An hour outside of Dubai, the Al Maha desert is a sprawling landscape of shrubs, dunes, and the occasional oasis. The Al Maha desert reserve is also home to many Oryx and Gazelles. We stayed at the (very 5 star) desert resort in Al Maha and the animals were frequent guests at breakfast and would also amble up to the pool curious of the strange white creatures thrashing about in the water - us. The impetus for my entire reason for going to Dubai was to stay at this particular resort and visit with the very endangered Oryx (maybe 1000 or so left in the wild). These are very interesting animals and the access to them, whether they be staring at us about a meter away from our outside breakfast table or walking alongside us during a desert camel ride, was unbelievable. They are not scared of people, at all.
Leaving the desert outpost of Dubai
For the real desert
The entrance to Al Maha
I was excitedly scoping for Arabian Oryx
The lodge at Al Maha
The outdoor eating area, very nice until you account for the 130 degree weather
The Al Maha resort was originally run by the Emirates brand - not as a business but as a showpiece with the Sheikh's family visiting often. It was taken over by Starwood last year as one of its luxury properties. It is all inclusive and rooms start at over $1000.
Exploring the spa
The main pool area
K at the pool
Next to the pool, an Oryx
A plunge pool in the spa that was so cold
This is me doing an ill executed belly flop in the spa
Just hanging out
Our private pool
The bedroom in our villa, notice the tented ceiling
Nocs for scoping beasts
Kristin pouting about something
I gazelle ran up to me on our back porch to gawk
Cute little fella
The animals get very close
Classic Oryx silhouette
Kristin just hanging out
Since it is so hot in the desert, all activities are done between 5-9am and 5-7pm
This evening we would be riding camels to the dunes
The nuzzles insure no errant chomps
Having a munch on some green
This guy rode his camel cross-legged.
A long desert trudge
A tree next to a dune
Sun begins to set
Very peaceful out here in the desert, crazy to think this is what downtown Dubai once looked like not so long ago
Kristin on a dune
They gave us champagne while we watched the sun set beyond the dunes
On the ride back, our camel almost killed us by standing up while we were still getting on
Strolling through the desert
Our pool at night. I went swimming like 7 times.
Our place - villa 8
I love the roof
My ride for a trip dune bashing. Kristin slept in.
Talking a desert road to the dunes in Sharja
Doing some dune bashing
A lone camel
Carving up the dunes
We didn't get stuck very often, but the girl in front of us was terrible. I could tell my driver was not fond of her.
A very large dune next to a little car
Dune bashing is very fun and sometimes quite disorienting
They also do a bunch of falconry at Al Maha
A falcon in his headgear
The lone owl of the falconry operation. I was told he was a real bird brain and kind of a dipshit.
This eagle was rescued at birth and allegedly never grew up, so basically acted like a big bird baby
Look at that posture, totally a baby
Back to complaining
A little gazelle
Al Maha has a serious stable filled with million dollar ex-racers and gifts from the Sheikh. My buddy told me that you have to have 5 years or so of well documented experience to be able to ride these quick Arab horses. They are gorgeous.
What a beast
I did my rounds and met all the horses
This one just retired here from racing - note the trimmed mane for speed
They all had awesome names
This was the surfer dude of the bunch
The stud - Mogambo. I was told that he is very arrogant, very fast, and very expensive.
This guy made funny faces when I got close
One last look at the stud
Kristin, rising 5 hours later and having breakfast
We didn't want to leave Al Maha, but did sadly, bound for Qatar.