Sun worship in the desert
Saad Mouzouna, Villa Host at the Banyan Tree Al Wadi, shares how to make the most of the perfect desert setting of the United Arab Emirates.
I love working in the desert. The one thing we have a lot of here, as you can imagine, is sun. So naturally, the best time here at the resort is at sunset. You can enjoy the view and witness the stunning red desert as the sun dips by the horizon, burning up the skyline. It’s an amazing view for all of us, not just the guests! We have a pool open to catch the sunset, and you can enjoy cocktails or mocktails galore.
But if you want a drink that taps into your local environment, you should try Arabic coffee. Its uniqueness is clear from the first sip: Arabic coffee usually doesn’t have sugar. Rather, it’s coffee with cardamom and saffron. It’s served with juicy, sweet dates – which make up for the lack of sugar. Adding to the sugar hit it’s often enjoyed with a side dish of desserts like baklava.
Manners are a big part of everyday life here. It doesn’t take much to elicit a smile from someone – simply using a traditional greeting like salaam alaikum is a nice touch.
And then there is also the camel, which is also part of the culture. Believe it or not, they are quite friendly animals. Everything about the camel is interesting, especially if you experience it first-hand on a camel ride as I have. Riding these tough ‘ships of the desert’, you will know why they were vital for the Arabs to survive this environment.
If hustle and bustle is part of your holiday programme, about 25 kilometres away you will find a souk selling local items and traditional clothing. If you’re already addicted to our coffee, you can buy the ingredients fresh right here, to take with you as gifts for those back home. Bargaining is a way of life here. At the souk they are always, always able to change the prices. How much depends on the item and the seller. But for example, if the item costs ten dollars, you should suggest three dollars. The seller will go down to nine – and you continue from there!
Warmth and peace permeates everything in our little corner of the UAE. You are away from the city in a way like no other, hugged by the surrounding desert – an environment many of our guests are experiencing for the first time. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely empty. You can see animals here like gazelle, oryx, and falcons. To me, a falcon is one of the most interesting, and one of the best things you can see in the desert. Luckily, we run falconry classes so all guests are assured of witnessing this traditional part of our culture.