Arab Adventures 2024 – Abu Dhabi in the Desert at  Al Maha, Dubai the Great City and Zighy Bay, Oman


Take-off:  We flew ORD to AUH direct on Etihad.  Easy flight – comfortable but nothing to write home about – food was so-so, and the service was just okay, but it did depart and land on time – it’s the little things that make you happy in traveling far.  We were baffled because of all the hype about Etihad and their service we were hoping for better.  I think we have been spoiled by Qatar and thought Etihad would be equal to service and accommodations.  On the bright side, the Abu Dhabi airport is amazing – truly amazing and so was the Etihad Lounge.  Three levels are designed for every type of traveler.


View from our tent.

First stop: Al Maha Resort is an incredible location and we believe two or three nights is perfect amount of time depending on the time of

Camels and Sundowners

year.  To say it was hot in the desert is grossly inaccurate, it is HOT! – but once the sun sets, it is delightful.  All our excursions were either very early in the morning, as the sun rose, or at the beginning of sunset.  The tented rooms are all very lovely and spacious with private plunge pools. The tents are very well equipped and have sustainable amenities. My favorite part was the easel with sketch paper, drawing pencils and pastel crayons in the room, in which I spent many down hours drawing the scenery – I forgot how much I love to paint and draw.

Wildlife is abundant and they seem fearless of us, a bit cautious but they came up to our pool at all hours of the day to sip the water, including birds, oryxes and gazelles to name a few.  Many wild and tamed camels were often seen.  The morning falconry show on how they teach the birds of prey was very interesting and can be a bit gross if you’re not a fan of blood.  We did several added adventures:  Dune Bashing (driving fast on dunes), falconry, archery, sundowners on the dunes, camel trekking (my favorite memory but you will be sore the next day), and of course the spa. There are so many activities, and the staff and rangers are very nice and true experts of all things desert.

The food was amazing and so was the service.   We ordered many local plates and loved them all.  The wait staff were charming and very quick to please your every dining desire.

Jumeirah Burj Al Arab

Virtuoso Symposium, Dubai The ever growing great city.  Dubai, a shimmering jewel of the United Arab Emirates, is a city known for its rapid transformation from a modest fishing village to a global hub of innovation, luxury, and culture. Nestled along the southeastern coast of the Persian Gulf, Dubai captivates with its striking skyline dominated by architectural marvels such as the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and the Palm Jumeirah, an artificial archipelago shaped like a palm tree. The city’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of possibility is evident in its cutting-edge infrastructure, world-class shopping malls, with endless building cranes constructing new and aspiring buildings.

Allow me to sum up Dubai for westerners – It’s like Las Vegas – but inordinately classy, with no drunks that are barely or questionably dressed with oversized fruity drinks, and no casinos or gambling.  As most of the Arab nations, alcohol is frowned upon but is widely available in the hotels and restaurants at a price.  In Dubai, non-Muslims are permitted to consume alcohol in designated venues such as licensed bars, restaurants, and clubs, which are primarily located in hotels. This arrangement caters to tourists and expatriates while ensuring that alcohol consumption remains discreet and controlled in order to respecting its Islamic traditions.

Atlantis the Royal in a Royal Club Room.

We stayed at the Atlantis the Royal  which is shiny and brand new with incredible architecture.  It is stunning, no matter where you look.  Every detail has been thought through and no expense was spared in this masterpiece of a hotel.  Dubai is where the rich and want to be famous hang out.  Influencers were everywhere and watching them pose, primp and do selfies was some of the best people watching we have seen in a very long time.

The rooms are large and spacious with either a view of the ocean or the city (or Palm view).  It is hard to admit this as a travel agent, but the city/palm view is the only way to go in Dubai – The architecture and the buzz of the city is preferred.  The Ocean view is just water – nothing to see really.  The amenities are on steroids!  Most impressive we have seen – and if you use the brush or comb, they replace it with a brand new one!!!!  A bit over the top – but it made us take notice.

Here are the best things about Atlantis the Royal:   The food and restaurants, the spa, the salon, the shopping, the lobby, the entertainment, the service, the business center, the lounges, the pools, the management, the concierge …. whew …. should I continue? – the GM Tom Roelens is extraordinaire as well and directs his team and hotel like he has a magic wand.

Dena parasailing into Zighy Bay.

OmanSix Senses Zighy Bay in Oman is a breathtaking oasis offering a unique blend of luxury, seclusion, and natural beauty. This stunning resort,

Zighly Bay Villa

designed to resemble a traditional Omani village, features private pool villas that seamlessly blend rustic charm with modern comforts. It is comparable to the Flintstones made paradise.  The journey to Zighy Bay itself is an adventure, with guests arriving by a scenic 4×4 drive over mountain roads or, for the more daring, a thrilling paraglide descent from the cliffs above, providing panoramic views of the dramatic coastline, which we did and loved it. Thrilling, daring and a perfect way to enter the Zighy Bay Terminal.

At Zighy Bay, every detail is crafted to enhance well-being and relaxation, from the spa offering holistic treatments to the exquisite dining options that celebrate fresh, local ingredients. With its commitment to sustainability and preserving the natural environment, the resort not only offers a luxurious retreat but also an authentic connection to Omani culture and the breathtaking landscape that surrounds it.

We signed up for many of their activities which included, Eco Golf (fish food golf balls hit into the ocean),morning hiking (which we had to pass on last minute because of the heat), night trail blazing, the spa and the Omani Shua Lamb dinner.  This is Lamb wrapped in spices and banana leaves and cooked in the ground covered by sand.  The aroma as it was taken out was divine. The lamb is served with cold and hot mezze.  Perfect start our first night in Oman.

St Regis Abu Dhabi Grand Deluxe Suite

Abu Dhabi:  Our 3-hour drive to Abu Dhabi from Oman was seamless and very comfortable.  The car had amazingly good WIFI, and I was able to stream Netflix on the entire ride without any interruptions.  I’m still awed by this technology so far away from home.

Our last stop was at the  St Regis Abu Dhabi located at the vibrant heart of Abu Dhabi’s Corniche. The St. Regis Abu Dhabi infuses authentic Arabian hospitality with more than a hundred years of bespoke St. Regis tradition. A signature St. Regis Butler Service is complimentary for every guest in the hotel.

Although we were only staying 8 hours before our flight to the US the team at the St Regis rolled out the red carpet for us and made us feel like royalty which included a private Bloody Mary teaching experience at the St Regis Bar and full amenities even though we were there for such a short time.  It is also only 20 minutes away from the airport, which is perfect after a long drive the day before. Great location and wished we had more time to explore the hotel and the city.  There is always next time.

Landing:  The AUH airport is nothing but stunning and world-class.  They have an entirely separate terminal for Business and First-Class passengers!!! How sweet is this?  Super easy and quick, we were at the 3-level Etihad lounge in no time and just worked till it was time to board our flight home.  Again, Etihad was lack-luster but efficient and on time, but their lounge was amazing.