Dubai’s Bab Al Shams desert resort to join Atlantis and One&Only hotel group

Kerzner is reimagining the Arabian-style retreat and will open it as the first of its new Rare Finds collection in early 2023

Dubai's Bab Al Shams will reopen in 2023 as Kerzner's first new Rare Finds property. Photo : Kerzner
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One of Dubai’s longest-running desert escapes is set to receive a new lease of life.

Bab Al Shams Desert Resort is closing its doors on May 8, and will reopen next year as the first Rare Finds, a new collection of hotels by Kerzner.

The parent company of ultra-luxury One&Only Resorts and Dubai’s Atlantis The Palm, Kerzner is relaunching Bab Al Shams in early 2023 after a complete renovation.

Keeping its well-known moniker, the new resort will be centred around food and beverage offerings, including a pan-Asian rooftop restaurant with sunset views, The Desert Spa and an upscale alcohol-free bar.

Experiences and entertainment will also lie at the heart of the new family-focused property with guests able to stargaze alongside in-house astronomers, enjoy fireside storytelling or soar above the sand dunes on hot air balloon rides.

A desert mainstay for 17 years

Bab Al Shams is Dubai’s quintessential desert resort, owned by Meydan and welcoming guests for 17 years. Photo: Kerzner

The resort, owned by Meydan, has been one of Dubai’s leading desert escapes for nearly two decades.

“I am excited to welcome Bab Al Shams Desert Resort to the newly introduced Rare Finds collection,” said Philippe Zuber, chief executive of Kerzner International. “Anyone living in Abu Dhabi or Dubai ends up, at least once, at Bab Al Shams as it's iconic, it's very special and unique, and Kerzner can bring something new to that place,” Zuber told The National.

Kerzner will start work on Bab Al Shams shortly after Eid to position the property as entry-level five-star luxury,

“May 8 is the closing date, so now we are in the last few weeks of Bab Al Shams in its current version. We will be doing a full renovation starting with the rooms, and we will be adding a spa and completing a total redefinition of the food and beverage offering with the aim to reopen the entire resort in Q1 2023.”

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Often billed as an oasis in the desert, Bab Al Shams will retain its much-loved desert infinity pool. Upgraded earlier this year, the quintessential pool will be further “uplifted” and complemented by new “unique features “.

One of those will be its connection to the resort's new all-day dining space. This family-driven restaurant will have a bespoke design and offer theatrical dining with lots of opportunities for al fresco eating.

A rooftop sunset lounge and a new desert spa

It’s not yet decided who will head up Bab Al Shams' new food and beverage operations, says Zuber, but a celebrity chef could be in the mix with Kerzner known for its global partnership with celebrity chefs including Gordon Ramsey's Bread Street Kitchen in Dubai and Enrique Olvera at the One&Only Mandarina.

No matter who takes the reigns, travellers can be assured of a strong Middle Eastern element that makes sure the resort retains its sense of place. Kerzner will also add a bespoke cigar room and an upscale non-alcoholic bar serving a creative list of cocktails and drinks.

The existing Al Hadeerah restaurant will be redefined and serve modern Arabic cuisine with a focus on responsibly sourced ingredients and there will be a new licensed bar.

The current sunset deck is being transformed into a pan-Asian rooftop lounge with dishes from across the continent, coupled with outstanding entertainment and classic desert sunset views.

The Desert Spa will be a calming mirage where guests can indulge in both traditional and contemporary treatments, such as hammam and hot sand therapy.

As the city of Dubai expands, the resort is also planned to cater more for residents living in and around Dubai South. “It will be much more a place for the people living in the neighbourhood … to come have a drink, have a bite and really use that unique space,” says Zuber.

More Rare Finds hotels and the Royal Atlantis opening in October

Kerzner's Royal Atlantis is on track to open its doors in October this year.  Photo: Kerzner

“Bab Al Shams is the original immersive desert experience in Dubai, having first opened its doors in 2004,” said Issam Galadari, chief executive of Meydan City Corporation.

“We are looking forward to working closely with the Kerzner team to bring their exceptional service standards and renowned expertise to invigorate and breathe new life into this resort, that holds a special place in the hearts of UAE residents and visitors alike “.

And Bab Al Shams is only the first in Kerzner’s new Rare Finds collection, which according to Zuber is set to “expand extremely fast “.

There are plans to grow the portfolio with carefully curated international properties, each of which will have a strong brand identity, that “can then be elevated by Kerzner International’s knowledge, the way that we're doing business, and our unique approach.”

And it’s not the only big news for the hotel group this year. The brand is also gearing up to open the much anticipated Atlantis, The Royal Resort and Residences in October this year.

“Everything is on track and we are now close to the date for the delivery of the building to us as operator … it’s extremely exciting times,” confirmed Zuber.

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Updated: April 25, 2022, 11:43 AM