Al Had­heerah

Bab Al Shams

Friday - - Reviews -

From The English Pa­tient to Lawrence of Ara­bia, few set­tings spell ro­mance as much as an au­then­tic fort sur­rounded by sand dunes. Bab Al Shams is no movie set, how­ever – it is the five-star lux­u­ri­ously tran­quil re­sort with a fa­mous open-air Al Had­heerah desert restau­rant that boasts an au­then­tic ‘ex­pe­ri­ence’.

That means there is a fab­u­lously deca­dent Ara­bic menu, along with In­dian and in­ter­na­tional dishes, but the food is just one in­gre­di­ent on a unique night be­neath the stars. We, like most tourists, have done a desert sa­fari be­fore hav­ing an Ara­bic feast in a Be­douin-style camp, and I wor­ried that a night out at Bab Al Shams would be just a more up­scale, and ex­pen­sive ver­sion of that.

I needn’t have fret­ted. Firstly, we were picked up at our apart­ment by a driver, who took us to the re­sort an hour away from Dubai, without go­ing any­where near a dune, and de­liv­ered us at the restau­rant, ex­plain­ing that he would wait how­ever long it took to drive us back again.

Then we were es­corted to our ta­ble un­der the stars – we were far enough from the city to have a night sky only lit up by the MilkyWay – and told to help our­selves to what­ever we wanted to eat. The live buffet sta­tions were more like a bustling mar­ket place than a restau­rant and the sights and smells were amaz­ing.

I loaded my first plate with salad, but on my

I dis­cov­ered the In­dian quar­ter with bub­bling vats of vegetable biryani, dahl and pa­neer

se­cond visit dis­cov­ered the In­dian quar­ter with bub­bling cop­per vats of vegetable biryani, dahl and pa­neer. I sam­pled them all – rich del­i­ca­cies, made all the tastier by the cool evening air, while my hus­band feasted on lamb ouzi, bar­be­cued prawns, fresh se­abass and veg­eta­bles.

Along with the food we were treated to Ara­bic singers, and whirling dervishes, along with camel and horse rides for the brave. But it was a five-star ver­sion, with a daz­zling dis­play of horse­man­ship as 20 rid­ers pranced, per­formed dres­sage, ‘bat­tles’ and dar­ing ‘tricks’ against a back­drop of inky sky. And if that wasn’t enough, we were treated to an equally amaz­ing fire­works dis­play, which lit up the black can­vas with bril­liant ex­plo­sions of ma­genta, green, sil­ver and gold above us.

Snug­gling into a warm pash­mina against the cool, desert breeze, I smiled, re­al­is­ing how lucky I was. There were myr­iad en­ter­tain­ment op­tions still to en­joy – henna artists were on hand to create so­phis­ti­cated pat­terns along with ar­ti­sans with au­then­tic wares to hag­gle over, and a driver wait­ing out­side to whisk me back to Dubai.

But first, there was the ag­o­nis­ing choice over which dessert to choose. I fi­nally opted for a rich and creamy Ara­bic clas­sic, umm ali, then headed to the safety of our chauf­feur. I was so re­laxed I fell asleep on the jour­ney home, as my mind drifted back to dream of the ro­man­tic sights, sounds and flavours of our Ara­bian fairy tale.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.