Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah: regality in the desert

Plush luxury in the middle of the sand dunes? Sign me up…

(*In which I pretend like I can afford this kind of glamour for a weekend but it was in actual fact a fairly top-notch work trip. One I will be able to tout like it was just a casual weekend away when I am rich, permanently on holiday, and Tom Haverford is my holiday BFF. So, never.)

The hotel

An imposing structure jutting out of the Ras Al Khaimah haze, the Waldorf is set right on the sweeping shores of the Arabian Gulf. One one side you’ll overlook the 18-hole championship golf course of RAK and the rest of Al Hamra Village, and on the other you’ll get crystalline sea views (so you basically get Golf or Gulf – see what we did there..?!). The towering structure seems to take its themes from the Middle East and Morrooco, and is more upwards than sprawling, unlike many other resorts of the size. The 346 guest rooms are full of the same plush, palatial decor you’d expect from a Waldorf, meaning you’ve got the anomaly of regal luxury smack bang in the middle of the desert. A full walk-in wardrobe and dressing room, and a quaint sitting room, are our favourite aspects. The bed is also like sleeping on a cloud.

The setting

Set on 350m of private beach, the sand and sea is undoubtedly the draw here. There’s two pools, one for adults-only (a major plus in our books), beach club and a brilliant spa. The view from the top floors are truly amazing, and avail sweeping views over the Gulf. From the other side, you can see right out over to the Hajar Mountains and Al Hamra.

The staff

You’ll be greeted with a refreshing welcome drink and a gigantic smile by the lovely people on reception desk at the Waldorf. These guys go out of the way to make you feel at home, and actually have personalities too – which is a nice change.

The food

There’s several options here, including the award-winning Lexington Grill Steakhouse, but we chose to go authentic and try out the much-lauded Marjan. Set at the top of one of the hotel’s towers, this is not only a perfect spot to take in the sunset, it also does some damn good fare. You can’t go past the quirky plate of hummus – blueberry, cauliflower and carrot are some of the highlights – and a similar selection of weird moutabals for starters. As far as mains go, we had an excellent mixed grill and our first taste of camel – which actually went much better than expected. For dessert, camels milk ice cream and Arabic desserts – because obviously now we’re enamoured by everything camel.


Firstly, we decided to get amongst this “Bath Master” situation we’d heard so much about. And let me tell you, this is bloody genius. Basically, while you’re at dinner, a helpful little worker comes into your room and draws a bath, from a select type of bath you’ve chosen from a menu – we settled on the ‘stress release’ one for obvious reasons. By the time you return from dinner, you’ve got a scented, piping-hot bath waiting for you, with rose petals scattered about the place and a teeny dessert placed bathside (so don’t overindulge at dinner like we did). If your significant other is smart, they can even frame this so they’d organised it all.

Just don’t return from dinner early and enter your room to hear noises and commotion coming from the bathroom, and barge in their, convinced you’ve got an intruder. They don’t like that.

As part of their summer staycation deals, we had a sailing lesson or paddle boarding included in our stay. While a great idea in theory for anyone with an ounce more co-ordination, we’re going to go out on a limb here and say sailing is just absolutely not for us. Notwithstanding the fact we almost knocked ourselves out in the middle of the ocean after getting whacked by the wayward sail, it’s actually pretty blimmin difficult. I’m sure we almost capsized 18 times too, but no one wanted to point out just how bad we were. 

Though the people that run the sailing club in the marina are reason to go alone, affable dudes with a laidback outlook and expert knowledge on the water. There’s also supposedly a giant turtle that cruises around nearby that our instructor ‘swore’ he saw while we were out, but we’ve yet to have a confirmed report of this wannabe Loch Ness Monster.

Next time, we’ll just stick to paddle boarding.

Did you know?

Every Waldorf Astoria in the world has a grand clock in its lobby. The one in the RAK was designed and built by the Smiths of Derby – a world-renown family of clockmakers. The one in the RAK Waldorf has been designed to reflect Arabic culture, and the five daily prayer times.

Price for two in a junior king suite: Dh1400 via booking.com

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