The deserts of the Middle East have long held a fascination for explorers, and now with a mix of luxury accommodation and adventure sports on offer, they’re attracting free-thinking travelers, too
In the past, only the hardiest travelers ventured into the sands, but with three Waldorf Astoria hotels and resorts in close proximity to these landscapes, both adventure-sports enthusiasts and sunseekers can now enjoy the pleasures of the dunes. Here we look at three of the region’s most spectacular deserts and the best activities that take place on their sands.
Ras Al Khaimah Desert
Just a 20-minute drive from Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, you’ll see there’s more to RAK than just mountains and zip lines.
- Dune bashing
Certainly not for the faint-hearted, dune bashing is a thrilling high-speed ride across undulating golden dunes in a four-wheel drive. After two hours of hurtling across the desert, and creating avalanches of cascading sand along the way, guests will no doubt be ready for some R & R back at the hotel.
- Camel rides
To take in the sights at a more leisurely pace, look no further than the four-legged locals for your mode of transport. Perched six foot above the ground on a camel’s back allows passengers to observe the desert scene from a whole new perspective, as a glossy mirage blends into the cobalt sky. First domesticated around 950 BC, these docile creatures serve as time machines to a slower nomadic era.
The desert takes on a whole new guise as night falls. Alongside a glass of something cold and bubbly, dining on the dunes is accompanied by a refreshing chill in the air as millions of twinkling stars come into view. There’s no light pollution here, just you and the Milky Way, appearing closer and more vivid than stargazers will have ever experienced before.
Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
Less than an hour from Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, some of the world’s rarest species can be found roaming among the desert flora.
- Desert safari
Jump into a vintage Land Rover 4X4 and cruise over a landscape resembling the enormous mounds of spices on sale at local souks. This surprisingly fertile land is home to giant longhorn beetles, horned vipers and sand gazelles; little has changed for millions of years. After the sun sets, a tangerine-hued light washes over camp as the aroma of hot-coal-toasted bread mingles with the sweet scent of shisha.
Sandboarding is one of the region’s most popular and unique desert sports. Thrill-seekers can launch themselves from the peaks of lofty dunes to feel the wind in their hair and the silky slope beneath their feet. This is a morning activity to enjoy when out of the glare of the midday heat, and long sleeves and trousers are advised. Roaring from A to B Quad biking is perfect for those who want to experience the Arabian Desert at full throttle. While bounding up and over otherwise impenetrable dunes, riders can marvel at the impressive stature of the shape-shifting mountains from all angles as hot dust swirls behind them.
- Quad biking
Quad biking is perfect for those who want to experience the Arabian Desert at full throttle. While bounding up and over otherwise impenetrable dunes, riders can marvel at the impressive stature of the shape-shifting mountains from all angles as hot dust swirls behind them.
A 30-minute drive from Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem, this rocky lunar landscape stretches out to the Dead Sea: a body of water 10 times saltier than the Pacific Ocean.
Get up at the crack of dawn and hike up Snake Path to the summit of Masada, a UNESCO-protected fortification built in 30 BC by King Herod. At 1,300 feet, you’ll be able to stare at the rising sun peeking out over the eastern horizon across the Dead Sea and the Jordanian border.
Canyoning is one of the region’s newest pastimes and allows climbers to access cliffs, ravines, and pools of refreshing water. The Tmarim Canyon in the Judaean Desert is one of the best places to abseil and rappel in the Middle East.
Hot and dusty after all that adventure? Then dive into the adjacent Dead Sea. At 1,300 feet below sea level this is the lowest place on planet Earth and the super-saline water will keep your weary muscles afloat. If you’re looking for a skin treatment on the go, smear on a healing mud mask and soak in the grandeur of the sandy escarpments rising around you.
Discover your perfect desert adventure at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts.