It’s not often you get to drive through a Desert Conservation Reserve on your way to lunch. But that’s exactly what you have to do to reach the Al Diwaan restaurant.
The first national park in the UAE, the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDRC) covers a whopping 225 square kilometres and is a safe place for the largest herd of free-roaming oryx in Arabia. The Al Maha is a luxury resort and spa that boasts the most stunning location nestled inside the DDRC.
Al Maha (means Oryx in Arabic) is incredibly picturesque, surrounded by nothing but desert and animals strolling towards the watering hole, I imagine it would be the most wonderful place to stay. After admiring the view from the terrace (it was unfortunately far too hot to sit outside) we made our way into the Al Diwaan to eat.
The decor is simple and the staff are welcoming. The menu offers a variety of international dishes, but unfortunately not a lot of vegetarian options were available. My starter of Mushroom and Pommery Mustard Quiche was exquisite. The bold mustard being the perfect complement to the peppery wild rocket salad.
The pizza that followed it, was unfortunately distinctly average. I’ve had far better from takeaway joints around Dubai. My meat-eating companions seemed to fare much better – all of them thoroughly enjoying their choices.
But things were looking up again when it was time for dessert, the Dulcey Chocolate Fondant Tart was bloody delicious, almost like a snickers on a plate.
Pizza disappointment aside, we all enjoyed our time at Al Diwaan. We were left in peace to finish our wine and put the world to rights. Before heading back out into the Reserve, our camera’s primed and ready to shoot.
Driving out we were worried that we wouldn’t see any Oryx, we were worried about scaring them, but actually they were all over the place. Some strolling across the sand dunes alone, others in packs grazing. We spotted a large group and creeped towards them trying to get a picture. But we soon realised we weren’t being as quiet as we thought when most of them looked up at us.
I hadn’t realised just big their horns were… for a minute there I was worried that they’d charge! But once they could see that they weren’t a threat they went about their business.
You can hire guides and go through the DDRC properly – there are lots of other animals to see including gazelle’s and foxes. I want to go back and do just that – and perhaps spend a bit of time in that spa.