DISCOVERING BAB AL SHAMS:
A Day in Desert Paradise
by Mary Jane Agra
Making the most of Dubai summer.
The long wait for a dreamy desert getaway is finally over when my friend and I decided on a quick desert escape to indulge our Arabian nights fantasies. Counting down her last days in the city, what better way than to drive an hour from the heart of downtown into the vast desert lands for an authentic cultural experience.
Nestled peacefully amidst the curvy slopes and dancing dunes on the outskirts of Dubai, the exclusive low-rise Bab Al Shams is a perfect picture of a secluded rural Arab village with a labyrinthine layout of earthy pillars, lanterns, rustic artwork, bedouin-styled pillows, and ornate Arabic architecture amidst the enchanting desert backdrop. Literally translated from Arabic as “gateway to the sun,” this 5-star luxury resort just re-opened its doors mid-July to escapists looking to relax from the pressures of modern life.
Walking through the charming narrow lanes, stone alleyways, shaded courtyards, and trickling fountain streams, you cannot help but already feel transported in this oasis of tranquility.
THE PRIVATE TERRACE
Finally arriving to the front of our room and breaking through the Just Deep-Cleaned and Sanitized seal sticker upon entering, it is no wonder this resort received the Bureau Veritas’ Safeguard label for ensuring the highest hygiene standards. Our stunning heritage-style suite did not fall short of capturing the essence of Middle Eastern tradition. You can’t help but admire the details that seamlessly and authentically combine luxury and comfort - the ornate interiors, lush beddings, unique patterned fabrics, and a traditional Majlis lounge corner.
Immediately mesmerized by the sweeping desert views through the swaying curtains, we dropped everything and rushed towards our private terrace. In the middle of the melodic chirping of the birds and commotion of gazelles and geckos among the cornucopia of wildlife is an endless panoramic view of the dramatic desert landscape. We pause for a moment and glance at each other screaming in unison as if telepathically, “Time to celebrate!”
Matching silk dresses and golden stilettos, we steadily and then hurriedly run towards the desert sun chasing after camels as they retire for the day. I didn’t have time to wonder why I instinctively started running after her as she sprints like an athlete in those 4-inch heels just to capture her last photo with these mighty creatures who have been symbols of Emirati heritage for many decades.
Her “You Only Live Once” attitude kept my energy up despite my growing hunger and dehydration. Gasping for air in scorching temperatures beneath the setting sun, I reach for my camera and start capturing these I live for this moments. The camel handler, Ahmed, was kind enough to pause for a few minutes with these healthy majestic creatures before stressing the need to let them rest. I laugh as I watch my friend happily blow goodbye kisses while they slowly disappear into the golden desert. I dust off the collection of sand in between my toes and trip on what feels like a sinking mud pit with these stilettos on. Who would have thought this would be one for the books?
Then if she wasn't tired enough, she starts jumping in joy and excitedly rolls in the sand in child’s play, completely forgetting we’re immaculately dressed for our early evening dinner. I join along and surrender myself to the moment. There’s something special about knowing this might be your last summer in Dubai, at least for awhile. You live your best life and don’t take this time for granted, without care for the superficial or the material.
RISE AND SHINE IN DESERT PARADISE
Tired from our desert adventure and our bellies heavy from feasting on cold Arabic mezze and tasty butter chicken at their Al Forsan restaurant, we immediately dozed off into dreamland after changing into our cozy pajamas.
Thanks to the crowing sounds of the rooster at dawn, at least that’s what I think I heard, I watched the magical sunrise through the expansive palm grove right from our patio. The cool early morning breeze and calming sounds of nature made for the perfect setting for a serene meditation in the dunes. I draw the curtains wide open to let some sunshine in, also secretly trying to wake my friend up so we can start seizing the day!
THE NEXT CHAPTER
Among the range of activities that pay homage to Emirati heritage from desert safaris, falconry, archery, croquet, nature walks, horse and camel rides, we settled for the most relaxing of them all - soaking up the sun at their picturesque shimmering infinity pool shaded by lush palm trees. Here, we observed the other staycationers who seem to have come from afar, but have also escaped from the hustle and bustle of the city. Flocks of families with little children, couples, honeymooners, and best friends take on the 40 degrees celsius summer heat with respect to social distancing. It was refreshing to see every single one embrace and make the most of the new normal in this desert paradise.
This was when I realized that we weren’t the only ones living our best lives in this desert oasis. In some sense, this time has forced us to look into our own lives, reflect, and make the most of everyday wherever we may be and whatever challenge we may be facing.
It doesn’t matter if your journey is coming to an end in Dubai, in your current job, or in your relationships and have to brave the tough goodbyes. We’re constantly reminded to cherish life and make the most of our now. Sometimes, the nudge can come as a pleasant surprise. For me, this moment was one of them.
DREAMING OF SUNSETS by MJ Agra is an inspirational blog on Lifestyle, Food & Drink, and Destinations.