Review: Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort, Dubai (Bedouin Suite)

Nightly rate: 70,000 points (worth S$700) + AED 20
Length of stay: 1 night
Membership level: Titanium Elite

What benefits to expect when you stay at Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort, Dubai as a Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite member (similar to Platinum Elite)?

Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai opened in 1999 and is still seen as one of the best hotels in the world.

As an all-villa property that offers full-board (breakfast, lunch, dinner included) to award stays, this has to be the best way to use your Marriott points, especially if you can find a suitable off-peak award night. This villa was selling for about S$1,800 nett during my stay.

Marriott Bonvoy sweet spots (read more)

Award stays in this property ranges from 70,000 to 100,000 points per night:

Off-peak: 70,000 points
Normal: 85,000 points
Peak: 100,000 points

Of course, members get the 5th night free when redeeming points for 5 consecutive nights. For best value of your points, avoid staying a total of 3 or 4 nights. You’ll be alright with 1, 2 or 5.

Because of the excruciating heat in the summer months, it was impossible to find off-peak rates in cooler months (October – March) before the pandemic.

I would have preferred to stay 2 nights but couldn’t find off-peak dates that would work out for me before my UAE visa expired in January 2021. More off-peak dates opened up closer to my stay date but I could not cancel or make changes to the existing reservation as I was already inside the 30-days window where cancellation was no longer free.

Surprisingly however, the 1 night stay did not feel rushed at all!

Location

The resort is located far away from the busy city, in Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. And just in case you are wondering, there are no shops or restaurants nearby.

  • 55 mins drive to Dubai International Airport
  • 55 mins drive to Dubai mall
  • 1 hr drive to Palm Jumeirah
  • 1 hr 50 mins to Abu Dhabi International Airport
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Transportation

There are many ways to travel to and from the resort. I’ve done my research and feel that I’ve found the sweet spot between comfort, convenience and cost!

Method (One-way,
DXB to Al Maha)
Car typePrice
(AED)
Price
(SGD)
Free
cancellation
SIXT RideStandard165601 hour
Careem (inbound only)Sedan17062
rentalcars.com*Sedan1896948 hours
Uber (inbound only)Sedan22080
airportstaxitransfers.comSedan2659624 hours
SIXT RideMerc E, BMW 52831031 hour
BlacklaneMerc E, BMW 53201161 hour
Outsourced by Al MahaLarge Sedan380138 
Outsourced by Al MahaLuxury SUV425154 
* Excludes petrol and insurance. Price shown is for a 24-hours rental.

After getting the pricey quote from Al Maha, I considered renting a car for the round trip. I don’t know about you but I avoid car rentals as much as I can, on my travels. There are too many shady ones out there (even popular brands) and a comprehensive insurance would sometimes cost as much as the base rental fee!

I saw plenty of great suggestions on Flyertalk forum from members who have used Blacklane and airportstaxitransfers.com. After a little bit of research, I found out that SIXT offers chauffeur services (called SIXT Ride) in Dubai too.

SIXT does status match for Marriott members and I managed to get mine done in under 2 days! All I did was sent an email here and included my SIXT membership number with a screenshot of my name, Marriott membership number and status from my Marriott Bonvoy app. As a Marriott Titanium member, I was matched to SIXT Platinum.

Although I found out about SIXT Ride before my stay, I took Careem Standard Car to Al Maha just to see if I can recommend it. The driver took the wrong exit from the highway and had to make a u-turn for a 10 mins gravel ride back to the highway.

I took SIXT Ride (Standard Class) for my trip back to Downtown Dubai and was upgraded to a Business Class car. The driver arrived 15 mins early and it was a smooth ride.

For me, SIXT Ride would be my choice for future stays because it is reliable, the cheapest option (after car rental), allows changes/cancellations up to an hour before my ride and car upgrade from status match to SIXT Platinum.

Tip: Use promo code 10OFF on your next SIXT Ride booking to receive 10% off.

Entrance to the resort
Drop-off area

Arrival

Check-in time is at 2pm but I arrived at about 12pm to tour and get some photos around the property. Check-in was done in a lovely room in the lobby and we were offered refreshing welcome drinks while the formalities were being taken care of.

I was told that no rooms were ready at that point and upgrade was not possible.

Reception
The lobby
Check-in area
Private check-in area
Private check-in area
Welcome drinks

Booking an award stay at this property gets you 2 complimentary desert activities per day. We were advised to choose our activities during check-in to secure our spots as the resort was running at full capacity on that day. More about the activities later!

Activity guide

After check-in was completed, I was told that the villa would only be ready at 2pm. We then walked around the property and found a few beautiful lounging areas.

Indoor lounging area
Outdoor lounging area
View of the desert from the lounging area
Buggies near the main building
Walkway to other parts of the resort

The restaurant offers fantastic views of the dunes too. Although, I can’t imagine dining outdoor in the summer when temperatures go over 40°C.

Outdoor dining table at Al Diwaan restaurant
Outdoor dining area at Al Diwaan restaurant

The villa

Villa 15 is located between the main building and the spa. I was worried about the noise level from the main pool but never faced any problems with that. There was a pretty long walkway to my villa after the entry to Villa 13 and 14. Villa 15 is very private but only about 5-mins’ walk from the spa and main building. The only times we used a buggy was during check-in and check-out.

The villas were made to look like tents and the interiors felt very authentic instead of over-the-top luxurious. Definitely my cup of tea! There was a small TV in the closet, if you’re into that.

The pool had a heating function that maintained a temperature of 29°C. I enjoyed my evening dip even when the outdoor temperature was around 20°C.

There were gazelles casually walking around my villa while I was there. They were inquisitive but really don’t like when their personal space was invaded! They’d walk away as soon as I approached them. Ahh..I could watch them all day.

Private walkway to Villa 15
Villa 15
Key to Villa 15
View from the entrance
Minibar, fridge and make-up area
Beverage area
Minibar price list
Complimentary wine
The interior
Reversed angle of the interior
Work desk
Closet and TV
Welcome amenity
The bathroom
Reversed angle of the bathroom
The toilet
Bathroom amenities
Bathroom amenities
View from the villa
Villa 15
Outdoor dining table
Poolside chairs
Gazelle visiting the villa
Gazelle visiting the villa
Starry night in the desert

Best villas

Almost all villas in this property are identical. Of course, the best ones are those that offers the best privacy. I realised that most villas offer fantastic privacy except for villas 24 – 29. The walkway leading up to the spa is the busiest and guests could see right into those villas.

If you’d like to request for a particular villa, you’d be happy with anyone of these: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21 22, 23, 35.

Site plan of Al Maha Desert Resort

Lunch

We chose to have our lunch in the villa and ordered it soon after arriving. Meals to be consumed in the villa can only be ordered from the In Room Dining Menu. I was told that lunch would be delivered in about an hour.

Lunch came 15 minutes early. We chose to have it at our dining table in the outdoor area. All dishes came in a covered container and were only opened during the table set-up. Food quality was great and quantity was more than enough for us.

Lunch spread
Burrata
Foie Gras Terrine
Argentinean Beef Fillet
New Zealand Lamb Chops
Dulcey Chocolate Fondant Tart
Yuzu Crème Brûlée
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Activity 1 – Camel Trek

As mentioned, guests staying on points are offered 2 complimentary desert activities per day. Timings for all activities are fixed. However, I am pretty sure that the timetable would change during summer months (as the sun sets at a later time). We initially wanted to do the Wild Life Drive before the Camel Trek but the timing was too close to our lunch and we did not want to rush ourselves, especially after a heavy meal.

It was a wonderful experience travelling on the camel deep into the desert at sunset. We trekked for about 25 minutes before reaching an area where everyone hopped off and hung around the dunes to enjoy the beautiful sunset. Guests were offered complimentary refreshments (incl. alcoholic drinks) too. If you took the Sundowners activity, you would end up at the same area to catch the sunset.

About 10 minutes after the sun cleared the horizon, we got back up the camels for another 25 minutes ride to the resort.

I don’t usually fancy touristy animal rides like this but it was great to know that the camels only make this journey once a day. I also trust that these camels are being well taken care off in a national Conservation Reserve. I enjoyed this 90 minutes activity and would highly recommend it.

Walking past the main pool, to the camels
Camels lined up
Camel trek
Drink counter
Drink counter
Sunset-watching
Returning to the camels

Dinner

We had our dinner at Al Diwaan restaurant. The restaurant was serving dinner from 7.30pm till 10pm. The outdoor area had a beautiful setting but we decided to have our meals indoors instead as it was quite a chilly evening.

Full board packages were offered 5-course meals. We had to choose our starters, mains and desserts from the restaurant’s dinner menu and there were a couple of chef’s special in between.

All dishes were beautifully presented and delicious. However, I found the Bedouin Platter rather weak in quality. It was very heavy though.

Al Diwaan restaurant
Outdoor seats at Al Diwaan restaurant
Lentil Puree
Scallops Tempura
Pan Fried Octopus
Mandarin Sorbet
Bedouin Platter
Salmon Fish
Al Maha’s Own Saffron & Nuts Um Ali
Tiramisu
Roasted Peach
Chocolates as part of the turn down service that evening

Activity 2 – Falconry

There are 3 activities that can be done in the morning. They are Falconry, Nature Walk and Archery. I am not a morning person but Falconry sounded the most appealing to me. We requested for a wake-up call and got up to a really foggy morning for this 1-hour activity.

There were only about 15 guests present and I enjoyed it more that I thought I would! The opening act featured Oscar the owl and it was incredibly cute and friendly. The guides then took turns to bring out other predators of the sky (not just falcon).

The guides explained hunting and ancient training techniques for these birds of prey. Plenty of high-speed action during this time and you’ll have to be really quick to be able to catch them in photos!

Although we were not allowed to get photos of the birds on our arms because of the pandemic, there were plenty of opportunities for us to get photos with them at the end of the activity.

I truly enjoyed this activity and would also highly recommend it.

Foggy morning
The stage for Falconry
Hunting technique
Falcon feeding

Breakfast

We chose to have breakfast in the villa as the weather was still a little chilly. We made our selection from the In Room Dining menu once again. Food quality was again very good and the portion was just enough for us.

Breakfast spread
Seafood Omelette
Brioche French Toast
Crêpes
Mixed fruit platter

Other facilities

The gym, main swimming pool, spa, sauna and steam room are all located in the same building. The main pool was empty most of the time as every villa has their own pool. The gym is very small. Because of the pandemic, the sauna and steam room were not in service when I was there.

Entrance to the spa
The gym
Steam room and sauna
Lounging area near the pool
Main pool
Main pool

The business center is located near the lobby. It came in handy when I had to call the local Turkish Airlines office to make changes to my award booking.

Business center

Ratings

Dining: 10/10
Service: 10/10
Location: 10/10
Room: 10/10
Facilities: 10/10
View: 10/10
Peace & quiet: 10/10
Elite member recognition: 10/10
Value (for what I paid): 10/10

Bottom line

This desert resort totally deserves the hype. This is easily the best use of Marriott points. I was very lucky to have gotten an off-peak rate during this time of year too! I’d definitely consider returning for a 2 or 5-nights stay the next time in Dubai if I can find an off-peak rate.

BMW 5 Series from SIXT

3 thoughts on “Review: Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort, Dubai (Bedouin Suite)”

  1. This was a great review, many thanks for sharing!

    One note of a potential inaccuracy in the post: you say “As mentioned, guests staying on points are offered 2 complimentary desert activities per stay.”

    I don’t believe this is correct – it is 2 complimentary desert activities per night (i.e. 2 per 24 hours). If you stay one night, you get 2 activities; stay 2 nights, you get 4, etc.

    Reply

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