Less Arabian Nights, more Arabian night: Magic Camps Abu Dhabi is a temporary desert hideaway that can be set up for as little as 24 hours – meaning all the more reason to maximise every single second here. This private camp takes its cue from its guests: it can be one tent or 20, though the setting – glorious red sand dunes in the cinematic Liwa Desert – remains the same. A driver, attendant and private chef will be your only additional company in this arid landscape – apart from the occasional priceless falcon, perhaps.
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Sunset drinks: you’ll sit above the camp on comfy cushions and a rug, surrounded by dunes, to watch the sunset
This entirely private camp can cater for groups from two to 20 (you’ll only ever share the sand with people you know).
10am; earliest check-in, 3pm. Guests leaving on an evening flight can still enjoy the hotel’s activities after check-out.
Double rooms from £2551.95 ($3,150), including tax at 17 per cent.
Rates usually include Continental breakfast.
If you like the look of Magic Camps Abu Dhabi, check out its near-identical twins in the deserts close to Dubai and Oman.
Magic Camps shuts down annually between 1 May and 31 August.
At the hotel
Communal tent for breakfast, dinner and general lounging. In rooms: free bottled water. The open-air bathroom tent attached to each tent has a shower bag, a water-filled basin and a flushless toilet (just add sand). Locally sourced shampoo, conditioner, hand sanitiser, baby wipes, face cloths, towels and slippers are provided.
Our favourite rooms
All Magic Camps’ tents are born equal – and if there are only two of you, there will only be one tent to bed down in. This is glamping, Berber-style: each of the spacious tents has enough room to swing an oud in. Lounging is encouraged via the bed and the little sofa, topped with a tray of fudgy dates and sun-ripened apricots. The tent is lit with lanterns and candles by night; in winter, you’ll appreciate the extra blanket.
A copy of One Thousand and One Nights will get you in the right frame of mind…
The camp isn’t designed for tiny tots, but adventurous little Smiths aged six and above will love it (they’ll have their own tent, too). If you're travelling with children, ask about extra bed rates for littles when booking.
This temporary camp doesn’t have electricity or running water: instead, it relies on solar power. When dusk falls, it’s lit entirely – and atmospherically – by candlelight. Bath products are organic: suds up using camel soap or olive-oil soap from Aleppo.
You’ll sit in the communal tent: choose your favourite spot.
Mr Smith can channel Lawrence of Arabia; Mrs Smith can go large on kohl.
Forget thoughts of basic camping-fodder: the magic extends to the kitchen. Your private chef, kitted out in gleaming chef’s whites, will rustle up traditional Arabian feasts, including silky hummus, zingy tabbouleh, barbecued prawns and meat, vegetable skewers and aromatic rice. For breakfast, you’ll be treated to Continental options and an array of breads; the chef can also whip up omelettes using the little gas stove.
Instead of a bar, Magic Camps has a cool box with soft drinks. They don't have alcohol, but if you bring your own they'll happily chill it for you.
Guests usually arrive at the camp around 5pm, so dinner is served at sevenish. You can have breakfast whenever you like the next morning (just let the chef know the night before).
There’s nothing so formal as room service here: nibble on your in-room dates and apricots between meals, and just let your attendant know if you’re thirsty.
The camp is set up in an incredible landscape of vivid red sand dunes amid the arid Liwa desert. Arriving is an adventure in itself: your driver will fit in a spot of dune bashing en route.
Abu Dhabi airport is a two-hour drive away; let Smith24 sort your flights.
You’ve no need for wheels: the camp’s driver will whoosh you there and back in a 4x4 (they can pick you up from the airport or a hotel within Abu Dhabi). Transfers for up to four guests are included in rates. There’s an extra charge for transfers from other locations, including other Magic Camps; US$250 each way for up to four guests, US$350 each way for five to seven guests, and US$450 each way for eight to fifteen guests.
Worth getting out of bed for
If you can do it on sand, you can probably do it here…Desert pursuits organised by the hotel include an hour’s camel riding (US$215 a person) or quad biking (US$165 a person). You can also watch a 45-minute falcon show (US$495). You’re likely to only be here for one night, so you’ll mainly divide your time between admiring your setting, the sunset and your tent, plus one desert dinner.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this adventurous hotel in the Liwa Desert and unpacked their dates and desert boots, a full account of their glamping break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Magic Camps Abu Dhabi…
Bedouin tribes are famously nomadic, moving their desert camps to wherever the grass or water may be. Magic Camps Abu Dhabi has its own itinerant approach to life: its Berber-style tents are temporarily erected in the Liwa Desert, wherever the sand dunes offer protection, only to be dismantled once its guests (reluctantly) depart. Not many hotels can claim such freedom of mind and movement – but Magic Camps is designed for adventurers, explorers and romantics. One couple or 10 could stay here, but it’s a private proposition, so you’ll only be bedding down in the dunes and sharing the communal tent (and its excellent chef) with boon companions. Go camel riding, see a falcon show, hop on quad bikes – but make sure you’re sitting on the cushions and rug come sunset, enjoying drinks and nibbles before your one-off, Arabian desert dinner…