If what you need is a long walk in the desert, the Banyan Tree Al Wadi is the place to take it.
The hotel officially opens this month in Ras Al Khaimah, a wealthy statelet of the United Arab Emirates. The Banyan Tree's canopied bedrooms and tented villas evoke all the romance of 1001 nights, outfitted with flat screen TVs and private plunge pools. Each unit looks out onto ghaf trees and desert dunes.
The hotel is set on a wildlife preserve that hosts native birds, Arabian oryx, and different breeds of gazelle. The property is designed such that you could wake up to an oryx grazing just beyond your bedroom window. The staff offer guided bike tours of the preserve, and an on-site Falconcy Center mixes education and interaction for guests interested in native birds. The downside of vacationing in the desert habitat is an exposure to the elements; summers are excruciatingly hot, and the occasional sandstorm can keep guests indoors.
The hotel décor is a kind of Zen Arabesque, mixing Thai and Middle Eastern accents. The Moon Bar, a rooftop lounge, serves drinks and water pipes with a view of the sunset on the sand dunes. An exceptional Thai restaurant, Saffron, overlooks a watering hole designed so that the preserve's animals can join you for dinner.
The trademark of the plush Banyan Tree hotel chain is its spas. The Thai-operated hotel leans heavily on Asian techniques, with offerings like the Ayurvedic Kati Basti treatment and the Javanese Lulur, a purifying ritual for women.
The Ras Al Khaimah property is hoping to attract high-end guests with elaborate treatments using water, the scarce and prized commodity of the desert. A hydrotherapy circuit takes each guest through stations that include an oriental bath, an aromatherapy steam room, and something called an ice igloo, in which guests are encourage to rub themselves with ice cubes in a grotto-like chamber.
The Banyan Tree Al Wadi also offers more common pleasures, like an 18-hole golf course and access to a sister property on the beach. If you're lucky enough to stay in one of the Al Sahara villas, set apart from other buildings with an expansive desert view, you could easily whittle away a vacation between your private pool and the bathtub built for two.
Rates start at $640 per night, with a 30 percent discount for UAE residents and an opening promotion of a free night with every two nights' stay. Each villa fits up to two adults and two children comfortably.