The Al Khaimah tented villas at Banyan Tree Al Wadi come with a private decked terrace, pool and a designer bathroom.
The Al Khaimah tented villas at Banyan Tree Al Wadi come with a private decked terrace, pool and a designer bathroom.

Banyan Tree Al Wadi, Ras Al Khaimah



The ochre-coloured concrete exterior of the hotel seems at first rather stark, but the welcome was softened when we were welcomed by three or four South-east Asian staff who smiled as they unloaded 11 pieces of luggage from our boot. We walked up a long, straight covered walkway into the main building, where we were delighted by the interiors - high ceilings, dark woods, latticing and metal lanterns at every turn. Our check-in was done as we sat on sofas in reception, rather than at a desk, and we were glad of cold towels and hibiscus tea after the two-and-a-half-hour drive from Abu Dhabi.

The hotel is situated in Wadi Khadeja, a protected enclave in Ras al Khaimah. The desert reserve is 10 minutes from exit 109 off the Emirates Road heading north. The approach to the hotel takes you on a quiet, winding sealed road through small farms and valleys full of ghaf trees.

The hotel has only been open six months, and it was very quiet when I visited with a friend at the end of May. We were never alone at breakfast or dinner, but the Samar Lounge, a lovely ground-floor bar, was empty on both nights and at the rooftop Moon Bar there were only two other guests when we sat out under the stars. Still, I don't mind empty hotels since it generally means less disturbance and better service, and this was definitely the case here. The spa seemed busier, and it had its own vibe with staff from Thailand and China.

There are 101 villas in three types; ours was a one-bedroom Al Khaimah tented pool villa, middle-of-the-range in terms of price but a massive 253 square metres when you include the vast private decked terrace at the back. From the outside the villas aren't hugely impressive, resembling wooden conservatories on stilts, but inside ours was spectacular. It felt like being in a large, opulent tent in the desert, with flowing canopied ceilings, a giant bed, endless pretty lanterns and a whole wing containing a designer bathroom.

Impeccable. Check-in was smooth and faultless, buggies arrived quickly when asked for, rooms were cleaned and turned down at unobtrusive times and there was never any disturbance from the staff, who were thoroughly gracious and helpful. Service in the restaurants was swift and assured.

There are two main restaurants, Saffron, specialising in Thai food, and Al Waha, serving Arabic and international cuisine. My favourite was Saffron - it overlooks a small valley with a water-hole where animals including gazelle and Arabian oryx gather and inside there are tables on an ornate four-poster platform. I loved the grilled aubergine salad (Dh50), the tom yum goong (Dh42), the lamb loin yellow curry with tofu and ginger (Dh85) and the tapioca and coconut pudding (Dh28). At Al Waha, the Lebanese shorba (Dh40) and the sumac and chilli grilled lamb chops (Dh140) were heavenly.

The Rainforest hydrotherapy spa and 90-minute Balinese spa session, which includes a 60-minute massage (Dh462): from the foot bath to the selection of incense to the oil ("spirit" was a blend of almond oil and ylang ylang) to the massage itself, the experience was dreamy. I also loved seeing the two resident owls at the on-site falconry centre, and the pool at our villa, which was a very good size with no shallow sections.

The view from our villa was disappointing, particularly when compared to other resorts such as Dubai's Al Maha or Abu Dhabi's Qasr al Sarab. From our terrace we could see nothing more than the back of a sand dune. There were also loud suction noises coming from our pool, which slightly intruded into the peace when using the terrace - but we could still just about hear the variety of wild birds outside. Some guests in the Al Rimal villas have complained of a lack of privacy on their pool terraces, which can be overlooked.

A great new retreat, good for a romantic getaway or a girls' spa weekend. You won't be overwhelmed, but that's part of the appeal.

Al Rimal deluxe pool villas start from Dh2,343 per night; Al Khaimah tented pool villas cost from Dh2,893, including tax and breakfast. Until September 28, get three nights for the price of two, including use of the Rainforest and a choice of dining, massage, golf or falcon show experiences. Banyan Tree Al Wadi, Ras al Khaimah (www.banyantree.com; 07 206 7777).

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

The biog

Name: Mohammed Imtiaz

From: Gujranwala, Pakistan

Arrived in the UAE: 1976

Favourite clothes to make: Suit

Cost of a hand-made suit: From Dh550

 

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Pros and cons of BNPL

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Courtesy: Carol Glynn

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

Company profile

Company name:+Dharma

Date started:+2018

Founders:+Charaf El Mansouri, Nisma Benani, Leah Howe

Based:+Abu Dhabi

Sector:+TravelTech

Funding stage:+Pre-series A 

Investors:+Convivialite Ventures, BY Partners, Shorooq Partners, L& Ventures, Flat6Labs

THE BIO

Favourite book: ‘Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren

Favourite travel destination: Switzerland

Hobbies: Travelling and following motivational speeches and speakers

Favourite place in UAE: Dubai Museum

The specs

Engine: 6.2-litre V8

Transmission: ten-speed

Power: 420bhp

Torque: 624Nm

Price: Dh325,125

On sale: Now

UAE SQUAD

Men: Saif Al Zaabi, Salem Al Marzooqi, Zayed Al Ansaari, Saud Abdulaziz Rahmatalla, Adel Shanbih, Ahmed Khamis Al Blooshi, Abdalla Al Naqbi, Khaled Al Hammadi, Mohammed Khamis Khalaf, Mohammad Fahad, Abdulla Al Arimi.
Women: Mozah Al Zeyoudi, Haifa Al Naqbi, Ayesha Al Mutaiwei.

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Developer: Ubisoft Bordeaux
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Consoles: PlayStation 4&5, PC and Xbox Series S&X
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