(CNN) — There is not much on Qatar’s border with Saudi Arabia. A few sun-scorched outposts and miles and miles of vast empty desert in every direction.
Then, earlier this year, something very different appeared in the middle of this nowhere: a huge, gleaming luxury resort, complete with its own theme park.
The Hilton Salwa Beach Resort & Villas is clearly no ordinary hotel.
Seen from the sky, it looks like an entire coastal town. Twin pristine beaches jut out from a central harbour. Above the sand, bright white villas and buildings cluster around blue pools. Behind them, an oasis of greenery. It is one of the largest resorts in the Middle East.
So what happens, when a gigantic high-end hotel appears miles from anywhere, just as a pandemic freezes travel around the world?
The resort is one of the largest resorts in the Middle East.
There are a lot of people, according to Etienne-Charles Gailliez, general manager of the station. When it opened in February, it became a hit with locals, he says. More recently it has been a popular destination for visitors and business travelers from the wider region.
There is plenty of room. Hilton Salwa Beach has 84 villas, ranging from two to four bedrooms, with private pools and direct access to the white sand beach (prices from USD 1,500 per night). There are 31 Arab village-style apartments and villas, while the main hotel has 246 rooms and suites.
The sprawling grounds also contain more than 20 dining outlets, including seven gourmet restaurants, an upscale spa with VIP suites, sports courts, swimming pools surrounded by landscaped gardens, corporate facilities and a marina.
On top of that, there’s Qatar’s largest theme park, with dozens of rides, including “King Cobra”, a thrilling twin-tube ride that sends riders into the mouth of a massive shaped structure. of snake.
Health and security
The resort has its own water park.
The luxurious resort was built on 320 hectares of sandy land about 100 kilometers southwest of Doha, strategically located to welcome visitors from Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Construction began in 2015 and the final stage before opening was to adapt it to enhanced health and safety measures in accordance with Qatar’s mobility rules and hygiene protocols.
“Due to the impact of Covid-19, we had to expedite the requirements for the resort’s opening and identify new unique selling points, which focused on staycations,” Gailliez told CNN.
This was good news for 21-year-old Doha resident Sama Jamali and her friends. “As it was unsafe and difficult to travel, we decided to stay at the resort,” she told CNN. “The room was lovely and very spacious and comfortable – with state of the art technology and very Covid-19 safe and clean.”
The villas and rooms are just steps from the beach.
Gailliez said the introduction of travel guidelines and restrictions has led to a phased opening approach, with a number of outlets and facilities such as a dive center and a state-of-the-art sports academy which should be operational in the coming months. .
“We are a new resort and are more than just rooms. We have villas and a water park which makes our structure very unique,” Gailliez said.
Along with efforts to integrate new contactless technology, Gailliez identified logistics and personnel as key considerations. “On peak days, resort-wide, we host up to 2,500 guests, with a staff complement of approximately 1,200 crew members,” he said.
Action and adrenaline
The interiors are influenced by traditional Arabesque designs.
These guests, when not lounging or strolling on the cotton-soft sands along the resort’s 3.5-kilometre coastline, can keep themselves occupied by choosing from a long list of fun activities.
At the heart of it all is Desert Falls Water and Adventure Park.
The adrenaline-pumping attraction features several children’s pools and water play areas, as well as nearly 30 rides and slides, including a ride of rapids which, at its starting point – atop the 32-meter mountain of the park – offers a panoramic view of the entire resort.
Here, carpet-racing guests can also zoom down the tubes – head-to-head and side-to-side – in a quick splashdown, or try out a surf simulator.
Guests can compete on the water slides.
The park is also home to what is billed as the first man-made canyoning structure in the Middle East. There’s an outdoor go-kart race track – fully equipped with spectator stands – and an indoor laser tag course.
Inevitably, given its size, the hotel offers a range of dining options, including Middle Eastern, Italian, and Chinese cuisines.
Levantine serves iconic Arabic dishes with a twist, including The Qattinah, a delicious mocktail featuring handcrafted botanical spice syrup, a citrus kaleidoscope and 24-karat gold flakes. Main courses and desserts include sizzling skewers with Mdakhan (smoked hummus, roasted garlic mash) followed by Knafeh nabulsiyeh (pistachio cream).
Golden drinks and foosball
The resort’s Miss Wong restaurant serves an Orange Sunset mocktail.
At Miss Wong, the sound of a gong takes guests on a private Chinese dining experience that begins with an elaborate tea ceremony. Recommendations include the Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Enoki Mushrooms, Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, Vegetables, Chicken Turmeric Wonton), various dumpling options, and the Crispy Peking Duck. A refreshing Orange Sunset mocktail (fresh orange/fresh watermelon/fresh lemon/grenadine syrup/oolong tea/egg white) stands out on the drink menu.
The resort’s Dante Cucina Italiana restaurant serves Tuscan wines and wood-fired pizzas. Another, The League, is a sports and entertainment bar where you can watch football matches and play games of pool and foosball. Cocktail slots and beer buckets are available here, along with a gastropub menu featuring a selection of burgers, steaks, and smoked ribs.
Of course, there’s no shortage of luxury resort options in Qatar, especially as the country prepares to welcome visitors for the FIFA World Cup finals at the end of 2022.
The already packed line-up includes the W Doha, Mandarin Doha, Sharq Village and Spa at the Ritz-Carlton, as well as Antara’s Banana Island Resort, all of which are more convenient for downtown and the airport.
So, is the trip to the desert worth it?
“We enjoyed the restaurant selection, especially the continental buffet. Top notch food with great presentation,” said Jamali, who is already looking forward to another stay.
“It was a wonderful experience and there was no dull moment thanks to the fun and the different activities available