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Hotel Review: Banyan Tree Al Wadi

Hotel Review: Banyan Tree Al Wadi

Nestled in the sand dunes of Ras al-Khaimah, Banyan Tree Al Wadi offers weary executives a welcome desert retreat from the skyscrapers, shopping malls and super highways of Dubai, at a five star price.

We’ve all been there, staring blankly out of the office window looking for an escape from the overbearing skyline of tower blocks and construction cranes.

But for employees and executives suffering from urban living/working fatigue during the cooler months, getting away from it all needn’t mean hopping on a plane to a far away destination.

Located just over an hour north of Dubai by car, amid the sand dunes of Ras al-Khaimah, Banyan Tree Al Wadi is one of a growing number of hoteliers in the northern emirates looking to lure MICE business with the promise of desert adventure and seclusion.

The resort ticks both boxes in this regard, with high quality Bedouin inspired accommodation and a unique list of activities to satisfy even the most demanding corporate event or team building trip, provided you are willing to pay five star prices.

Embracing the Bedouin

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Perhaps the best way to describe Banyan Tree Al Wadi’s villas is a mixture of Maldivian style luxury with Bedouin desert dwelling.

Post-checkin the buggy trip to your villa, amid a landscape of desert flora and fauna and traditional watchtowers, sets the scene for an Arabian Nights style getaway, which continues when you reach your destination.

Bathrooms are spacious, bedrooms are equally large, and no matter whether you opt for the Bedouin inspired tented villas or deluxe villas, all come with a decking area and private pool.

Upon entering our tented villa the first thing that struck us was the size, the sprawling bedroom/TV lounge and bathroom areas are split in the middle by a small lobby, with double doors in each room opening to the expansive decking area.

Brocade curtains cover windows in almost every direction, as well as the doorways, linking with the canopy like ceiling for a luxurious tented look, complemented by Arabic style lattice woodwork and carvings.

Although the his and her sinks and wardrobes in the bathroom, as well as the lack of privacy for the shower and bath, suggests this villa type is more targeted at the couple than the lone business executive or work colleagues.

Outside the decking area impresses further with both a table and chairs and a selection of sun loungers for drying off after a dip in the private pool. However, the real highlight here is the seclusion, with nothing but desert landscape ahead and no other villas in sight, while fleeting visits from the resort’s wildlife, including Arabian gazelles and oryx, add to the feeling of urban escape.

The downside of course with the level of amenities on offer, is that leaving your villa for a team activity or meeting becomes a less exciting prospect, and I found myself at times envious of my partner who was able to sit back and relax by the pool, while I went off to try some of the activities on offer.

Archery, Falconry and Shower Therapy

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For those looking to show business guests or team members something a little different, Banyan Tree Al Wadi offers a variety of activities including archery, sand boarding, horse riding and falconry, as well as water based activities accessed via a shuttle bus service to the hotel’s nearby beach resort.

First on our agenda was the archery, which thankfully includes a practice range for beginners and a shooting trail with targets for those more familiar with the bow. As a group of archery amateurs we opted for the practice range, where after some instruction and a few shots, the trainers encouraged us to have a shooting competition, which should keep corporate groups entertained.

Next we took on the birds of prey experience, which included an impressive level of detail of the various falcons, hawks and owls at the resort and their habits. Moving to the edge of the desert to interact with and feed some of the birds was also very engaging, and great for photos to show off when you get back to the office.

If relaxation is more your thing, the resort also offers a variety of spa treatments, including the Rainforest, an indoor trail of hydrothermal therapies and facilities. Steam chambers with aromatic scents combine with bucket drench showers, steam grottos and an ice igloo for a true multi sensory experience, although be prepared to get very wet.

Meeting and Eating

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Banyan Tree Al Wadi hosts business functions at its Najah meeting rooms, while grand gala events take place at the Banyan Hall.

There are also a variety of F&B options including Arabic specialities and international dishes at Al Waha, gourmet Thai cuisine at the Safran restaurant, drinks and shisha at the elevated Moon Bar and even private dining atop one of the resort’s watchtowers. While the shuttle bus also gives guests the option of dining at the Banyan Tree Ras Al Khaimah Beach resort.

But for the true Bedouin experience, and a more unique business lunch or dinner the Kham Zhaman, Arabian style barbecue is the only way to go.

Accommodating up to 225 people, the desert camp offers multiple courses of Arabic cuisine including hummus, fattoush and succulent barbecued meats and fish, with regular shows from the resort’s belly dancer offering diners some local entertainment under the clear night sky.

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