With its terracotta-coloured sand dunes, sweeping coastline, swathes of verdant date palms and an extraordinarily rich culture dating back over 5,000 years, the United Arab Emirates is a favourite destination of Prince Charles, who visited this Middle Eastern oasis for the eighth time last November with his wife the Duchess of Cornwall. It’s also the go-to location for Hollywood royalty: Brad Pitt filmed his new action movie War Machine in Ras Al Khaimah, an emirate which boasts year-round sunshine and a breath-taking unspoilt landscape. HELLO! headed out to experience this jewel in the UAE's crown and create the ultimate guide to its dramatic scenery, immaculate golden beaches, authentic cuisine, second-to-none hospitality, star-filled skies and mysterious Arabian nights…
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall took a royal tour of the United Arab Emirates in 2016
Where it is:
The relaxing resort of Ras Al Khaimah, just a 45-minute drive from the bustling metropolis of Dubai, is billed as a perfect peaceful getaway. The furthest north of the seven emirates, and with a backdrop of rose-tinged deserts, lofty mountains, and a panoramic view of the warm Arabian Gulf, it is fast becoming one of the most desirable holiday resorts in the Middle East.
How to get there:
The non-stop seven-hour journey in economy felt more like a magic carpet ride in premium class on the aptly named Dreamliner, brought to us by award-winning Royal Brunei Airlines. With astonishingly attentive service from the stewards, a delicious dinner and refreshments, a personal TV screen offering an array of entertainment, and every seasoned traveller’s desire - comfort, space and plenty of leg room – it’s no wonder that Royal Brunei is described as a luxury boutique airline.
We stayed at the luxurious Waldorf Astoria
Where to stay:
We stayed at opulent hotel The Waldorf Astoria, where the architecture is based on the ornate Alhambra in Spain. This jaw-dropping edifice boasts shimmering marble floors, an ornate arabesque staircase, a champagne gold clock, a Lalique-style fountain, and artwork and furnishings inspired by the local environment in soft creams, sky blues and sea greens. There are 346 guest rooms with 'wow' factor thanks to their walk-in closets, elegant marble bathrooms and balconies overlooking the ocean. Catering for every comfort, the Waldorf Astoria really has thought of everything. For the ultimate good night’s sleep, your bed linen, bathrobe and towels can be sprayed with the organic scents of lavender and rose; or, for an invigorating morning pick-me-up, they are spritzed with uplifting citrus and sandalwood.
Where to relax:
In an era when super-quick showers are the norm, the rose petal bath ritual is an indulgence not to be missed. Few of us can enjoy the luxury of having a bath run for us, but here a member of the hotel spa team will fill your private marble tub with bubbles, then scatter them with velvety red rose petals. Then, there's the award-winning spa – where better to unwind than within the cocoon of its curved, silk-clad walls? With 12 treatment rooms and a private VIP area designed for couples, the spa is a must for anyone craving rest and relaxation.
Make sure to check out the Waldorf Astoria's amazing spa
What to eat:
Generous hospitality, an essential component of Arabian culture, was never more apparent than when it came to sampling the hotel cuisine. Whatever your personal taste, you are spoilt for choice. There are more than seven tempting restaurants – including Japanese and traditional Middle Eastern – providing guests with an experience they will never forget.
Dinner at the Middle Eastern Marjan, which means ‘coral’ in Arabic, was a taste bud revelation: we ordered hot mezzeh followed by shish taouk (chargrilled chicken with garlic and Arabic bread) and date cake for dessert, all of which were bursting with freshness and flavour.
For ultimate indulgence check out Cove Rotana
Where to indulge:
A 20-minute drive along the coast is Cove Rotana, an enclosure of beautifully designed white villas and suites, nestled in a hillside overlooking the sea. This spectacular beachfront resort is ideally designed to accommodate families or groups of friends, and its 208 rooms and 78 villas are all luxuriously furnished, with balconies and easy access to the two infinity pools, a 600 metre stretch of sandy beach, and the many restaurants and bars.
Despite being busy doing nothing, the prospect of a Swedish massage at the resort’s Bodylines Fitness & Wellness Club is too good to ignore – head to one of its seven treatment rooms and opt for a gentle rhythmic massage using aromatic oils to be soothed into a zen-like state of tranquillity.
Dining at Cove Rotana was a sublime experience, too: we ate dinner at Basilico, the only Mediterranean restaurant in the UAE, where the Prime Minister of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed reportedly often dines, too.
There are plenty of exciting watersports and activities on offer
What to do:
For those in search of adventure, Ras Al Khaimah has plenty to offer. Water sports fans would be thrilled with the activities available from Adventure Sports at DoubleTree by Hilton on Marjan Island.
Budding sailors will have plenty to keep them occupied here, too. Sailing is a traditional part of the culture, and thanks to the fine weather and favourable sea conditions, would-be seafarers head to the Royal Yacht Club – a members club for yachting and water sports enthusiasts - to hone their skills.
No trip to Ras Al Khaimah would be complete without sampling the thrilling desert experience of 'dune bashing'. It began at dusk in the desert with a hair-raising drive over the undulating pink sand dunes in a –thankfully - robust four-by-four. Later, we feasted the Bedouin way: on brightly coloured cushions in a typical Bedouin camp, sampling traditional delicacies, with Arabic coffee and fresh sweet dates. Mesmerising and magical, Ras Al Khaimah left us longing to explore more of its hidden treasures.
Prices for a one night stay at The Waldorf Astoria, Ras Al Khaimah start from £250 per room, per night, based on two adults sharing. For more information visit; WaldorfAstoria3.hilton.com/ras_al_khaimah.
Prices at the five-star Cove Rotana Resort, inclusive of breakfast, based on two adults sharing a Classic Room, start from £123 per room, per night. To book and for further information, visit Rotana.com
Royal Brunei Airlines flies from London Heathrow to Dubai and is the only airline to guarantee a 100 per cent Dreamliner service for this route. For more information visit; flyroyalbrunei.com or call 0207 584 6660. For more information visit; rasalkhaimahtourism.com