When it’s 50 degrees Celsius outside, most people get on the first flight out of the country, so in the UAE, summer is low season and you can often get 50% off the best hotels. Which is why we decided to cool off in our very own private pool villa for a birthday night getaway at The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert (formally Banyan Tree Al Wadi), and it was an absolute treat.
Less than an hour’s drive from Dubai, we turned into the desert outside Ras Al Khaimah, and arrived about half an hour before the 3pm check-in. We valet parked and strolled up the long covered walkway to the hotel.The lobby, which is more like a private lounge, was already filled with large local families in abaya and dishdasha, and a few other tourists, mostly couples. The beautiful thing is, it was the first and last we saw of almost everyone once we’d checked in, because we all dispersed to our own private retreat.
After our cold towels and fresh juice, we jumped on a golf cart, and were driven to our private villa. While we wound our way through the dunes, the driver showed us where everything was and assured us that all we needed to do was push the red button in the room to call for a cart to fetch and carry us. In 50 degree heat, I was loving that guy.
We passed the watering hole where a few Oryx were relaxing in the shade, and the Thai restaurant that overlooks it, and pulled up outside our villa. Having booked a deluxe pool villa, and not one of the much larger tented pool villas, we expected it to be comfortable but cosy. But then we walked inside and realised just how big it was. Off the entrance hall, to the left, we discovered a large bathroom, with his and hers basins, huge tub and rain shower, all walled in for privacy. We poked our heads into the small dressing room, then went through into the bedroom, separate living room and study, and outside onto the wooden deck where we found our own private pool. Bliss.
Granted, the villa may not be as big as some penthouses, but at 158 sqm, it has more than enough space for two people to play quite happily. So unless you’re really claustrophobic, there’s no need to go for the much larger tented villa (although it is more private and has a much bigger pool).
As we were shown around the villa, our driver told us that there was of course room service, but that there was a delivery charge of 60 dirhams for every order. We nearly choked, even for a five star hotel that seemed excessive. But it only took another half an hour or so, and we realised why. Once you’re in your villa, bobbing about in the pool, you don’t ever want to leave. They’re smart, those hotel people.
We unpacked and decided to pop out for a late lunch. We wanted to see more of the resort and try out the restaurants and we weren’t quite ready for the room service delivery charge. So we hit the red button and a golf cart ferried us back to the main hotel building.
We went to Al Waha restaurant (which means oasis in Arabic). Attached to the main building, the décor is simple, but elegant. It has very high ceilings, but unfortunately, it doesn’t have a view. It is where breakfast is served, and its menu is Arabic, along with the ever-popular ‘international cuisine’. There were a few other families having a bite, but I suspect it’s more pleasant at night, when the lights are low and the view doesn’t matter. We ate a couple of sandwiches, took a few pictures, and went straight back to our villa for a swim.
I spent the next two hours bobbing in the pool, watching the odd Oryx saunter by. If I was wound up by city living when I arrived, I was almost purring like a sea lion when I eventually got out sometime around sunset. We hit the magic red button again, and were soon on our way to the stylish Samar Lounge and the rooftop Moon Bar. It was still uncomfortably hot even though the sun had set, so we had a quick walkabout on the roof and if it had been a bit cooler we could’ve sat up there all night. Apparently one couple, who were up there smoking shisha, were immune to the summer heat. We retreated back downstairs to one of the cosy corners in the Samar Lounge and this is where the fact that everyone stays in their own villa really hit home. In the hour or so that we were there, sipping on our refreshing mojitos, nobody else came to the bar. Only as we were leaving, a small group walked into one of the private corner areas, and drew the curtain behind them for privacy. It looked like I had booked out the whole resort out for us. The old romantic that I am.
We paid up and were carted off to Safran, the resort’s signature Thai restaurant for dinner. In it’s own building, a fair distance from the main hotel and overlooking the watering hole, it is a far more romantic setting. It seemed a few other couples had the same idea as us, but thankfully the restaurant was big enough, so the other five or six couples (and one rather large family) were placed well apart and we each had our own private space.
The ambience was lovely, the food was authentic and very good and the service was low-key but attentive. I love Thai food, so I had starters, main and dessert. We washed it all down with some wine, and then strolled back to our nearby villa for a late night dip in the pool.
Having seen much of the main resort, we weren’t interested in leaving our villa again until we needed to check out the next day. So we happily arranged a late check-out and placed our breakfast order before nodding off.
The next morning the breakfast arrived as requested at exactly 8am. Two men set up a veritable feast in the living room and quietly retreated. There was far too much food, but I did as much damage as I could and then hit the pool again, where I had two cups of tea while soaking up the morning sun. The rest of the morning was spent eating and swimming and when it came time to leave after lunch, we were slightly disappointed, but so relaxed it didn’t hurt as much as it usually might.
We didn’t get a chance to try out what I believe is a magnificent spa, or try our hand at archery, ride bicycles around the resort or take the shuttle bus to the neighbouring Banyan Tree Ras Al Khaimah Beach Resort. So when, not if, but when we go back to this fantastic resort during the cooler winter months, you can bet it’ll be for more than a night.
Top Tip: Book Al Rimal Deluxe pool villa number 304. I have it on good authority that it’s one of the best in the resort.