Not all plots of desert land are created equal. While all of them are set in the dunes, one can be a site meticulously designed to provide a cultural dining experience and another could be a haven for local wildlife. The best part is that, here in the UAE, we also have a wide range of options that cater to various budgets and group sizes.
Here are five venues we love (in no particular order):
1. Private Campsite
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an entire swathe of desert all to yourself? Exclusivity definitely leaves a lot of room for endless possibilities. Within such a setting, we can create an Arabian wonderland from scratch. And because we call the shots, we can specify how the set-up is going to look, what kinds of entertainment will be made available, the right timing for the event to take place, and all other considerations.
We can go grand for sure, but we can also include intimate bonding moments for the team. One of our favorites is setting up a sunset reception on top of a dune, where the group can simply spend time savouring the beauty of the desert sunset over cocktails or enjoy the local heritage with a falcon show.
Come dinnertime, everyone will be ushered into the private dining campsite, complete with five-star catering, all the trappings of Arabian culture and live entertainment.
A maximum of 300 people can be accommodated at a private campsite. Since we have the free hand to put everything together, we can set up the event space to comfortably accommodate a small group of 50-60 or a large team of 300.
Did you know that every time you visit or hold an event at a private campsite like Al Maha, a percentage of your fees go directly to the conservation of the desert? That’s definitely some plus points for Corporate Social Responsibility.
2. Al Sahara – Caravanserai
This is an excellent option for clients who do not want to spend a fortune on exclusive venues. Dubai’s Al Sahara is an Arabian fort-themed venue that comes with entertainment and five-star food and service.
Everything you need to get that authentic Arabian feel is in this fort. We can certainly add in a few extras for décor and other forms of cultural entertainment.
Aside from the fort venue, Al Sahara also operates Caravanserai, a version of a desert campsite. Set in 37 million square feet of sand dunes surrounded by indigenous flora and fauna, Caravanserai features a traditional souk, Bedouin-style seating, five-star dining experience, a falcon show and live Arabian entertainment.
The fort in Al Sahara is large enough to accommodate 450 people and the space is distributed into different pockets so guests wouldn’t feel lost. Various spaces can also be turned into semi-private areas for groups, depending on the size.
The Caravanserai, on the other hand, can host up to 1,200 people in a magical evening in the desert.
Traversing the desert terrain requires good 4×4 vehicles; but for Al Sahara and Caravanserai, normal coaches will do.
3. Al Hadheerah Restaurant
Al Hadheerah is a highly acclaimed restaurant located at the five-star desert resort, Bab Al Shams.
Built with walls and décor reminiscent of a fortress, this restaurant mimics a desert campsite. Pillows and throws of different colours provide vibrant accents to the sand-coloured Arabian castle.
Live cooking sessions and an extensive line-up of cultural and entertainment performances make every evening an unforgettable one. Traditional dishes, such as kebbeh (fried meat and crushed wheat balls filled with mice meat and spices), kebab au robe (Iranian lamb kebabs marinated with yogurt, onion and black pepper) and shish taouk (skewered boneless chicken marinated with lime and onion), also shine at the buffet.
The restaurant features a separate area called the Heritage Village. This is perfect for a cocktail reception before everyone is whisked away into the main dining area.
The main dining area of Al Hadheerah can accommodate a total of 500 guests. Some parts of the venue can also be converted into semi-private areas, depending on the group size.
4. Qasr Al Sultan
One of the newest attractions in Dubai, Qasr Al Sultan takes the desert dining experience to the next level. Be a royal guest at the palace for an evening of culture, nature and good food in the land of Arabia.
A grand showcase of heritage, Qasr Al Sultan is designed to make you experience the life of a Sultan. Stepping on its grounds feels like entering a desert village in a whole new world. It features a warm welcome in a majlis where coffee and dates are served; a unique food bazaar for dinner, with live cooking stations; a traditional souk; and live cultural entertainment featuring belly dancers, dhabka, Arabic singers, a tanoura show, local folklore and a Bedouin songs show.
Qasr Al Sultan can host up to 1,200 guests; like other venues, it also has segments that can be used as semi-private areas for smaller groups.
A few villas are built inside the venue as accommodation options. It also has a souk filled with all kinds of souvenirs and mementos to remember Arabia by.
5. Arabian Nights Village
While Abu Dhabi boasts a multitude of campsites made for authentic desert experiences, most of them are tailored for Frequent Independent Travellers (FITs). But, when for the MICE sector, Arabian Nights Village is the venue to go for.
A dreamy oasis perfectly laid out in the desert, Arabian Nights Village is surrounded by palm trees and gently lit up by lamps that line up the stone pathways. Tents and small villas inspired by the country’s heritage make up the entire village.
As a MICE venue, it features a huge dining area complete with a small stage for an evening programme. Entertainment options are available, as well as accommodation for guests who want to stay overnight.
Arabian Nights Village can accommodate up to 1,000 people for a dinner and safari. It can also be used as an exclusive venue that would require booking of the entire village and not just the dining area.
One of the most beautiful parts of the village is its swimming pool located right in the middle of the desert. Just imagine floating in the pool with the spectacular view of the dunes everywhere you look.