Last week we were lucky enough to be invited to dine in the desert with the new kid on the block, Sonara Camp. Despite being a mere 3 weeks old, this new ‘must visit’ in Dubai is quickly gaining attention and the good kind of attention at that.
I’m sure many of you have experienced the typical ‘desert safari’ while residing here in Dubai or when you came on holiday, but trust me when I say you haven’t seen nothing like Sonara Camp.
At 860AED a head for adults and 380AED for children ( Aged 5 – 12 ), it may seem like a steep price to pay for a night surrounded by sand, but trust me when I say that it is so worth it! You will feel like you have the whole night to yourself and it is a breath of fresh air and elegance compared to your standard desert safari consisting of its mandatory belly dancers and crowded buffet lines.
Our adventure began in The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve which is a short 45 minute drive from Dubai and once arrived we had the choice of either being taken to the campsite via 4×4 Land Cruiser or camel. Because Hamza accompanied us we thought it would be more appropriate to go via vehicle, but if your circumstances allow it be sure to arrive in true bedouin style via camel.
Because the campsite is located in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve you might be lucky enough to see some wildlife along the way. We managed to spot the beautiful Arabian Oryx, however I couldn’t get a good shot as the drive was a bit rocky amongst the sand dunes.
Once we arrived we were welcomed by our lovely host Natalie and she asked us where we preferred to sit. She also asked us if we would like any drinks and we chose two hot beverages. In the centre of the camp is a beautiful bar where you can purchase alcohol and as mentioned above they also serve hot beverages and non alcoholic drinks too.
The seating area is extremely spacious and surrounded with comfortable low couches as well as a regular table and chair when eating or drinking. The space between each seating area is very generous which I thought was great attention to detail on their part because besides the soft instrumental music in the background it is extremely quiet. Needless to say the view surrounding us is magical. Soft sand dunes, endless sky and the sun setting in the distance was the backdrop for a beautiful night ahead.
After receiving our hot beverages we were served some appetisers which included some tasty little crudités, guacamole with crunchy tortilla chips and wood oven baked pizza. Hamza pretty much had all the guacamole to himself and also some pizza so my husband and I were pretty hungry by the time dinner was served.
After the appetisers we were approached by a kind man who had a lovely falcon for us to take photos with, myself and my husband were a little scared of her to be honest but Hamza wanted nothing more than to pet her and so he did while smiling the whole time!
There was also a falcon show both at the campsite and the dining area which was spectacular to see and enjoy. We got to listen about the history of the falcons and their relationship with the bedouins at the time and how they provided food for them. And the most fascinating thing of all that we learnt is that the falcons in the UAE come with their very own passports! That’s a lucky bird right there!
Once all the guests had arrived we went and took some photos with the camels and the sunset and although we just got on the camel for a quick photo, Hamza was not happy about it. But don’t worry we just took a few snaps and then we all hopped off and proceeded down to where dinner was served.
The location where dinner was served is almost like another campsite down below and it is just stunning. Think desert safari campsite, but elegant with a European flair. Once you make your way down the fire lit staircase into the campsite you will be escorted to your private table that has been prepared with fresh linen, shimmering silverware and candles to make you feel extra royal.
The area surrounding the dining tables is scattered with spacious hammocks, egg shaped cabanas and numerous seating areas with soft cushions to just sit back and chill. Think chic, stylish but laid back all in one! And those hammocks are just the thing to snag when your belly is full and you want to gaze up on those stars.
Also before I forget to mention, not only is Sonara Camp luxuriously perfect but it is also eco friendly! Yes that’s right, they believe in sourcing only ethical products and materials, use purely solar energy AND have a zero waste policy!
Dinner was a four course meal that has been designed by Chef Franck Sanna and it showcases Arabic dishes that have a French twist. You can also let your booking agent know before hand whether you are a Vegetarian/Vegan and they have a whole separate menu designed as well as a terrific kids menu! Nutella pizza? Yes please!
Our absolute favourites were the Lamb Chops marinated with kaffir, spices and mint, as well as the Oyster blade steak with a refreshing arugula chimichurri sauce. However, the true standout of the night was the Mediterranean Ratatouille. It was simply divine and I now understand why Disney decided to do a whole movie based upon what seems like such a simple dish.
Just before dessert was served Chef Franck came to greet all the guests which I thought was a lovely gesture and there was also a fantastic fire show that got your heart beating at the end the night.
Dessert was a platter with three separate concoctions, a zingy lemon and mint pie, cocoa ganache served with avocado emulsion and an apple pie with chiboust cream. All were completely different from one another and it is enough to send any sweet tooth foodie to food heaven.
Throughout dinner there is various things that you can do such as;
- sheesha, ( at an additional cost )
- henna painting
- there is a small outdoor cinema for the kids
- and a lovely fireplace where you can roast marsh mellows or just warm up!
Speaking of warming up … we knew it would be cold so we prepared extra jumpers and scarves and I won’t lie it was freezing! Once that sun drops so does the temperature and so I will urge any of you who decide to go to bring extra clothes. Seriously, BRING EXTRA CLOTHES! Sonara was also kind enough to give us a warm blanket, but as I said it gets colder than you think and you don’t want to have your night ruined because of the chill.
The overall experience was spectacular, the food, the service, the ambience of the place just cannot be faulted and I sincerely wish I could visit again. But what really made us want to go back is the staff. As corny as that may sound they made us feel so welcome and every single one of them greeted us with a smile and not only came to serve us, but came to converse with us and that was what really made the night.
The whole dining experience was executed perfectly and although all tables seem to be dining at the same time, the food was delivered in a timely manner and not rushed at all. Glasses were always filled with your beverage of choice and there was always someone close by to attend to your every need. Huge thanks to Stephanie, Natalie, Chef Frank, Clayton, Aljo and the rest of the Sonara Camp Team. You guys are doing a wonderful job and I can’t wait to visit you guys again soon!
Thank you so much for reading and if you are interested in experiencing this for yourself then head on over to nara.ae/sonara/
They also host private events, overnight stays in the desert, wellness activities and more, so the sky is literally the limit! On that note I want to say Happy New Year 2020 everyone from my family to yours! I wish you all the best for this New Year and I hope you all enjoy it with your family and friends wherever you are in the world.
Stay safe, Love Jessica Cairney.