Shimmering palaces still rise from the deserts of Arabia, no longer the sole domain of sultans and sheiks but rather exclusive resorts that call to those who seek romance in mixing the finery of the old world and the new.
Imagine a honeymoon spent strolling the waterfront Corniche in Abu Dhabi, browsing the boutiques of Dubai, or taking a desert safari by camel or jeep. Book suite 2234 at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, and you’ll wake up to views of the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world with its eighty-two marble domes and room to accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers. Unique couples’ experiences at the resort include private beach cabana dinners followed by a hookah for two.
The new Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara is located at the edge of Abu Dhabi’s protected mangrove lagoon, which you can explore by kayak or admire from the resort’s rooftop lounge, Impressions, or while jogging or biking along a promenade leading to the Corniche. The Arabian Nights stories inspire many of the treatments available at the Anantara Spa, also featuring a traditional hammam, or Turkish bath, where a resident guide will lead you through a time-tested cleansing and relaxation ritual.
Pearl diving is an ancient art in the Arabian Gulf, and couples will have the chance to bring home a precious bauble at the Rosewood Abu Dhabi, which offers a journey into the Gulf aboard a traditional dhow. It’s part of the renowned Sense of Place program at the ultra luxury resort, located on Al Maryah Island. Gulf views are as breathtaking as they are ubiquitous when you stay in the Sky Suite at The St. Regis Abu Dhabi. The three-bedroom, two-floor suite is located on the sky bridge connecting the twin Nation Towers, and is the highest suspended hotel room in the world.
The vistas are nearly as good at the new Remède Spa at The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, which has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the sea. At the Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, your Abu Dhabi honeymoon begins with some serious pampering: Wine, chocolate cake, a bouquet of red roses, and a pair of earrings for the bride await in your room, and the CHI spa offers a variety of indulgences, including the two-and-a-half-hour Indulgence of Time experience, which features an aroma bath, massage with oriental oils and a facial.
Abu Dhabi’s sister city of Dubai is home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest. Couples can spend days browsing the boutiques and exploring the traditional souk markets of the shopping capital of the Middle East, or celebrating their love at the One&Only Royal Mirage, a seaside palace set amid scented gardens and offering the privacy of Arabian-style villas just steps from the beach.
In Dubai, even a desert safari demands luxury; Platinum Heritage will escort you on a private retreat for royalty in Mercedes G-Wagon SUVs to explore a wildlife reserve, learn the art of falconry, meet local Bedouins, and dine on authentic Emirati cuisine under the stars.
Home to the ancient city of Muscat, Oman is a melting pot of cultures, languages and faiths. Adventurous couples can experience this proud Sultanate’s mix of tradition and modernity with a stay at the Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, a tranquil desert oasis set between the mountains and the Sea of Oman but still just fifteen minutes outside Muscat. Honeymooners will be transported to a bygone age while exploring the unspoiled coastline and enchanting nights in the Al Husn Royal Suite, with décor inspried by the seventeenth-century Omani castle at Jabreen.
> Written by Bob Curley