from the bathroom, should you want to go straight to/from the pool.

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Bedouin Suite bathroom Al Maha Resort

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Bedouin Suite sinks Al Maha Resort

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Bedouin Suite soaking tub Al Maha Resort

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Bedouin Suite shower Al Maha Resort

The toilet was located next to the shower, in a partitioned off room.

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Bedouin Suite toilet Al Maha Resort

The toiletries in the room were BVLGARI branded, which are among my favorite.

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Bedouin Suite toiletries Al Maha Resort

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Bedouin Suite BVLGARI toiletries Al Maha Resort

While the room itself was gorgeous, the highlight was no doubt the patio. It featured two lounge chairs, a dining table with two chairs, and an awesome pool.

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Bedouin Suite patio Al Maha Resort

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Bedouin Suite outdoor dining table Al Maha Resort

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Bedouin Suite patio Al Maha Resort

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Bedouin Suite pool Al Maha Resort

The views from the deck were breathtaking. Words can’t do justice to how peaceful it was to sit in the evening and just watch the sunset with nothing but nature as far as the eye can see.

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Bedouin Suite pool Al Maha Resort

The coolest thing, however, was that the gazelles would come right up to our suite. They’d drink from the pool, walk on the patio, etc.

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Bedouin Suite gazelle Al Maha Resort

And they weren’t even scared of people, really. They were certainly timid, in the sense that they’d back up a bit if you approached them, and they’d never try to enter your room. But at the same time they saw us and heard us, and had no problem being just a few feet away. So cool!

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Bedouin Suite gazelle Al Maha Resort

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Bedouin Suite gazelle Al Maha Resort

Wifi in the room was fast, and the air conditioning was excellent.

Al Maha Desert Resort Bedouin Suite bottom line

I mean, what’s not to love? The suite was large and gorgeous, yet fit into the environment. It was rustic, luxurious, and felt sort of like it could have been a room in a safari lodge, or something. It’s awesome to have such a beautiful room in such seclusion, as the villas are so private you can’t even see another room.

Even at 39,000 Starpoints per night, this hotel is an absolute bargain (which will probably make more sense to those who haven’t been after the next two installments).

What do you make of the suites at Al Maha?

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Comments

  1. The bathroom and especially the toilet look really dated in my opinion. Not sure how that fits to the rest of the property…

  2. Hi Ben,

    Do you have to book by March 8, or stay by March 8? I just tried to call SPG to book for October, but they quoted me 60k a night and said they had no idea about this promotion. Thanks for your help!

  3. To be fair, those are Daybeds. Also, what does “behind”mean? Was it, sort of to the left or right to the room?

    Seriously, you sometimes provide some good information but your overuse of Daily Mailisms is rapidly detracting from the good.

  4. Hmmmmm…. Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed at the look of this resort; a place I *thought* I wanted to visit. I’m fortunate to have stayed over the past decade at about a dozen of the best wilderness camps and lodges in Africa, including Royal Malewane, in South Africa’s Kruger National Park (where Elton John honeymooned); the River Club, on the Zambezi, in Zambia (popular with British royals); and Little Vumbura, in Botswana’s vast Okavango Delta (one of the most stunning camps in all Africa). The architectural design and interior decoration of these five-star properties – all of them located literally in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by stunning vistas and every imaginable breed of wild animal – is of such a high caliber that Al Maha, frankly, from the photos you’ve posted, pales in comparison.

  5. After this and the previous review I can safely conclude that we do not share the same aesthetic sense. But hey….there’s room for more than one. Those bathrooms though….straight out of the 80s.

  6. @ Leo — And it wouldn’t usually be my style either, but there was something that worked about it with the location. If it were a modern bathroom like a Cathay Pacific “cabana,” it wouldn’t really fit into the environment.

  7. @ Greg — Sorry if that wasn’t clear. If the bedroom is oriented a certain direction (based on how you’d be in bed), it was behind it. So it was immediately behind the headboard of the bed.

  8. @ tim — It’s only valid for bookings and stays through March 8, 2016, though I suspect the promotion will return again later this year (assuming things with Marriott don’t screw that up).

  9. Ford hit the jackpot with you! Hope you have a good prenup.

    More seriously – good review. I agree with the others – I”m a little disappointed. But it’s more important that you enjoyed your stay!

  10. Does the resort offer any sort of stargazing activities? Dubai is so close that I would fear its light pollution would diminish the glory of a desert night sky.

  11. Lucky do you take any precautions traveling as a gay couple in the Middle East booking king beds? Goes against everything I always read.

  12. The gazelles are not wild, they have been placed at the resort, wild gazelles will not come this close to humans.

  13. Did you go with your partner? Have you have found your experiences in Oman and UAE in terms of gay-friendliness? My husband and I are afraid to go….

  14. @ Dave — FWIW, our villa was on the other side of the resort, on a bit more of a ledge, and didn’t have any gazelle visitors. So you could probably ask for a less-accessible villa.

  15. Not Sure why my comment was deleted, but Ben, since I know you are a big fan of Emirates, you should check out this video from a former Emirates FA about what it is like to work for the company.

  16. Six Senses resorts are not for everyone. A couple of years ago when there were protests in Thailand, we took up a great deal to stay in Chang Mai at the Chedi, and at Six Senses Yao Noi (an island off the coast of Phuket). I was apprehensive about Yao Noi – the images made it look a little rustic, but given that we were paying about half the usual rate, and were getting our own compound and pool – it seemed a reasonable deal.

    We got upgraded to a villa with an ocean view, and the experience was fantastic. Although the ‘rustic’ decor was not to my taste, it actually worked for the overall concept. Service levels were superb. We had our own ‘Butler’ who made sure our every wish was dealt with. For instance, at the time I was a bit of a diet coke addict. ‘Coke’ does not really fit within the resorts environmental ethos – but our Butler, just went down to the town and stocked the fridge with Diet Coke, at no charge. For our spa booking – it was raining, so without being asked, a covered gulf buggy was sent to transport us.

    At Yao Noi, they also set us up with a boat trip around the islands, with beachside picnic. This was a stunning experience, executed with apparent minimal effort. Stunning.

    Our 7 night stay was one of our most relaxing holidays ever, and I was truly sad to leave. So in short – don’t dismiss the ‘enviro’ concept of six senses resorts out of hand. You might be very pleasantly surprised.

    https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-oL8dSodBogI/VMItU1rltgI/AAAAAAAAADU/G8D8LLtlr2Y/w1590-h1062-no/photo.jpg

  17. I chose Banyan Tree Al Wadi a couple of years ago over this property and with the images above I am SO GLAD that I did.
    Please try to review the Banyan property for your readers. It was a phenomenal experience with fabulous architecture and interior design, and similar amazing environment. It is 85kms from Dubai International Airport. We were collected by a car arranged by the hotel…a nicer way than a taxi which apparently costs AED450.
    We stayed in the Al Sahari Tented Pool Villa (the best of the accommodation) and were thoroughly spoiled. I had read poor things re the service levels, however, having raised this with the GM prior to arrival may have made the difference for us! It was faultless. Great restaurants, cocktail bar (incl a roof top bar).
    I appreciate that just being in the desert would have given you an awe inspiring experience, however, with beautiful design and interiors it can be so much more. Personally I could not stay in the rooms that you portray above. Spoiled? Maybe but fussy. I too have had amazing experiences in South Africa (mainly the wonderful Singita properties) and New Zealand (eg: Huka etc), however, even with perhaps lesser operators the stunning location and décor/architecture of the Banyan Tree Al Wadi resort in Ras Al Khaimah is as good in its own way.
    You can see that you have reminded me how good an experience we had! And how glad I was to have not been lured to the SPG property!
    I now recall some most interesting staff from all over the world (even Bali where I have a private villa). Some were a bit green but they had the capacity to become very good with experience, which they are gaining whilst moving around the world with Banyan Tree. It is amazing how forgiving you can be if you appreciate that they are only learning, and I can tell you we then received amazing service and care because we cared about them.

  18. @Pamela Hayes: 100% agree with you. However, US bloggers are about redeeming points in American properties. Thus, forget about getting reviews of a Banyan Tree which is a no points property.

  19. @Pamela Hayes – Banyan Tree is my favorite hotel chain. The design, location, and service all combine for unforgettable vacations time and time again all around the world. I only wish more of them would join the Virtuoso preferred network.

  20. I’m thinking to visit around march 18. I guess I’m out of luck with the promotion. Any chance it will be extended?

  21. @Mike_E

    You should read the comment to video that this airhead vegan, fair trade social conscience Greek girl made.

    Seems she did not understand that the 2K a month included the free apartment rent etc.

    She seems the type to sign a contract without understanding what it means.

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