Thursday, June 9, 2011

Al Maha Desert in the United Arab Emirates - Luxury, dune bashing, Oryx, falcons, and horses


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 

Overpriced things

The lobby 

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.
  
Entrance 

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

Fruit

This is me doing an ill executed belly flop in the spa 

more pool 

Just hanging out 


lunch 

Our private pool 

The bedroom in our villa, notice the tented ceiling  

Tub 

Pretty nuts 

Nocs for scoping beasts 

The desert 

Kristin pouting about something 


An oasis 

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 

Expedition leader

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 




later sun 


On the ride back, our camel almost killed us by standing up while we were still getting on 

Strolling through the desert 

Night 

Our pool at night.  I went swimming like 7 times. 

Our place - villa 8

Our villa 

I love the roof 

Am

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 

Steep 

Dunes


Our fleet 


Heading back 

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 

A stare-down 

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.

9 comments:

  1. Nice pictures. Wish I could have seen it in person.

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