Sand dunes in the Arabian Desert where the Al Maha Resort can be seen at a distance

Al Maha Desert Resort Master Plan

Al Maha Desert Resort Master Plan

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 Master planning, 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
30 Deluxe Chalets with Swimming Pools, 2 Family Chalets with proportionally larger Swimming Pools,  1 Presidential Suite with full-length Swimming Pool,
Guest Facilities 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, 
Support GM Ofice, Admin Offices, Commercial Kitchen, Staff Canteen, Cold and Dry Stores,
Staff Quarters for 100 staff,
Animal enclosures, Horse Stables and a Palm Oasis. 

Guest Accommodation 10 additional Deluxe Chalets with larger Swimming Pools, 2 additional Family Chalets with proportionally larger Swimming Pools, 1 additional Presidential Suite with full-length
Recreation Swimming Pool, enlargement of the private pools of all existing chalets.
Spa Day spa with 4 individual treatment rooms, 1 couples treatment room, Rasul Therapy, Wet-Treatment Room, indoor Jacuzzi, Gym, Juice Bar, Mani-Pedi Salon, Spa-Shop, Sauna, Steam Room and Ice Pool.

The Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa is originally planned as a single-phase development and hence the master plan is designed accordingly with the central building housing the main guest facilities and 27 individual Bedouin Suites with small plunge pools, two double Royal Suites with a larger pool and one p Emirates Suite with a much larger pool, a separate pool building with covered seating and pool terrace accompanied servicing the common swimming pool. Support facilities including staff quarters for 100 staff and maintenance workshops were also completed in the original phase.

Aerial view of the Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa

Phase 1

Based on the topographical survey and soil investigations conducted for the area, the masterplan is developed based on the operational requirements envisaged by the client. However, as the sand continues to shift in the open desert depending on the wind pattern, each building is carefully located and orientated physically on site based on the actual undulation of the terrain at the time of construction to avoid unnecessary cutting and filling in the desert and thereby preserving the desert location to the fullest.

Three wings originating at the central building follow the naturally occurring contours of the terrain that allow each guest chalet to enjoy uninterrupted views without compromising guest privacy; pathways to each chalet are carefully plotted alongside existing settled sand dunes.

The central facilities building is positioned tight against the main ridge with a 15-metre drop to the valley that lies at the footsteps of the Majestic Hajjar mountains. The actual location gives rise to the ‘stepped’ design of the central building to maximise views to the mountain range, enhancing the guest experience.

Original drawings and watercolours from the master plan of Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa

The common guest pool, pool bar a terrace is located at mid-level, central yet secluded by the introduction of a palm-tree oasis with a proper falaj system that originates at the central building and one of the guest paths that leads to the pool and oasis; a subtle education of historical irrigation and date farming traditions in the Gulf for guests.

The staff accommodation, being a relatively large, two-storey structure is position carefully in a naturally occurring dip in the desecrate close to the Resort. Traditionally, hotel staff in the Gulf are housed in remote locations away from the resorts. Here, we proposed utilising the dip to accommodate the required accommodation, which would keep it out of view (except the roof that would be visible on approaching the guest facilities). Thus, the staff would be walking distance to the resort (supporting the eco-mission of the development) and the roof could be used for the solar panels integrated into the project for the hot-water requirements, thereby demonstrating to approaching guests the Resort’s concerted and avant-garde efforts to be true eco-resort in every way possible.

Due to the overwhelming success of the resort, five years after its completion, the client decided to expand the resort by adding 10 new Bedouin Suites, two Royal Suites, one additional Emirates Suite and one new three-bedroom Presidential Suite, a day spa as well as additional support facilities including a second staff accommodation block, horse stables and a camel enclosure.

Phase 2

Continuing with the same design philosophy as established at the outset, the master plan is extended to conserve the desertscape as best possible. However, the challenge here was that this time, the resort would remain fully operational during construction. This is achieved by appending the new guest chalets close to the ends of the existing ‘branches’.

The common pool bar and pool terrace developed in to the Day Spa with the addition of new structure to the rear of the existing building and connected through at completion.

The second staff accommodation is located close to the original for operational ease and walking distance to the guest facilities yet hidden out of sight behind the and large sand dunes and extensive vegetation that has flourished since the opening of the resort.

Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa master plan
Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa and its beduin camp feel

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