Nutmeg Avios

An exceptional SPG / Marriott redemption deal in the Middle East

In the Emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah, a modest drive from Dubai, is a luxury tent and villa resort in the desert.  Called Al Wadi Desert (home page here) it used to be run by Banyan Tree which gives you an idea of how upmarket it is.

Ritz Carlton Al Wadi 1

Management of the property recently passed to Ritz-Carlton.  It is currently available for redemption at EXTREMELY attractive rates as an introductory offer.  So attractive, in fact, that I’ve booked my family in for a few days in October before we head to our usual beach resort in Dubai.

The resort consists of 101 individual pool villas.  Yes, every villa has its own private pool.  The smallest villas are a modest 1,700 square feet.  The larger tented villas, pictured above, are 2,700 square feet.

Ritz Carlton Al Wadi 2

Each villa sleeps four.  Due to a website bug it will tell you that you can’t book for four people but it even has a special (cash) rate for families of four, so ignore that!  The hotel confirmed to me that all villas take either two adults and two children or three adults.  Not suprising, at 1,700 square feet!

There is a dedicated kids club and a decent range of activities to keep you occupied for a few days of peace and quiet in the desert.

Let’s get to price.

Ritz Carlton Al Wadi 3

Villas are currently just 40,000 Marriott Rewards points per night.  This is the equivalent of 13,333 Starwood Preferred Guest points if you transfer them over.

The hotel isn’t restricting just the cheapest villas to reward redemptions either.  The 2nd room category, ‘Enclosed Pool Villa’, is also available.

In October, an Enclosed Pool Villa is selling for Dhs 3,038 including taxes.  This is £660 per night.

40,000 Marriott Rewards points is, not surprisingly, a steal in comparison.  You are getting triple my usual valuation of 0.5p per point.

Ritz Carlton Al Wadi 4

TripAdvisor reviews recently are generally very positive (see here) although it is clear that the transition from Banyan Tree to Ritz-Carlton has been a little bumpy.

I wouldn’t want to spend my entire holiday in a desert resort.  They are generally recommended for 2-3 nights before moving on to a beach resort with a bit more bustle.   If you want to stay in Ras and save a lot of money over Dubai hotels, take a look at my review of the Waldorf-Astoria on the beach here (hotel website here).

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Do you know short-haul Avios redemptions are often cheaper as 2 x one-ways?
Get freebies and discounts at Gatwick via the myGatwick website
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.


  1. To date I’ve never yet paid a cash rate for a Marriott property in the Middle East. It’s always been significantly cheaper to transfer over, or buy the points, with the added advantage that Marriott will also generally have executive rooms/suites available for points upgrade and/or points + cash. The savings, in buying the points, rather than paying cash, are usually at least 20-25%.

  2. Not that someone may want to stay 7 nights, do these work with the Marriott 7 day travel packages?
    I’ve been looking at the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi as an alternative to Dubai and it looks quite good, not sure there is enough to occupy kids without a water park though!

    • Matthew says:

      Yas waterworld?

      • I believe it’s pretty good but when you are used to walking out of your room, jumping on a golf buggy and jumping in a rubber ring. (All in 5 mins from room to rubber ring 😉 ), going to a hotel where you have to get a taxi , queue to pay( I assume) and get a taxi back it just isn’t as easy, or relaxing!
        I appreciate you pay premium prices, at school holidays, but I’m still to find an alternative that is better than Dubai, I’m sure it’s out there I just haven’t found it 🙁

        • We stayed at the RC Abu Dhabi last December – it worked out about half the price of similar places in Dubai. The service and food choices were both excellent. Plenty of variety. Our kids were only 2 and 3 so were happy with the basic shallow pool and they have a little water playground there. We are going to the Waldorf Astoria in Dubai this March though. AD just felt a bit out of the action for us. We like to go out to other hotels for dinners etc, and the aquarium, Legoland etc in Dubai are great for our kids. AD seemed a bit lacking in extra activities.

  3. It’s a great hotel. Lovely beach club nearby with shuttle and fantastic spa (try the water experience) and Thai restaurant. About 80 mins from DXB but RKT is v close if flying in with Qatar. I seem to recall wild oryx roaming around too! Very chilled out place for a couple.

  4. Hi All,

    We have a companion voucher to use and free accom would justify the £1k for 1st class.

    Query on points for this –
    – My wife has 30,000 Marriot Reward Points (we pool to her card)
    – She also has 30,000 Amex MR points
    – On the Amex site this transfers to 90,000 Club Carlson points or 60,000 SPG points.

    Am i right in saying that my steps for booking this would be
    1) Setup an SPG Account
    2) Transfer the MR points to SPG
    3) I can then transfer the SPG points to Marriot Rewards at a 1:3 ratio?

    Thanks for any advice, what a great offer!

    • No. Amex is 2:1 so she gets 15,000 SPG points.

      • Thanks Rob, i’ve updated the numbers below – Are the steps still correct?

        1) Setup the SPG Account
        2) Transfer the Amex points to SPG – 30,000 becomes 15,000 SPG
        3) Transfer SPG to Marriot Rewards at a rate of 1:3 = 45,000 Marriot Rewards Points

        That’ll leave us with a total balance of 75,000 Marriot Points and 45,000 points short for a 3 night stay. – Due to flip our Amex Gold cards, so will have access to more points (card in my name) so could do that.

        Would there be a cash + points combo available for this?

        • No cash and points.

          Remember that Marriott lets you book if you don’t have the points. You only need them 8 days before arrival.

          Book NOW – as this offer will be pulled in a few weeks – and then sort out the points later.

  5. I have SPG points only. Can I book this resort on the SPG website or do I need to become a member of the Marriot scheme and/or the Ritz scheme? And if I need to become a member of Marriot and/or Ritz, then which website allows you to 1) transfer SPG and 2) redeem to book this resort?


    • Join Marriott Rewards (ignore the Ritz scheme). Book now – you don’t need the points in hand. You have until 8 days before arrival to get them.

      You need to book this via You can do the transfer on either SPG or Marriott site I think.

      • Hi Rob, thank you! So can I now already book using points I do not have yet on

        Or do I pay cash now and can:
        1) cancel for free up until 8 days before arrival or
        2) change to points up until 8 days before arrival?

        Thank you!

        • You can book a reward stay now on using points you do not yet have. This is a unique perk of the Marriott scheme.

        • Does this perk also work for SPG stays also?

        • No – possibly it will next year when the 2 programmes are merged.

        • Hi Rob!

          Great! Do you know if you can book anything else then the Al Rimal Pool / Al Rimal Enclosed Pool as both the Al Khaimah Tented Villa and the Al Sahari Secluded Villa look a lot cooler especially with kids. Plus the price difference is so small on cash rate. Could you book with point and upgrade with cash like SPG sometimes allow? Or other ways around it?

          Thank you!

        • Marriott hotels often offer this online but I don’t see it here. Easiest thing to do would be to email reservations directly and ask.

  6. Who are the conversion partners to SPG?
    Is this only October, or are there other months?

    • Amex, the SPG credit card, Marriott Rewards ….. those are the UK ones.

      Available 365 days out but October is peak season which is why I used that example.

  7. UK_Ship says:

    Great tip Rob, thanks. Just looking to book now, Ive only ever been a SPG plat so the Marriott programme is new to me – i understand at Ritz Carltons plats don’t get breakfast, and on the points rate it doesn’t mention breakfast at all – do i assume I will be paying extra for this? Thanks

  8. kryten22uk says:

    I also booked here in October. Booked two interconnecting villas which is perfect for our family.
    What makes you think its an introductory offer? Theres plenty other R-C’s in the UAE that are also Tier2 (40k per night).

    I dont really class the ‘Enclosed’ villa as a higher category, as its the same villa except that the pool/garden is walled for privacy rather than open to the desert vista. I prefer the latter, as the enclosure would be more claustrophobic or cell-like. I suppose its there to appease more conservative islamic clientele who need privacy to bathe.

  9. Can you book the Marriot Hotel and Flight package getting avios back without having all the points? Presumably it is free to cancel as well?

  10. the real harry1 says:

    Sorry just can’t see the point of going to a place like this. No culture. Nobody there. No buzz. In the middle of nowhere.

    • Genghis says:

      But it’s only 40k Marriott points!!! 🙂

      • the real harry1 says:

        so it’s cheap to go to nowhere very special, just hot with food & pool

        life’s too short

        • the real harry1 says:

          sorry just to expand: I actually like the places I choose to go to on hols! I like the place, the people, the food & wine, the culture & history, the safety, the experience, the difference or familiarity, sure the climate helps as well & the flora & fauna.

          so a nothing place is just the pits

        • Genghis says:

          Totally agree. I know some people love the ME but I don’t.

        • the real harry1 says:

          OTOH you stay away from your wife’s rellies for a couple of days, I have certain sympathies

        • This place is outstanding. Bedouin culture is in everything here. Live falconry, owl talks, equestrian centre, camel riding, wild oryx and gazzels, fishing in the desert, nature walks, kids club al relating back to nature, organic garden as well as a luxury lodge. It’s a special place! And only 50mins from downtown dubai

    • I was waiting for your comment about Dubai Harry. Have to say I totally agree with you.

    • Jesus I can’t keep agreeing with Harry – this has got to stop. I think it looks ghastly to be frank. But then I didn’t like the Hilton Mallorca either. Horses for courses etc.

  11. Looked at August – crazy hot and should be low season – but same rate as in October. Can’t justify the rate…should be lower.

    Rob – what’s your usual beach resort in Dubai you referred to? We stay at Mina a Salam usually but this year will be at Dar Al Masyaf (after a few years not staying there) and the new Al Naseem. Your thoughts?

    • DAM, where we take 2 connecting rooms. They fully refurbed DAM 2 years ago so looking even better than it was. Al Naseem overlooks the main road on one side and even the rooms which face the beach are very close to the road so I’m not convinced by it, but it wasn’t finished in October when we were last there.

      To be fair, I priced it for half term (thinking they might have opening discounts) but DAM was actually cheaper.

      I still rate the family rooms at Zabeel for value but you are out on the Palm. I am down at Zabeel, without the kids, on HFP business in 6 weeks so I will take a look and may also try to get over to Al Naseem.

  12. I am heading to Dubai next weekend and looked at the villas. They are truly a steal, I was eyeing it up at Banyan tree but it got even better 🙂 I will probably make my next visa run in one of them.

  13. czechoslovakia says:

    Needed to book our hols, and managed to bag 5 nights in a cat 9, 5* Marriott resort for only 160,000 Marriott points. Oddly, all 3 suite types were the same number of points, even with private pool. Naturally gone for the nicest. Cheers Rob for the inspiration, that’s 1.5p per Amex point.