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By Mikaela Oliviera
When most people think of hotels in the United Arab Emirates, the bling-bearing 7 star resorts, packed with football players, Russian oligarchs and Saudi princes, usually come to mind. But one of the lesser known emirates in this country is about to change perceptions of tourism in the region.
Once considered a backwater known mainly for its fish market, Khor Kalba in Sharjah, UAE, is reinventing itself as a luxurious eco-tourism destination. Located on the Gulf of Oman near the Omani border, the town features a brand-new Kingfisher Lodge, a Sharjah Collection by Mantis boutique hotel boasting elegant, traditionally inspired accommodations with 20 gloriously appointed tents, each with its own private pool surrounded by untouched nature.
The hotel’s concept marries eco-tourism in the Middle East with the conservation of Arabian culture, heritage, and the environment. For example, the structures here are low and simply furnished, reflecting the nomadic traditions of the Bedouin tribes who are native to the area.
In fact, this is a great place to learn more about the Bedouin people – they were and continue to be camel herders, fishermen, and most famously, pearl divers in the UAE, making them a powerful force for both the growth of culture and industry in the early days of the nation. The wooden dhow boats, now most commonly associated with Emirati tradition, are originally vessels of the Bedouin peoples, who built them to go fishing and pearl diving off the coasts of what is now Dubai and other northern emirates.
The Thriving Desert
Some may consider the desert to be quite a dry place – literally and figuratively – in terms of discovering nature. But there’s a surprising amount of flora and fauna to enjoy here, especially if you take one of the hotel’s guided hikes. For example, you can explore neighbouring mangroves – which have been conserved to ensure they remain a safe breeding area for turtles and many rare species of birds, such as the White Collared Kingfisher and Sykes Warbler – or observe the evening desert sky, which reveals an explosion of dazzling stars, planets and constellations.
Outdoor adventurists will be thrilled with the variety of activities here, from kayaking and paddle boarding to mountain biking, hiking and paragliding, but of course, it’s also possible to simply throw yourself by the pool with a cold drink, after visiting the spa for a deeply satisfying facial or massage.
If you’d rather retreat to the privacy of your room, you’ll be delighted with the clean design and modern comfort. A calming colour palette ensures full relaxation, and well-placed windows ensure awe-inspiring views, no matter where you look. When the sultry days shift into cooler nights, dinners can be taken beside the fire pits outdoors, where locally sourced ingredients are cooked up in traditional Arabian style.
At their Kingfisher Lodge, locals and tourists alike are introduced to a side of the emirate they may never have visited before. Far away from the well-known urban city bordering Dubai on the West coast, this boutique hotel explores the desert and traditional Arabian hospitality without compromising on luxury. Whether you choose to delve into nature or learn about the culture that surrounds you, there is something here for everyone.
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