Stylist contributor Becca Williams spends 24 hours under the stars in Dubai.
When I first caught a glimpse of Magic Camps Dubai, a boutique campsite set among the rolling, yellow-tinged sand dunes of Dubai, it felt like a mirage. We had spent almost two hours travelling from the city’s hectic, built-up Palm Jumeirah and watching the hustle and bustle slip away felt therapeutic.
If you’re travelling from central Dubai, you will be on the highway for an hour before disappearing into the scenic dunes of the desert. This is where your driver, with your nod, gets to have some fun. We spent the final 30 minutes of our journey sand duning: speeding and swirling like mad across the desert. It’s a surreal, only-in-the-Emirates experience. When we slowed down, there was a personal attendant and private chef, smiling and eager to welcome us. This is camping at its most luxurious. In fact, ‘camping’ seems a bit of a misnomer for such a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
At this point, there is still no campsite to be seen. Instead, there is a Persian rug, pillows and buckets of prosecco, wine and beer. We settle down to watch the sunset while locals run about training falcons to chase drones. Then it’s back in the Jeep for a quick drive to where we’ll be sleeping. Hidden behind a dune, and lit by dozens upon dozens of flickering candles, is our tent. At night, the desert is pitch black and silent, but this quickly becomes soothing rather than frightening.
There is a roaring fire nearby, but I’d still pack warm clothes as it gets chilly in the evening. Dinner takes place in a separate tent decked out in typical Arabic decor. Our chef rustles up a traditional feast – hummus, tabbouleh, BBQ prawns, vegetable skewers and aromatic rice.
In our tent there are boho rugs and tasselled cushions, a hotel-standard bed and crisp white sheets. The toilets aren’t typical camping fare either – each tent has its own private bathroom with an open shower and a Western-looking dry toilet. Because of the site’s lack of electricity, it is designed for a two-night stay at most. This makes it perfect to add on to a longer trip to the UAE. I’d recommend staying at the One & Only Royal Mirage (from £235 per night) to experience the glamour of Dubai, before heading to the Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay (from £520 per night) in Oman to relax. It’s so secluded, you feel as though you’re driving through the landscapes of Mars.
In the morning, we headed back to the dinner tent for a breakfast of mixed breads, meat and cheese. I spent the rest of my day relaxing, but Magic Camps will also arrange for you to go quad-biking, camel-riding or to take in a falcon show.
You’ll leave with a sense that you have experienced the hidden but real Dubai. On our journey back, we got stuck in traffic and I fretted about getting back in time for a meeting. “No problem,” said our driver, grinning as he zipped out of the jam, sped across the dunes and re-joined at the front of the queue. There, in the desert, you are among the real Emiratis.
Double rooms at Magic Camps Dubai start from £1537.13 per night, including breakfast, dinner and sunset drinks; book at mrandmrssmith.com
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Images: Magic Camps Dubai