Beyond the rolling desert dunes and glittering malls, the Middle East is home to a trove of eco-friendly, sustainable resorts.
You don’t have to sacrifice your eco-credentials while travelling around the middle east – whether you need a quick trip away from the city or want to completely break away to an oasis of calm, there’s a sustainable, luxurious lodge waiting to welcome you.
Al Maha Desert Resort, UAE
Drive just an hour southeast from Dubai International Airport and you’ll arrive at Al Maha Desert Resort, a welcome and romantic respite set in the protected Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. The all-inclusive intimate resort is modelled on a Bedouin village, with the billowing drapes of the luxury tented villas inviting you to slow down and take in the silence and beauty of the desert. Camels, Arabian oryx and gazelles roam free in the reserve and are just a horse ride or nature drive away, with guides passionately sharing their extensive knowledge of the desert’s unique fauna and flora. Al Maha takes sustainability seriously and incorporates solar panels, recycled water, LED lighting and eco-conscious materials throughout the resort. Each private tented villa features a terrace and plunge pool, with Arabian touches like carved wooden chairs and antiques dotted throughout. As a special touch, binoculars and art supplies are also available, in case inspiration hits and you want to immortalize the dunes on canvas. Not feeling particularly Picasso-ish? Head to the spa for an Arabian rasoul treatment with steam and mud to leave you feeling cleansed and refreshed.
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Don’t miss: A complimentary sunset champagne camel ride. Al-maha.com
Feynan Eco Lodge, Jordan
If you truly want to get away from it all – including the crowds at Petra and the Dead Sea – head deep into the Dana Biosphere Reserve to Jordan’s first eco-lodge. Designed by Ammar Khammash (a recipient of this year’s Global Award for Sustainable Architecture), Feynan’s deceptive simplicity hides a luxurious heart with thoughtful touches throughout – like silk sashes draped over the beds and hundreds of candles at night. Nature walks, bike trips and stargazing talks will help you become deeply immersed in the local culture and area, but if that’s too much activity for you, you can just relax and take in the Bedouin hospitality with a delicious mezze spread made from local ingredients. The all-inclusive Feynan runs on solar power, meaning meat is off the menu and there are no electricity sockets, but the vegetarian options are sublime, and you wouldn’t want to check your phone anyway. Its ethos of sustainability also includes empowering the local community and conserving the rich bounty of nature that surrounds it, by partnering with the country’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature.
Don’t miss: Gazing at the stars through the 10-inch telescope on the roof. Ecohotels.me
Souly Ecolodge, Oman
At Souly Ecolodge, making an impact is not high on the agenda – an impact on nature, that is. While constructing this boutique hideaway on the coast close to Salalah (in Oman’s greenest governorate), care was taken to use local materials and recycled wood, with indigenous plants surrounding the charming bungalows and organic products in the bathrooms. Its beach location means on any given moment you can have dolphins frolicking on one side, while camels lazily amble by on the other, making their way to the freshwater creek. Souly truly is a wildlife lover’s paradise, with hundreds of species of birds nesting in the palm trees – while the sun chairs and open-air showers built from natural stone in the bungalows make you feel at one with nature, too. In the morning, awaken to the sounds of the ocean while you watch the sunrise from your four-poster bed. At night, relax in one of the three traditional Bedouin tents situated around the campfire, with gentle Arabic guitar playing in the background. Only 50 guests can be accommodated, which makes Souly a perfect spot for a private escape.
Don’t miss:Dinner around the campfire. Souly-ecolodge.com
Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman
Sustainability and luxury go hand in hand at this exceptional award-winning resort on Oman’s northern Musandam Peninsula. Arriving by speedboat, 4×4 or even paraglider – and just two hours from Dubai – you’ll be immediately smitten with Six Senses Zighy Bay. The resort is nestled between mountains and the sea, with a pristine one-mile long stretch of white sand yours to enjoy. It has a philosophy of zero waste, which means bottling water on site, composting food waste, keeping bees, recycling or upcycling glass, and even giving guests seeds to grow at home. Its room and spa amenities are also upcycled or made on site, further reducing its carbon footprint. And what a spa it is! Its various wellness programs include fitness, sleep, detox, yoga and weight management plans to help you achieve a balanced mind and body. But don’t think you’ll be left hungry: dining options include a hilltop restaurant, Bedouin dining on the beach, or even a private chef in your villa. The standalone villas and suites are laid out like a traditional Omani village and relaxation and absolute serenity is the order of the day – even the alfresco beach cinema features wireless headphones to minimize noise levels.
Don’t miss: A picnic lunch at the Sabatyn plateau, with its rock carvings and views to Wadi Al Bih. www.Sixsenses.com
Sedr Trailer Resort, UAE
Step out of your hotel comfort zone and back in time with a stay in a retro Airstream-like trailer in Hatta, a 90-minute drive from Dubai yet a world away from the buzz of the city. Fortunately, this is not the caravan holiday of your nightmares. Set on the banks of the Hatta dam, Sedr is the first resort of its kind in the region, with its 12 boutique trailers (widely spaced for optimum privacy) having charm in spades. After leaving your car at reception, you’re driven by 4×4 to your trailer, where tranquillity and seclusion await. Each trailer is equipped with a bathroom with hot water, with a food truck and fire pit completing the rustic experience. Hatta is known for its beautiful scenery, and Sedr Trailer Resort and its neighbouringDamani Lodges Resort were built with the area’s geological integrity in mind, to showcase and help protect the local ecosystem. If you’re not mountain biking or hiking and are feeling truly adventurous, why not try a spot of axe throwing? That’s right – you can whirl a heavy piece of wood and metal through the air (after extensive safety training, of course) and release your inner Viking.
Don’t miss: Kayaking on the natural freshwater lake. Visithatta.com
Kingfisher Lodge, UAE
A little slice of paradise awaits as you leave Dubai and head towards the quieter emirate of Sharjah. Tucked away in the wetland of Khor Kalba (recently recognized as “globally significant” by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands) lies Kingfisher Lodge, a boutique hotel with only 20 luxurious tents. After arriving by private boat, you’ll feel as if you’re on your own private island, as each tent has a pool and uninterrupted views over mountains or the Gulf of Oman. The colour palette of soft blues and beiges blends in beautifully with the surrounding area; so much so that a wandering gazelle just might surprise you. Healthy, organic dinners can be served on your private deck – think fresh seafood platters or a barbeque – or on the beach. Since Kingfisher Lodge is situated in such an ecologically unique setting, nature conservation is at its core. You’ll find a turtle breeding area in the neighbouring mangroves, and you can kayak or paddleboard through the area while looking out for rare birds. You can also partake in beach cleaning or history or environmental walks.
Don’t miss:A visit to the nearby Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre, where you can see protected species such as Arabian wolves and desert lynxes. Myskhotels.com
By Christine Van Deemter ◼
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© This article was first published in Oct-Nov 2019 edition of World Travel Magazine.