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Review: Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa (part of Marriott Bonvoy) in Dubai

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This is our review of the Al Maha Desert Resort outside Dubai, part of Marriott’s ‘The Luxury Collection’.

Importantly, it is fantastic value for Marriott Bonvoy points.  A night in peak season in October will cost you 85,000 points for the standard Bedouin Suite.  For cash, on the cheapest pre-paid rate, you are looking at £1,400 including taxes.  This means you are getting 1.65p per point, more than triple Rob’s standard valuation of 0.5p.  You get full board whether you book for cash or points.

My whistle-stop visit to Al Maha ….

Having been invited to stay with some friends in Dubai for a few days, I was keen to add a few extra days to our trip to discover a little more of the UAE given this was my first ever visit.

The Al Maha Desert Resort is primarily an adult only resort, although they do accept children over the age of 10 for additional fees.  Nestled in an oasis of palms about 45 miles outside of Dubai, the resort was created some 20 years ago in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. The hotel plays an important role in the desert’s conservation and showcases both the heritage and architecture of the Bedouins.

I was able book the stay as a redemption at the old rate of 60,000 points (it is now 85,000 per night). This was a very good deal given that for our dates at the end of the Easter holiday the cash rate was running around £1,200 per night. Our package included full board, plus two desert experiences of our choice.

It takes about an hour to get to Al Maha from Dubai itself. We took an $85 Blacklane chauffeur car.  After around 45 minutes, we made our way off the highway and onto the desert tracks towards the resort.

Arriving at the Al Maha Desert Resort

Upon our arrival we were greeted by a super-friendly host who invited us to take a seat in the lobby.  We were given cool cloths and delicious fruity drinks to refresh us while we were checked in.  We arrived at noon and were told our room was ready, although check-in is usually after 3pm.  During the check in process we were asked if we were celebrating anything and we mentioned it was our wedding anniversary.

We also met our dedicated ‘ranger’, who would be arranging our desert activities.  Given we were only there for one night, I opted for the Sunset Camel ride.  My husband chose to be driven out to meet us at the sundowner area by 4 x 4 as he didn’t fancy sitting aloft a camel.   We also signed up for the 6am Falconry demonstration for the following morning.

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai sunrise

The accommodation is primarily made up of one bedroom ‘Bedouin Suites’.  It is quite sprawling and staff ferry guests around by golf buggy.  In addition to one-bedroom suites in either King or Twin Bed configuration, you can also select the 2-bedroom Royal Suite,  the 2-bedroom Emirates Suite or the 3-bedroom Presidential Suite for larger groups or parties.  It should be noted that the hotel has a smoke-free policy.

I contacted the resort ahead of our arrival and asked if it was possible to have a room that was within reasonable walking distance of the main building, and also for a great view of the desert.   I was not disappointed. Suite Seven was a three to four-minute walk away from the restaurant and had the most spectacular open view across the desert to the small, man-made oasis!

Our Bedouin Suite

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai wooden doorway

Our room was stunning.   The suites are individually constructed with tented roofs and a fantastic carved wooden door entrance.   On entering the suite, you find yourself in a small lobby area with a minibar and tea and coffee making facilities including a Nespresso machine.  There is also a decanter of dry port. All of this is included in the nightly rate.

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai suite amenities

We were shown around the rest of the room and outside space, which included a private wooden decked area and our own beautiful infinity plunge pool.   There were two sun loungers on the deck as well as a wooden dining table where we could take our meals if we chose to do so:

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai private pool

Back in the suite, there was an 8ft four-poster bed with beautiful linens and soft furnishings. It was possibly the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in:

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai bed

The suite was also furnished with two matching chaise lounge.    On the table was a host of delicious fruit, nuts and treats for us to enjoy.   Other special touches included some binoculars to view the wildlife, as well as an easel with paper and pastels should you feel artistically inclined!  The rooms are filled with decorative Arabian antiques and artefacts giving an authentic and homely feel to the rooms.

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai suite

The bathroom was huge, with a fully tiled tub, a massive walk in shower, separate loo, and double sink area:

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai bathroom


Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai bath tub

Toiletries were Bulgari and very little seemed to have been forgotten:

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai bathroom amenitites

One of the most striking things was the amazing sound of the wildlife – the birdsong was incredible, and you could hear other wildlife rustling in the bushes around us.

As it was still early, we had a rest on our decking area and within just a few moments were joined by some young gazelles.

Off to lunch ….

Just after 1pm we made our way to the Al Diwaan restaurant and chose a front row table outside to enjoy our lunch.   The menu is extensive with lots of side offerings, and you can basically order anything  you fancy!   The resort is full board so there is nothing to pay for food.

There is a healthy choice menu with options such as Mezzeh Platter and Kale and Quinoa salads, as well as meats and fish from the grill, pizza and other local and international offerings.  I had the fishcake for starter followed by the grilled giant prawns:

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai starter


Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai giant prawns

…… while my husband opted for a lighter local salad followed by the grilled whole dorado with asparagus from the healthy menu:

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai starter


Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai fish

The desserts were sublime:

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai dessert


Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai dessert

After lunch we went off to explore the main pool area and spa which were beautiful.  We didn’t have any treatments due to having such a short amount of time, but we did use the pool and I even managed a workout on the treadmill the following morning in the well-equipped gym.

Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai main pool


Marriott Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai main pool

This is the end of Part 1.  Part 2 of our Al Maha Desert Resort review can be found here.

You can find out more about the Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa on its website here.

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points and status from UK credit cards (September 2023)

There are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

The official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card comes with 20,000 points for signing up, 2 points for every £1 you spend and 15 elite night credits per year.

You can apply here.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

20,000 points sign-up bonus and 15 elite night credits each year Read our full review

You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points by converting American Express Membership Rewards points at the rate of 2:3.

Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for as long as they hold the card?  It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Premium and MeliaRewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points indirectly:

and for small business owners:

The conversion rate from American Express to Marriott Bonvoy points is 2:3.

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which can be used to earn Marriott Bonvoy points

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

Comments (11)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Bagoly says:

    In this context I wondered whether “dry port” was akin to zero-alcohol beer!
    But it seems not.

    Was this during Ramadan?
    If not, do we know whether anything changes during Ramadan?

    • Caroline says:

      The port was lovely – definitely alcoholic! We stayed just before Ramadan.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      The Middle East at Ramadan is always an interesting subject.

      Eating and drinking in public spaces (ie in view of people walking past etc) is always forbidden, usually they will put up board/curtains or passers by can’t see.

      There’s a restriction on playing music, bare shoulders and knees in public,

      Alcohol there’s no blanket rule I believe it’s agreed every year just before Ramadan but last few years in the UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi atleast) it’s restricted during the day with none/only a few serving and all bars open at sundown.

      But that doesn’t mean next year couldn’t be dry throughout the month again or it could be even more relaxed

      To be honest if you really want the full experience and you enjoy eating freely/drinking/music etc probably best going outside of Ramadan.

  • Crafty says:

    Is it full board or all inclusive? Your review flits between both.

  • Sandra says:

    Something else to bear in mind is that in the hotter more humid months from around mid May to September outdoor desert activities (camel rides, Ranger walks, horse riding etc) can be suspended because it is just too hot. If you are staying in Abu Dhabi Anantara Hotels also have a similar hotel in the desert, towards the KSA border, called Qasr Al Sarab. It is about 1.5 hours drive from Abu Dhabi – they can arrange transfers or you can arrange your own.

  • John says:

    This redemption changed from full board to room only when it moved to 85000 points. Make sure you check this before booking !

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Marriott had them change back to match the full board and 2 activities a standard room comes with by default.

      • Caroline says:

        There was a period of time around late Nov/Dec when it was removed and there was a bit of a ‘hoo haa’ when people booking with points turned up and found they had to pay for food… I sat on my booking to check that the food benefit was going to be reinstated which it was… otherwise I would probably have cancelled.

  • barnaby100 says:

    I have stayed there in Ramadan about 5 years ago. There was alcohol unlike other hotels we stayed at.

    Looks like they have done the bathrooms up.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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