The majestic resort in Ras Al Khaimah retains its crown as the ultimate escape
There’s a grandeur to the Waldorf Astoria in Ras Al Khaimah that is so immediate and imposing, that it feels unjust to describe it as a beach resort, a label that conjures up images of cubiform, modernist architecture, white-washed concrete walls and a tessellation of uniform, sea-facing balconies beside an ungenerous strip of coastline.
It’s a visual image that could hardly be further removed from the well-heeled, beautifully upholstered refinement of this majestic property.
First opened in 2014, the Waldorf Astoria remains one of the most pleasing and luxurious places in the UAE – and beyond – to rest one’s head after a week’s work. Yes, there is a beach, yes, there are loungers and lifeguards and volleyball courts and even a camel for essential Middle Eastern selfies, but there are considerably more elements to a weekend away here than sun-tan lotion and a swim-up bar.
The opulence runs throughout, from the sweep of the drive into the capacious lobby complete with the brand’s signature timepiece and down through Peacock Alley, the gallery-like lounge with a centrepiece fountain inspired by Damascene courtyards. The work of the London offices of design house Hirsch Bedner Associates, the interiors are a pleasing amalgam of Waldorf style and regional tradition.
The rooms, though, are really where the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah stakes its claim to be the staycation king of the coast. A King Junior Suite with a sea view and balcony, for instance, is actually one of the more modestly proportioned accommodations in the building, yet it manages to stretch away from the door past a generous bathroom and separate dressing area, through to the double bedroom before you come to the lounge and dining area – and beyond all that a terrace overlooking the pools, gardens and pristine beach below.
Frankly, it’s tempting to unpack, slip into one of the absurdly luxuriant bathrobes and spend the next 24 hours calling room service. But if you can summon the energy to get dressed again, there’s plenty worth exploring outside the room. For starters, there are two sprawling, temperature-controlled swimming pools, the larger of which winds its way through palm groves and provides shallower sub-sections for families and smaller swimmers, while just beyond is the beautiful 350m private beach from which watersports such as scuba diving can be accessed.
If this sounds ideal enough for a week-long stay – and there are plenty of guests from Europe who have made that very choice – then the array of restaurants ought to confirm it. Qasr al-Bahar is the all-day dining venue that is home to (superior but standard) breakfasts and buffet dinners, but the real culinary rewards are found in one of the property’s three signature restaurants: the Lexington Grill, where you can tuck into supremely cooked steaks from their soft-lit red-leather booths; Umi, for Japanese food amid crisp, modern minimalism; and Marjan, the obligatory but nevertheless outstanding Lebanese restaurant. The Lexington Grill perhaps just shades it, but each are worth repeat visits if you can’t quite decide.
There’s a nightclub, too, and a spa should a day beside the pool not fully ease out the creases, but there’s much to be said in this place for simply finding somewhere to sit and allowing the ambiance do the rest. In a nutshell, the Waldorf Astoria is the kind of place where doing very little feels like the ultimate reward. It is for that same reason that we see ourselves visiting again.