Glamping in the UAE
“…the redness had seeped from the day and night was arranging herself around us. Cooling things down, staining and dyeing the evening purple and blue black.”
—Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
These past few days were one of the most relaxing times we have had this year. Our boss surprised us all with a generous two-week holiday, and since it was literally a surprise we had not planned anything at all. “What are we going to do?!” I panicked out of excitement. Fortunately, Masood, being the calm person that he is, immediately devised exciting plans for us. “How about we upgrade your operating system to Yosemite during the holidays?” he sweetly suggested, “and we could also go shopping for that new orthopedic mattress you keep telling me about.”
I stared hard at him, giving him the I-won’t-be-cooking-any-of-your-favorite-dishes-for-the-next-ten-years look. He laughed and told me that there was indeed a surprise in store for me. He whisked us away on a weekend getaway where I had a private pool all to myself, something I’d been dropping hints about for a year or two now.
Getting there consisted of riding three different modes of transportation, but it’s really just 2 hours away from home.
The Banyan Tree Beach Resort in Ras al Khaimah is about 80 kilometers from my home. That is roughly 50 miles. This reminds me of Fox News presenter who, quite seriously, suggested that the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 may have disappeared because the pilots used metric, rather than imperial, measurement systems.
While Masood thought that the directions provided to us were ridiculously easy to follow, I still took out the GPS device, just in case. Halfway through our trip and the device was still trying to search for the resort. We did finally reach our landmark, the Al Hamrah Golf Club, and were supposed to take the first right, which Masood did. I looked at the map again: it says turn right into the parking area. I glanced up and saw that the parking sign was posted on the next right turn. “This is the wrong way,” I said. “Is it? Let me ask that fellow over there for directions,” said Masood. “Oh, but there’s no need. I know for a fact that we need to take that next road,” I mentally pat my back for being good with directions.
Masood drove into the next road and we came face-to-face with a dead-end. “Um, this is weird,” I quickly tried to cover-up my blunder, “I do suppose we can ask that guy there. I’m sure the direction on the website isn’t updated.”
The first right turn immediately after the Golf Club building was the correct one. Masood had been right, but I did not need to remind him that. This parking area was right next to the water and there’s a jetty a few steps away. The nice guy told us we’re at the right place, welcomed us with a smile, and told us to park our car. He then spoke into his handheld transceiver. A couple of minutes later a boat came to pick us up. I silently enjoyed the cool breeze ruffling my hijab and the plush, luxurious seats of the boat as we sailed across the ocean. The entire boat ride was over in 4 minutes.
Those weren’t our bags. We had one small suitcase in which I had carefully packed my hijab-friendly swimwear (which was what I wore most whilst on this resort), four sets of clothes (of which I only used one), a couple of books (which I did not get around to reading), and my laptop (because I was on call during the weekend, in case something came up at work, and it did).
Check-in was a breeze, although the reception was quite … um, quaint … so that the nice lady at the counter was talking to us from behind the giant silver Christmas tree that occupied most of the floor. We were given warm towels and a glass of cool hibiscus juice while we wait.
We then rode a golf cart which made me feel like royalty, albeit briefly since our room arrived in less than 2 minutes.
Ever heard of glamping? It’s going camping but with glamour so that there’s no tent to pitch, no sleeping bag to unroll, and no fire to build. This resort is a glamping experience.
There are roof to floor glass windows instead of walls which allows all the natural light in, giving the interiors a lovely golden glow from the setting sun. I was immediately drawn to the pool. The website says “plunge pool” and, to be frank, I had assumed it to be an extra large bathtub. The pool turned out to be larger. The water is about 5 feet deep so diving is not possible (nor allowed; there’s a sign that says so) but hey, one can swim in it. The staff was taking his sweet time showing us the room and its amenities when all I wanted was for him to leave so I can jump into the heated pool.
A four poster bed occupies most of the space in the room. Under normal circumstances, I would have immediately jumped into the bed to check how comfortable it is, but this time I was distracted. In fact, by the time I did climb into bed it was almost midnight.
And I staked my claim on the right side of the bed because then I can watch some TV without the drapes obstructing my view, not that I actually watched TV. It was more like switching channels for 15 minutes and then turning it off. Masood has strategically been assigned the left side of the bed because it’s closer to the air-conditioner’s control panel.
It had been a cold night. By the time I got out of the pool and showered, my nose and toes were like ice cubes so we turned the air-conditioner off. Sometime during the night, however, I woke up perspiring so I asked Masood to turn it back on. One of the several things about Masood that makes him awesome is that he never, ever complains when I ask him to do something even when it meant waking him up from a deep sleep. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, thirsty. And speaking of thirsty, we’d been married for quite sometime now and I just realized that the water bottle has always been on his side table. Always. And though I could easily exert a little effort and reach out across his side to grab the bottle, I’ve always asked him for it. Always. He has not complained even once. And then, there were a few nights over the years when we’d stay at some places during our travels where the bathrooms were located in another room. I would wake him up in the middle of the night and ask him to wait just outside the bathroom door. The need to use a bathroom having huge windows with lots of trees outside (specifically when it’s the middle of the night) in a foreign land scares me. This is why there’s a ban on me watching horror flicks or movies involving brutal murder scenes.
Masood had to go back to the parking lot because I forgot my laptop in the car. While he was away, I took more pictures and surveyed the area. The pool isn’t completely private; it faces the beach. Hence the need for a burkini. And although there were people in the nearby villas/tents, I did not hear or see them during my entire stay. I did see a couple walk down the beach twice, but they kept to the area near their villa.
Banyan Tree Beach Resort in Ras Al Khaimah is safe and clean. Despite it being peak season, we did not feel like the resort was crowded because the villas are spaced nicely to give privacy. And the staff is polite, courteous, and unobtrusive.
I had to spend a couple of hours for work that evening, which I did whilst lying in that cabana with a laptop, facing the pool with its blue light on making the water appear like jelly, and a cup of jasmine-infused green tea (without sugar, of course) on the side table. The fresh breeze from the ocean was caressing my hair. It’s been quite sometime since I’ve had the privacy to let my hair down and enjoy the ocean breeze.
I finished work and jumped into the pool. Dinner had to be ordered in the room because Masood failed to pull me out of the water. I came here to relax and enjoy, not spend time dressing for dinner in a fancy restaurant. Food came in a huge picnic basket, which was a cute touch. We had corn-fed chicken (which meant that the meat was certainly delicious but weighed a quarter of what a regular chicken would) with steamed vegetables, potato mint soup, and fresh homemade bread.
The following morning, I insisted on having an early breakfast so that I’ll have more time for swimming before we checkout. Waking Masood up at 7 am for breakfast is not for the faint of heart. He can get agitated, brutal, and vicious. But when I request kindly and sweetly, he gives in. Always. May Allah bless him.
The breakfast place is impressive, facing an infinity pool and the clear blue ocean. The buffet, while not as massive as the other 5-star resorts, has a decent selection. The food’s presentation is excellent and so is the taste.
I highly recommend the Banyan Tree Beach Resort in Ras Al Khaimah for a relaxing and private getaway. For those who can afford to indulge further, there is a great spa in the resort. There are also activities you can book, such as a private BBQ on an island, sunset cruise, yoga, jet-skiing, parasailing, etc.
Banyan Tree Resort, in Ras Al Khaimah, was quite a lovely treat for me. I returned home with happy, achy muscles. In fact, I have been so chirpy and blissful lately that I’ve spent the next few days on a baking frenzy, spending hours in the kitchen preparing food that Masood loves. Tomorrow, I’m making him pizza. From scratch. As in I’m starting with flour.