The northernmost emirate in the United Arab Emirates, Ras Al Khaimah, is a nature lover’s dream. Mountains, picture-perfect desert scapes, wonderful beaches, and lush oases combine to create the perfect opportunity for adventure. That was enough to convince us to set off for a quick weekend escape to that slice of paradise. Being greeted by crossing camels while journeying to Ras Al Khaimah has its own curious thrill to it, I have to admit that.
After an hour-long, we reach our destination- the ravishing Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah. Rising from the shore like the most majestic of sandcastles, the extravagant façade immediately sets the tone with its gold domes, fortress-like roofs, and Arabesque arches. Inside, the attention to detail continues with local elements such as mother of pearl referencing the UAE’s pearl-diving history, Arabic calligraphy artworks, and a grand clock, a Waldorf Astoria signature made from champagne gold, displaying the five daily prayer times.
The property is set on the white sands of the Arabian Gulf coast. It’s part of the Al Hamra Village community, giving guests access to an 18-hole golf course, marina, and shopping mall. Even before we enter the property, our temperatures are checked, which is a great reassurance when traveling during these trying times. At the stunning lobby, we are greeted by the dramatic central clock tower, a feature of all Waldorf Astoria properties (this one pays homage to the emirate’s pearl diving history), is framed beyond by an ornate double staircase that weaves upwards, conjuring images of the DiCaprio’s Jack in his black tie aboard Hollywood’s imaging of the Titanic. Checkin is quick and seamless, and we are quickly given a tour of our drop-dead gorgeous Suite. Here the soothing white and beige tones and cozy-pile carpets reflect the brand’s elegant, classic style, while Arabesque details such as mashrabiya lattice patterns and gold mosaics add a sense of place. Tech specs include iHome docking stations, massive HDTVs, and Nespresso machines.
The rooms here continue the illusion of being on a cruise liner. Our separate living room gazes out directly at the ocean, the expanse of blue a constant invitation calling us. The view continues in the bedroom. We are lucky enough that there’s more scenery accessible from the balcony. There is also a huge walk-in dressing room and a marble-clad bathroom with a freestanding bath and monsoon shower room for good measure. The black marble bathrooms with separate tubs and rain showers and luxury Salvatore Ferragamo toiletries spell splendor.
Sun, sea and splendour
Facilities include a 24-hour fitness center, floodlit tennis courts, and water sports from wakeboarding to diving. We spent some time soaking in the inviting 400 sq m family pool surrounded by luxury cabanas and relaxing at the pearl-white beaches of the property that create a sense of being totally away from the world. The tranquility this created was akin to a wifi dampening field, in that we wanted to put the phone down, quieten the voices in our head telling us to check emails and breathe in deeply.
Another draw- the elegant Waldorf Astoria spa features herbal baths, floatation beds, and blissful treatments such as the warm Oceanic Stones massage. After an hour-long massage replete with exotic essences, an intuitive therapist with hands-on techniques, and soothing spa music, in no time, I emerged reborn and ready to take on the world. The shoreline spa cabana is the perfect location for sunset massages. Sink into oblivion, listen to the calm lapping of waves, and allow your senses to be set free to the elements.
As any parent will tell you, any family hotel is only as good as the attention it pays to the little ones. Pearl Kids Club at the property does that so parents can head off guilt-free.
The foodie factor
Ten restaurants and lounges offer global flavors from traditional, colorful Arabic mezze at Marjan to afternoon tea at the signature Peacock Alley. With a nod to the original Waldorf Astoria, Lexington Grill is a New York-style steakhouse serving air-dried beef cuts. At the same time, sophisticated UMI is the spot for first-class Japanese fares such as wagyu tataki and miso black cod washed down with a selection of more than 80 types of sake. The breakfast spread at Qasr Al Bahar includes everything from eggs Benedict to Singapore noodles. What caught our attention was the mimosas served for breakfast (kicks in the holiday feel just right).
At Lexington Grill, we tried a medium-rare striploin with pepper sauce which was tender, succulent and the eternally sharpened knife cut through it like butter. This convinced us why the restaurant is a top contender for the best steakhouses in the region. Ending the meal with the delectable Creme Brulee, we were definitely served some serious dessert coma.
At Azure, the lovely beachside restaurant, we noshed over the finest Truffle Pizza and tiramisu ever- the cream was fresh, the sponge was soaked in just the adequate amount of cocoa powder, and the dish’s balance made it taste just divine. Marjan is a good pick if you are craving for some Arabic, Lebanese or Moroccan goodness and serves melt-in-the-mouth kebabs, ravishing hummus, and flavor-packed lamb chops with finesse.
The property is an intimate immersion into a theatrical and primordial dreamscape.
To stay here is to obtain a steady, surprising, and joyous sense of resting in any standards can only be described as the perfect spot. It is to lie on your back under a vast and spectacular sky and watch shooting stars burst into being, and somewhere in the middle of this all, you find yourself.
Note: The critic was invited by the hotel, but all opinions are her own.
Phone: 07 203 5555
Where: Vienna St – Al Hamra Village – Ras al Khaimah
Room rates start from USD 400