Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa

Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa

Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Map of Umm Al Quwain

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Project Facts

Project Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa
Client Emirates
Built-Up-Area N/a
Services Masterplanning, Architectural Concept, Preliminary and  Detail Design, Structural Engineering, Commercial Kitchen Design, Interior Design, Authority Approvals and Building Permits, Project Tendering, Administration and Award, Site Supervision.
Collaborating Architect Schuster Pechtold and Partners
Status Complete, Phase 1: 2000, Phase 2: 2004
Budget US$100 Million

Project Features


Guest Accommodation comprising of 30 Deluxe Chalets with swimming pools, two-Family Chalets with proportionally larger swimming pools,  one Presidential Suite with full-length swimming pool.
Central Guest Building housing the Guest Reception, Front Office, Souvenir Shop with Store, Male & Female Majlis’, Library/ Boardroom, Tea Salon, Prayer Room, Main Dining Restaurant, Pre-Dinner Bar, Gym, Communal Swimming Pool, Outdoor  Pool Majlis, GM Office, Admin Offices, Commercial Kitchen, Staff Canteen, Cold and Dry Stores.
Staff Quarters for 100 staff
Stables/ Animal Enclosures for camels. falcons and horses.

Guest Accommodation comprising 10 additional Deluxe Chalets with larger swimming pools, two additional Family Chalets with proportionally larger swimming pools, one additional Presidential Suite with full-length swimming pool
Day Spa with four singles treatment rooms, one couples treatment room, Rasul Therapy, Wet-Treatment Room, indoor Jacuzzi, Gym, Juice Bar, Mani-Pedi Salon, Spa-Shop, Sauna, Steam Room and Ice Pool.
Other Works include enlargement of the private pools of all existing chalets.

In March 1999, the Al Maha Desert Resort and Wildlife Reserve was completed after an intense 18-month design and construction program. A progressive evolution of ideas initiated by HH General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE’s Defence Minister and the then Crown Prince of Dubai; the resort is a unique development that embraces and celebrates the indigenous culture, wildlife habitat and the environment of the United Arab Emirates.

The design brief set forth by Emirates Airlines called for a boutique hotel development set among a wildlife reserve, not too dissimilar to those found in Africa, Malaysia and Indonesia, complete with minimalist lodge-style developments for the guest. The focus was education of the immediate environment combined with ultimate luxury. Within two years from its opening, the resort was internationally renowned and, judging by its number of awards, internationally acclaimed.

Central building of the Al Maha Desert Resort in Dubai look at the Hajjar mountains of Oman. The architectural style of the resort can be described as "Critical Regionalism". It's tented structures providing shade on to the decks for the guests.

Architectural Identity

Sustainable Design

The architecture of the resort is a clear deviation from the typical skyline of the United Arab Emirates. The development attempts to establish a language of architecture that is contextual to the area whilst sympathetic to the integration and protection of the environment in a region that is often too busy with emulating the West to be seen as affluent. Recent years have also witnessed a strong attempt at ‘Islamicising’ the architecture; buildings are adorned with a cocktail of Islamic motifs across their facades in a desperate attempt to belong.

The architectural language of Al Maha is again a clear deviation from these and questions the notion of Islamic Architecture appropriate to the United Arab Emirates. After all the religion of Islam was prevalent in many major nations throughout the world, and in each, it evolved to suit the purpose and context. The history of Islamic Architecture is minimal in our context, however what is important is the architectural expression that developed in the region – desert architecture. A language that attempts at creating comfortable habitat for the people from the burning sun, a language often associated with Islamic Architecture, as Islam itself originated in this region. Al Maha is seen as a significant landmark in the evolution of the architectural language in a country that is just over 30 years old and because it really is the first concentrated effort by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to address the issue of context and energy awareness in the built environment.
As part of the objectives of Al Maha, Architecturally, the buildings incorporate traditions that have evolved over centuries in the most hot and dry climates. Typically, they are inward looking, with courtyards planted with indigenous plants, and/ or open verandas allowing cross ventilation wherever possible. Thick dense external walls and small openings, shaded by the over sailing tented roofs, create thermal lag, slowing down the transfer of the external intense heat to the inside. In some cases, the walls are 600mm thick, built up of aerated concrete blocks with a high thermal capacity. For the same thermal, as well as aesthetic reasons, double glazing with an increased air-space between the glass panes encased in solid wood has been used for doors and windows.
A challenging aspect of the design was the issue of providing panoramic views of the distant Hajar Mountains and the valleys that leads there. However, desert architecture is introverted; the views are always internal from the cultural as well as the climatic perspective. The two issues were successfully combined with the addition of the shade structures; not only do they add a sculptural quality to the buildings that continually changes the form of the buildings with the movement of the sun, but also allows larger openings by blocking out 90% of the solar heat gain. Tests were carried out that demonstrated massive reduction of temperatures in areas shaded by these structures.
During the design process of the resort, various feasibility studies were undertaken to evaluate alternative energy sources, ensuring an architectural development that was truly rooted to its location. Results from these studies are integrated into the overall development and include the use of photovoltaic panels, reverse osmosis and on-site sewage treatment facilities.

Active Eco Measures

Related Projects

error: Content is protected !!
Scroll to Top


With over 40 years of experience in project and construction management across the region, Al-Kayyalli has worked in senior-management level roles with some of the biggest real-estate development companies across the Gulf region.

Specialised in working on complete project lifecycle, Al-Kayyalli’s has wide-reaching experience in all stages of project development and delivery ranging from initial preliminary and feasibility studies, financial and time planning, costing and procurement, value engineering, construction supervision and management to commissioning and testing before final handover.

Before joining Rashid Taqui Architects and Engineers, Al Kayyalli was the CEO of the Saudi Qitaf al Ardah Development Real Estate Co. (Al Nahda & Al Omar Group) where he re-structured the company to fully develop in-house turnkey developments through the establishment of an in-house project management and procurement office.

Prior to which, he was the Vice President Project Management and Engineering of Al-Oula International-Amar International Real Estate where Al Kayyalli successfully implemented major investment programs for the firm’s operations in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, as turnkey solutions tailored to the findings of market analysis studies.

Earlier, Al-Kayyali was the Director of Development & Project Management for Al-Nahdi Group (KSA) and KCMCC(Kuwait Commercial Market Company), and Director/ Construction Manager for a number of key contracting firms including Al-Jafr Trading and Contracting Co. (KSA), Ali & Fouad Al-Ghanim Co. (Kuwait), Al-Habtoor Engineering (UAE), Al-Muhairy Contracting Co. (UAE) and Al-Hani Construction & Trading Bureau (Kuwait).


Born and educated in the United Kingdom, Rula Hannoun completed her undergraduate in anthropology at the University of Manchester in 1979 prior to completing her postgraduate MBA (Finance) at the Manchester School of Business in 1981.

Hannoun’s professional career began at the First National Bank of Chicago, Corporate Finance division before moving to Project Finance, Oil and Gas. As the Deputy Head of the Oil and Gas division for EMEA at 26, Hannoun became the youngest Vice President in the history of the bank.

After marrying and relocating to Dubai, Hannoun left the banking sector in 1985 to raise her family. She resumed her professional career in the mid-90s as Advisor to the Economic Department of Dubai, spearheading the establishment of Dubai Internet City – the second and one of the most successful free zones in Dubai.

With an inherent passion of architecture and design and a key eye for business, in 1999 Hannoun established the firm Tala Furniture, dedicated to providing quality furniture to the booming hospitality sector across the Gulf and North Africa. Nearly two decades later the company is recognised as one of the leading suppliers of complete hotel interior products, operates 3 factories in CEBU, China and Indonesia and boasts over 120 professional staff focused on project management, technical services, manufacturing, sourcing and quality control.

A member of the Young President’s Organisation (YPO) and an active fundraiser, Hannoun has dedicated much of her personal life to raising awareness for children with special needs. She was instrumental in the establishment of Asseef School (Dubai Centre for Special Needs) in the late 80s, the first special needs school in Dubai to receive funding from the late HH Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and remains equally diligent in her quest today, to protect the rights of the children without a voice.


With near 30 years of experience in the design, management and delivery of complex architectural projects, Rashid Taqui’s portfolio spans multiple sectors in Australia, Greece, Kenya, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UK, and the UAE.

Taqui has a Master’s in International Architecture Studies from the University of Huddersfield (UK), and two theses to his credit: The UAE – Searching for a Lost Identity, and The National Museum in Al Ain, UAE.

Starting his career in 1996 as a fresh graduate at German firm Schuster Pechtold’s Dubai office, he won instant appreciation and international applause for conceptualising and designing the multi-award-winning Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa – the first eco-resort in the Middle East attributed to having changed the discourse of architecture in the UAE. His involvement in other ‘firsts’ for the region include the establishing a voice for the architects and designers by the launching Dubai’s premier and the regions’ leading architectural journal, Architecture Plus, shaping the annual architectural networking event, Cityscape and founding the international awards for architecture and design in the UAE.

Taqui’s broad-ranging experience covers urban planning projects, resorts and hotels, palatial residences, shopping malls, airports, schools, banks, offices and varied public and cultural facilities, and undertaken while holding senior positions in the UAE offices of German multi-disciplinary firm Kling Consult, civil engineering firm Italconsult SPA, and architectural firm Incorporated Consultants (Conin).

Rashid Taqui Architects and Engineers, established in 2008, is his personal brand that specialises in contextually authentic, eco-aware architecture. He ardently advocates integrity and sustainability while targeting high yields for stakeholders through innovative design, investment opportunities, and value engineering.

Taqui often speaks at public events and writes regularly for local publications. His interests include fitness, films, food, and travel.

General Query

Careers Query

Trade Query

RFP Query

Design Query