The Best Hotels
Hotels in the Middle East are famously over-the-top. The architecture and opulence of places like Oman, Ras Al Khaimah, and Abu Dhabi are unparalleled, making this the region where the biggest and best names in hotel brands come to compete with the local scenery (and each other). From the final word in luxury glamping to a Ritz Carlton in a nature preserve, every hotel on this list offers an experience like no other. These are properties that push the limits of decor, service, and amenities and do it all with one only goal in mind: to take your breath away.
King David Jerusalem
Located atop a hill in the center of Jerusalem, the historic King David Hotel casts its gaze over a spectacular panoramic view of the venerable Old City and Mount Zion. Built in 1929, the hotel’s regal interiors are dark and luxurious, as ancient Assyrian, Egyptian, Phoenician, and Greek art and architecture influence the design. The palatial green and cream lobby, adorned with pillars, is steeped in a legacy both victorious and tragic. As the most revered hotel in Jerusalem, the King David has been hosting heads of state, royalty, diplomats, and celebrities for decades, and the presence of these powerful and influential people lingers within the hotel. Dark wood, rich golds, marbled bathrooms, old-world accents, and retro color palettes eschew modern styles in favor of the traditional. Exceptional amenities include a stunning swimming pool surrounded by a lush, serene garden and the marvelous culinary experience at one of Jerusalem’s highest-rated fine dining establishments, La Regence.
Magic Camps is like a traveling boutique hotel caravan that sets up bespoke, private tent camps throughout the great dunes of the Omani Desert. Experiences are customized for each group depending on interest in exploring the dunes, coast, and water oases around Muscat and the rest of Oman. Guest tents exude atmosphere, with hanging pendant lights and candlelit lanterns, fluffy towels and rich Bedouin textiles, and real furniture and beds. Groups take camel rides to their remote camp locations, where they enjoy starry nights over the dramatic expanses of desert, and a local dinner cooked over a hot fire. In the spirit of leave-no-trace (that also adds a degree of enchantment), the camp is whisked away once your trip is over as if it were never even there.
New & Noteworthy
Mandarin Oriental Doha
Qatari heritage (and fantastic hospitality) meet with a trusted international brand at this Downtown Doha hotel, falling in line with the city’s upward trend towards the modern and global. Drama and elegance abound at the Mandarin: bathrooms with floor-to-ceiling marble and spacious round tubs, walls of decadent wrought-iron latticework, and a dining room that seems carved out of white sand. Near the Souq Waqif, Islamic Art Museum, and other main attractions, the Mandarin is reasonable for business (with great professional service and attention to detail), but there are additional touches—in style, comfort, and dining outlets—that make it a great introduction to everything Qatar has to offer.
Rich & Famous
The Ritz Carlton, Al Wadi Desert
Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
Imagine a large Ritz Carlton in the middle of the Bedouin Desert—but with no traces of run-of-the-mill, big-box brand vibes. Instead, design and culture at the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi borrow from the Bedouins and the Moors, with lavish touches everywhere and the option to book a multi-roomed, tented villa with a private swimming pool oasis. There are an array of dining and imbibing options: the Farmhouse restaurant lets in the most dramatic swaths of desert light and colors; at the cavernous Moorish lounge, sampling tapas and cocktails while tucked into low tables is an intimate and romantic experience. The best activities here are at the fully-equipped equestrian center, where guests can take riding lessons, arrange a camel caravan, or take off into the desert via Arabian horse.
Tried & True
The St. Regis Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Towering over Abu Dhabi, the St. Regis is everything you could ever want in a five-star hotel, starting with the sweeping double staircase in the lobby, hewn from marble and lit by chandeliers. Everything about the hotel is over-the-top elegance (which is an oxymoron everywhere in the world except Abu Dhabi). Rooms in the 48-story tower are draped in plush fabrics with high-tech enhancements and sparkling marble bathrooms—and with this kind of height, you’ll get amazing views of the city and the Persian Gulf, just across the street. While city chain hotels can often feel stuffy and corporate, the St. Regis also appeals to vacationers, with plenty of dining options (including an incredible breakfast buffet spread) and a private connected beach club with what feels like acres of pools and plenty of sunloungers along a quiet and clean stretch of sea. But the crowning jewel of this property is the famous suspended suite—the kind of place Liberace might have lived if he were also a Bond villain. The three-bedroom penthouse has 360-degree views, a private screening room, a two-story library, a dining room, and an ensuite spa.