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Staycation Spotlight: A desert stay with a difference at The Nest by Sonara

A back-to-nature retreat in the heart of Dubai’s Desert Conservation Reserve.

The United Arab Emirates has no shortage of luxurious desert resorts, from Qasr Al Sarab in Abu Dhabi to The Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi in Ras Al Khaimah. But if you’re looking for an off-the-grid retreat to accompany those Insta-worthy desert vistas, consider The Nest.

The eco-friendly retreat from the team behind the luxurious desert dining experience Sonara Camp has introduced a new way to experience the natural beauty of the Dubai desert affectionately referred to as desert nesting. Located in the Margham desert on the outskirts of the city, about 30 minutes drive from Burj Khalifa lies The Nest by Sonara.

The Nest by Sonara
Desert dreaming

Upon arrival, we’re asked to park our car before transferring into a sand shuttle for the 10-minute transfer to our Nest. Situated deep in the heart of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, we traverse endless golden dunes, passing Arabian gazelle and oryx with their slender horns pointing skywards. The journey across the smooth sands is therapeutic as we crest towering dunes and pass pockets of vegetation before arriving at the small enclave of nests grouped in a semi-circle amongst the waves of sand. 

Welcome drinks are distributed, but we’re more excited to explore the desert nests designed by Gianni Ranaulo. Not quite a hotel room nor a glamping tent, the 14 nests offer a unique form of accommodation that blend organically into the Arabian desert, sitting peacefully amongst the dunes with their undulating roofs. 

The Nest by Sonara

Each nest includes a dreamy bedroom area, ensuite bathroom and an outdoor majlis where you can watch the stunning sunsets and sunrises around the fire pit. Plus, each room comes with a complimentary mudeef (helper) on hand. Inside, the decor is boho chic, with throw pillows and macramé decorations adorning the furnished living area. Here, a comfortable bed takes pride of place alongside a small writing desk. However, don’t expect modern comforts like television or WiFi, for the nest is a real back-to-basics stay where guests are encouraged to reconnect with the natural environment.

Created to ensure minimal impact on the landscape, each nest is buried in the sand to retain heat. The living area leads down into a bathroom made of natural stone and features striking black ceramic across the sinks and WC. Sand is used to anchor ornaments and trinkets along an extended shelf.

The Nest by Sonara
Desert adventures

With the desert on the doorstep of each nest, we’re encouraged to explore the area on foot to marvel at the native flora and fauna. As night falls, we’re transported to a desert outcrop to watch fiery hues light up the sky from the comfort of a private tee-pee strung with fairy lights. Here, we sip on beverages from the licensed bar, graze on canapés, take to the sands for camel riding, and watch graceful falconry shows. For something a little more active, archery, sand boarding and desert football are also available. Yet the beauty is that you can do as much or as little as you like.

The Nest by Sonara
A dinner show with a difference

While many of us have suffered the droves of tourists that throng most desert safaris, dinner at Sonora Camp offers a far more luxurious experience. Set on a plateau amidst the dunes with a web of lights spread across the outdoor dining room, it’s a magical place for a memorable meal. Without a buffet in sight, the fully plated three-course meal offers a selection of Arabian delicacies such as hummus, fattoush, kibbeh, fish sayadiah and madfoon. Each course is punctuated by performances from musicians, acrobats, aerialists and fire dancers to bring the setting alive. From a balancing act that has to be seen to be believed to fire breathers ejecting torrents of flame from their mouths to the tune of The Prodigy’s 1996 hit Firestarter.

The Nest by Sonara

After a night in the nest, we wake up to sunrise views with a toes-in-the-sand early breakfast featuring açai bowls, eggs, viennoiseries, fresh fruit juice and brewed coffee to kick start the day. 

Ultimately, The Nest by Sonara takes the evolution of glamping to new heights with its unique nesting concept while respecting the authenticity of its surroundings. Whether you want a break from technology, a spot of stargazing or to toast marshmallows on an open fire, The Nest by Sonara offers a desert stay with a difference and a chance to reconnect with nature.

GO: Visit for more information.

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David Tapley - Editor-in-Chief
As editor-in-chief of the region’s most fiercely local lifestyle publication, David is a self-proclaimed hip-hop aficionado, championing all things food, travel, street art, and streetwear across the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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