Ras al Khaimah is one of the lesser-known emirates that, along with six others, make up the UAE. As you leave the towering Burj Khalifa in your rear-veiw mirror, slowly fading in the haze, so too do you wave goodbye to the hustle, bustle and bling of Dubai, transported to a heavenly oasis of oryx, camels, starry skies and lapping infinity pools.
My heartbeat slowed noticeably upon arrival at the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert, set within 500 hectares of the Al Wadi Nature Reserve. A clever scattering of Bedouin-inspired tented villas — ours with our own eight-metre pool overlooking arid dunes and resident wildlife — ensure privacy and peace. All enhanced in our case by three nights of being child-free.
But alas, we had much to sample in 54 hours, so after a quick dip and cool-down, it was straight on the bikes to head up to the falconry deck for a display from a majestic desert eagle owl and harris hawk swooping above the landscape. On the horizon a ruby red sun was setting, adding to the drama. Time to sample some of the culinary delights on offer and a choice from either the award-winning Farmhouse restaurant, with its focus on wild meats and home-grown vegetables, or Moorish, with an exotic mix of tastes from Andalucia and Arabia.
Both evening dining options are complemented by the Moon Bar, a secluded rooftop terrace with wide open skies above, offering signature cocktails and traditional shishas. Be warned, though: even after a scorchingly hot day spent exploring the desert, you may need your blanket as the welcome dew cools the warm decks.
As well as the falconry you can enjoy activities such as horse-riding, archery or star-gazing. There’s also a spa offering an extensive list of treatments. The Rainforest Experience is a must — rejuvenating soul, body and mind.
And if the heat of the desert is too much, a mere 20 minutes away is Al Wadi’s sister property, Al Hamra Beach, on the shimmering Persian Gulf coast.
The sea breeze is a relief as we board the boat that takes us over to the peninsula. An intimate collection of 32 villas awaits on a secluded private beach. Another Bedouin-inspired tented villa is our home, but there are no oryx here. Instead, a completely different world of lush vegetation, sea air and views across the Gulf. What doesn’t change between both properties, though, is the attentiveness of the staff. Nothing is too much trouble. Here we can kayak, paddle-board and catch a fish before sampling a decadent seafood menu at the Beachdeck BBQ.
As the sun set once more, not over dunes but a glistening sea, we reflect on a calmer, more romantic side to the UAE.
Al Wadi Desert, £487 per night; Al Hamra Beach, £756 per night (ritzcarlton.com)