Arabian Nights Village Abu Dhabi – Family Desert Retreat

Something we rarely touch on the Globetrotters blog is the fact we do live in the desert.

Everyday life in Abu Dhabi is fairly normal for us, paved sidewalks, schools, shops and a lot of luxury surrounds you in the major United Arab Emirates (UAE) cities. Venturing into the desert dunes, however, is entirely another experience and one that visitors and residents alike shouldn’t miss.

Last weekend we took a little trip into the desert to experience Arabian Nights Village, a luxury desert taster for visitors to the UAE.

This post is part of our series Discover the UAE – don’t miss our guide to the Top 6 Desert Resorts in the UAE

Arabian Nights Village | Family Adventure in the Abu Dhabi Desert | OurGlobetrotters.Net

We came in with very little expectation of what we were about to experience. The last desert safari I did was in Dubai in 2004, sans children! To be honest we’d been nervous about the idea of taking the kids into the desert; Were they too young? Would there be enough kid-friendly activities? And the sand, oh sand!

What we got from Arabian Nights Village (ANV) however, completely exceeded our expectations and has moved it right to the top of our recommendation list for newbies to the UAE and residents alike.

A purpose-built village set up in the desert about 1.5 hours from Abu Dhabi city, Arabian Nights Village gives visitors a taste of traditional Bedouin life, as well as offering sports and activities that are a part of the UAE’s modern outdoor culture.

Here’s the low down on what visitors can expect visiting the Arabian Nights Village, Abu Dhabi.

This story is also featured in our 100+ Family Things to do in the UAE article

Flexible options to suit families and time-frames

Arabian Nights Village is open to both day tripping guest and overnight visitors, making it ideal for visitors to Abu Dhabi to enjoy – even if they only have a short stopover.

Arabian Nights Village | Family Adventure in the Abu Dhabi Desert | OurGlobetrotters.Net

Getting to Arabian Nights Village, Abu Dhabi

You get much more middle of nowhere than where the Arabian Nights Village is located!

Two transportation options are therefore available – coach/transfer service from Abu Dhabi or self-drive. Arabian Nights Village is located approximately 50kms off the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain (Route 22) Highway, exit 59.

They suggest for visitors to come via their coach which leaves from Khalifa Park, behind the Park Rotana Complex in Abu Dhabi daily at 3pm. You’ll return by about 11pm for day-trippers or before 2pm the following day for overnighters.

Residents and confident drivers with access to a 4wd can self-drive. We found the drive very easy being familiar with the UAE roads; a 4wd is advised as the last 24kms into the village are off-road through the desert, but I would confidently say most cars could make it unless there have been adverse weather conditions.

Although a little bumpy it’s truly picturesque Arabian desert, as you head further inland you can see the colours of the sand change and truly magnificent shimmering dunes appear.  The bumpy road woke the Globetrotters up from their well-timed car nap, but they delighted in seeing the roaming camels and we truly knew our Arabian adventure was about to commence.

Accommodation Options at Arabian Nights Village

With a combination of mud brick, palm and canvas huts built in traditional Bedouin style, make no mistake, inside these are large luxury villas, fully air-conditioned and full of all the mod-cons you’d expect (except a TV – deliberately so you can have a ‘switched off’ break).
That said there is a mobile antenna for those who just can’t help but keep everyone up to date on their adventures – by our experience, this only worked with Etisalat phones, not Du.

Arabian Nights Village | Family Adventure in the Abu Dhabi Desert | OurGlobetrotters.Net

Our room is a “Bayt al Bahar” suite  – literally, a beach house, modelled on traditional coastal Bedouin homes.  It comes with a master bedroom with en-suite, and an interconnecting twin bedroom with en-suite – plenty big enough to fit our family of 5.

Unfortunately, they can’t provide baby cots but we brought out trusty Phil and Teds Traveller. Our room is just stunning, the ambience, the decor is absolutely everything we want and more, the Globetrotters thought it was great! Mum and Dad were happy too as we could close the door between our rooms giving some parent privacy!

What activities are available for families?

There are some core activities included in all evening and overnight packages including camel riding, dune bashing, sand boarding and an evening meal with traditional Arabic food and entertainment.

Dune bashing is not available to under 6’s for safety concerns which we understood, but felt a little limited than on what we could do for the evening.  

For additional charges, there are also quad bikes and fat-tire sand bikes for hire, but again age restrictions apply on these. Our kids (6,3 and 1 at time of visiting) were perfectly pleased with the camel ride and sandboarding, except for the part where the camel needs to kneel down, littlies who haven’t done this before might find this quite scary and want to get down first!

Grown-ups enjoy the ride, it’s all part of the experience!  Our ride was only short – which is probably a good thing in the heat – but comfortable, unlike a previous never-to-be-forgotten experience with camel riding in Egypt, this was actually quite a pleasant experience!

There are plenty of little corners around the village that are built simply for relaxation so with a quiet evening ahead of us, that’s exactly what we did, taking in the stunning desert sunset is a truly spectacular experience, as is being able to spot the evening sky come to life. I so often forget to look up, thanks to my Master L for reminding me to appreciate what’s above us!

There’s also a beautiful pool available, though we were saving this up for the morning entertainment for the kids.  

Some of the extras usually on offer include Henna (traditional Henna can last weeks, but ours washed off within a few days in case you’re concerned!).  

In the cooler months, a market souq also runs, along with a kids activity area.  By early May these were not operating so we cannot provide a review on these.

Food for families at Arabian Nights Village

Mealtimes are often an issue for us travelling with our fussy littlies (ok one particular fussy one!).  The outdoor evening meal didn’t open until 7pm, and with a lack of any other food options, early evening is often an issue with us travelling with small children – thankful for the fruit bowl in the room as all our snack supplies had run out by then!

Dinner is a buffet-style offering with a fairly decent range of Arabic foods as well as some Western dishes to suit tastes.  The meal is included in all packages, the only extras you will pay for are alcohol and shisha pipes. 

Over dinner, there is also entertainment by way of an oud player and a belly dancer (note these extras are not available during the hot summer months).

For overnighters, breakfast is not served until 8.30am which again if you have early risers like ours, you may need to be prepared for – though hopefully a late evening of food and dancing, and a very well blacked-out room just might make them sleep in, just a tiny bit?!

The highlight for our kids was, in fact, the drive home where we had to navigate our way back along the desert track with a herd of camels!  They delighted in being so close up to these elegant creatures, including a number of very new looking calves.

Arabian Nights Village | Family Adventure in the Abu Dhabi Desert | OurGlobetrotters.Net
Mind the camels on your way to and from Arabian Nights Village

RELATED READING: Love thy Camel?  Don’t miss the annual Al Dhafra Festival, held in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region each December – who can resist a camel beauty contest? 

15 important gfacts to know before visiting the UAE

What to bring & what to wear at Arabian Nights Village

All meals, soft drinks and activities are included as part of a package, however, we know families with young children might have additional needs.  

Do note that there’s nothing resembling a general store or the like for a very long distance so bring all child-related supplies with you.

Abu Dhabi is, of course, a Muslim country and you are expected to dress with a degree of respect throughout the country – in some places more than others.  This is a purpose-built tourist destination, however, so ladies will be fine to dress to the weather with shorts and shirt sleeves or dresses.

Do bear in mind that if you’re taking part in some of the activities, and eating at the low tables you’ll want to wear something appropriate for the occasion – skip the short skirt!

Bathers by the pool are completely acceptable for all. If you are staying overnight and using the pool facilities, the towels are provided but you may want to bring your own floaties, goggles, hats, sunscreen and any other poolside extras with you.

No matter what you wear on your feet, your shoes will fill with sand (in fact basically everything will fill with sand, let’s be honest). During the cooler winter months (I’d suggest December to February) the evening may be cool enough to warrant a sweater or wrap, but otherwise, it’s quite manageable without.

During the warmer months, expect to profusely sweat no matter where you go from June to September, that’s just a factor of being here in the UAE.  See notes below about alterations to the program over the summer months.

Another thing to note, the sand can seriously burn your feet – there’s not much you can do about this, it’s the desert after all, but certainly in the warm months watch kiddie feet, even with sandals or flip-flops on.

RELATED READING: We cover religion & clothing etiquette in our post 15 Important Facts to know before visiting the UAE – a must-read before a family visit

Arabian Nights Village | Family Adventure in the Abu Dhabi Desert | OurGlobetrotters.Net

Arabian Nights Village – The fine details

  • We visited in May 2016. Although they operate year-round, those with young children or adverse to the heat may find the peak of summer too hot to fully enjoy this outdoor themed adventures. As an indication daytime temperature when we arrived was about 43c, mid-summer expect 50c+.
  • Summer Packages are currently being promoted directly through Arabian Nights Village starting from 220AED /100AED for evening excursions or 950AED overnight (double room) / 1,400 AED family rooms. Children under 6 are free. (Prices may have since increased)
  • You can also compare prices on Hotels Combined or book with our favourite hotel partner Booking.Com (affiliate).
  • The evening entertainment program does not run over the summer.  Normal pricing and programs resume from later September.
  • If you do happen to have any accidents or emergencies small or large there is an onsite nurse and first aid room, of course in typical Globetrotter style of late we got to check out the facilities when Master J started a raging fever and, yes ‘let’s start growing our 2-year-old molars in the middle of the desert…..’

A visit to the UAE is not complete without stretching yourself beyond the big cities and experiencing the desert. This is an affordable and thoroughly enjoyable way to have a family desert experience, even if you only have a half-day stopover. All ages and nationalities will enjoy what Arabian Nights Village has to offer.

This post is part of our series Discover the UAE – pop on over for more ideas on what to do with your kids in and around the desert. 

We also have a great guide to desert camping with kids in the UAE and a Facebook group for Middle East Family Travel Lovers!

Arabian Nights Village | Family Adventure in the Abu Dhabi Desert | OurGlobetrotters.Net
This story is also featured in our 100+ Family Things to do in the UAE article

Disclosures: We were provided with a complimentary overnight visit to Arabian Nights Village for the purpose of conducting an honest review. As always all views are our own. This page does contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you should you make a booking. Our full disclosures and terms of use can be found here.

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21 thoughts on “Arabian Nights Village Abu Dhabi – Family Desert Retreat

  1. Saad Khan says:

    Dear Keri,

    Great post! Thank you for inspiring us to visit this stunning country. Now we need to start planning our trip. When you would recommend to visit Arabian Night Safari?

    Thanks and Regards

  2. Chloe Ciliberto says:

    Wow, this place is so impressive. So incredible that they’ve made it into an experience that families can come and enjoy too. Your pictures are so lovely. I’d love to come and experience this. Thank you so much for sharing with #whatevertheweather x

    • Keri from Baby Globetrotters says:

      we’ll get you to the Middle East one day Chloe, keep trying to convince you with our pictures! xx

  3. Laura @ Life with Baby Kicks says:

    This looks incredible Keri and I wish I’d seen it before we were headed home on Weds!!!

    • Keri from Baby Globetrotters says:

      I bet there’s still dozens of things left on the UAE bucket list -far too much to cover in only a couple of years here! Glad you wont be too far away though, excuses to come and visit!

  4. Erin Vincent says:

    Wow, what a cool experience! Those camels, though. My kids would love to get up close and even ride them! #whatevertheweather

    • Keri from Baby Globetrotters says:

      Perfect opportunity for camel riding – and not nearly as uncomfortable as some past camel riding experiences I’ve had. Seeing them roaming free in the desert though was priceless

  5. Merlinda Little (Glimmer of Hope) says:

    Awww the place looks amazing! I always wanted to see camels and they look awesome in your photos! Thanks for sharing =) #whatevertheweather

    • Keri from Baby Globetrotters says:

      We have come to know our camels quite well over the years living in the desert and truly appreciate now what magnificent creatures they can be

  6. Training Mummy says:

    Looks like a great place for visitors to visit although with an 11pm return I don’t think it would be something we would be doing until the kids were much older. We would also struggle a bit with a 7pm eating time! #whatevertheweather

    • Keri from Baby Globetrotters says:

      Yes the day trip might not suit very young children unless you come well prepared for the timings – it makes the overnight stay an excellent options as they’ll get to see the camels on the way home too.

  7. One geek of a parent says:

    Its been 10 years for us in the UAE and I’ve never heard of this place! Thanks for such a detailed review, it is now officially part of our to-do list!

    • Keri from Baby Globetrotters says:

      don’t worry there are plenty of things I have still never heard of, especially in Dubai! We never really explore what’s on out own door step but this one is definitely worth the visit.

  8. ginger and scotch says:

    This sounds like a great place for us to visit with the kiddies the next time we are in Abu Dhabi for the weekend.

    • Keri from Baby Globetrotters says:

      Definitely wait for the cool weather again for the best experience possible, but wonderful place to take kids and especially visitors to the UAE for a taste of the desert

  9. Tarana Khan says:

    This looks like a beautiful place! Our first desert resort experience wasn’t as good, but this looks so much better.

    • Keri from Baby Globetrotters says:

      I think there are some very variable tour operators in the UAE. Best to go with those with a proven track record. We loved the accommodation here, it far exceeded our expectation, lovely, cool, clean and eloquent little touches – I far preferred this over the camping idea!!

  10. Sarah says:

    What a fun taste of Bedouin culture! It’s always such an enlightening experience to get out of the cities. I’ve always heard that UAE is rather expensive. Have you found that to be true?

    • Keri from Baby Globetrotters says:

      Thanks Sarah – no I don’t think UAE is overly expensive to live in for every day items. Its expensive for tourists relatively to other places as accommodation / hotel costs can be high, and hotels and tour operators etc are subject to extra tourist taxes – Food and alcohol therefore can cost a lot, spas etc are expensive at the luxury resorts. There are plenty of free and cheap things to do as well – make sure you check out our page if you’re planning a visit and looking for more ideas.

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