Fancy trying a holiday location straight out of the French Foreign Legion or the times of Lawrence of Arabia? Then head for the Jumeirah Bab Al Shams desert resort and spa just 25 kilometres outside Dubai, behind the Arabian Ranches residential area and across the now emerging Dubailand theme park district.
The first sight of this hotel is something to remember: an Arabian desert fort that could be out of the movies set against the background of sand dunes. Visions of legionnaires encamped in the heart of hostile territory spring to mind.
The interior of this hotel is equally unusual. There are narrow passageways, dark stairways and rooftop viewing platforms. Admittedly concrete has been used in place of mud as the principle building material but the effect is similar with a certain sense of place.
Its 105 rooms and 10 suites conform to modern five-star standards but continue the architectural style into the interior decoration: unevenly finished walls, a rug on a bare floor and rough wood doors, window covers and furniture. Of course, you still have air-conditioning, a large bathtub and shower and very comfortable modern beds.
Great dining options
So this is the style of Lawrence of Arabia but without the discomfort. He would also not have recognized the multiple dining options available in this extraordinary hotel.
In the evening the Al Hadheerah desert restaurant offers the opportunity of dining under the stars with a view back to the hotel and the chance to sample Arabian hospitality in a traditional setting. Or for international cuisine choose the Al Forsan restaurant with its spacious interior and live cooking station.
There is more: the Masala for Indian cooking and the Pizzeria le Dune as well as a comfortable bar and rooftop lounge area. And if you need to work off those calories this desert fort has a gym, Satori Spa and a huge infinity swimming pool.
This pool also has a large area for sun tanning and a rainforest shower. You can step on to the sand dunes from here to watch a free falconry display or try a camel ride.
Shuttle to Dubai
In addition, guests staying more than two nights enjoy complimentary access to the beach facilities of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel with a free shuttle bus that also calls at the Madinat Souk for shopping.
These are not the sort of entertainment options that were available to legionnaires, marooned for months in desert forts and more akin to the Hollywood version of this particular reality. Five-star service also comes as standard with Jumeirah's commitment to excellence very much in evidence.
This is an ideal place for either a stop-over in Dubai or for tired expatriates to unwind. A comparison is often drawn with Dubai's Al Maha desert resort but the two concepts are really very different with the latter styled after a Bedouin camp rather than an Arabian fort. So it is a matter of staying at both for the full experience rather than choosing between them.