The secluded Al Maha Desert Resort &
Spa has won yet another international award for its style, design and
dedication to conservation. The Arab Cities Organisation has presented Al
Maha with the Eighth Arab Cities Award for Architecture. The prestigious Arab Cities Organisation presents its awards in three
categories once every three years in the categories of architecture,
environment and landscape. As the awards are presented only once every three
years, the competition to win them is enormous, once again highlighting the
excellence of this achievement by Al Maha.
Set up in 1967, The Arab Cities Organisation is an international,
non-governmental Kuwait City-based organisation established to raise the
standards of local authorities, municipal services, development of quality
living environments, and utilities in Arab cities. Membership is open to all
cities in the Arab world.
Mr Rashad Mohamed Bukhash, Director of General Projects for The Arab Cities
Organisation, and who heads the selection committee for entries from Dubai,
said: “We chose Al Maha from 10 Dubai rivals for this Award. We carried out
extensive studies on all the contenders, including conducting site visits,
and concluded that Al Maha meets all the architectural and artistic criteria
required under the scheme.”
Al Maha, owned and managed by Emirates, was first nominated in August 2004
to represent Dubai and had to go through a rigorous qualifying processes to
qualify for the highly sought-after award.
The resort, listed for the scheme’s architectural category, was chosen
because of its distinctive style and traditional Arabian architecture,
reflecting Dubai desert heritage, while contemporising these designs for the
need for modern comforts, technology, and of course the tranquillity
associated with this unique location.
As HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Emirates Chairman and Chairman of
Dubai Conservation Board, responsible for the creation of the Middle East’s
first national wildlife reserve, explains: “We are increasingly aware of the
urgent need to take good care of our priceless natural resources and
habitats, all the more so as Dubai is expanding so rapidly. Al Maha also
makes a major contribution to inbound tourism and is both a commercial and
“Its wildlife reserve and its management of the Dubai Desert Conservation
Reserve, protects our last unspoiled desert and unique Arabian heritage for
future generations to enjoy.”
Hans Haensel, Emirates’ Senior Vice President Destination & Leisure
Management, was thrilled that Al Maha had been recognised as being of
architectural significance by such an important organisation: “Al Maha has
always had at its core a commitment to the traditions and heritage of this
region and we feel that the design and style of the resort perfectly
Tony Williams, Emirates Vice President Resorts, explained the development of
Al Maha: “We have focussed on creating a traditional Arabian home
environment that is entirely in balance with the surroundings, while
offering guests an intimate, romantic and private experience of luxury in
the desert. All of this was developed keeping in mind that our main aim was
to ensure that there were no negative effects on this conservation area. We
are grateful to The Arab Cities Organisation for recognising these efforts.
“Since opening, Al Maha has created a resurgence of pride in traditional
architecture in Dubai, with many others now following its example. This
creates a “sense of place and history”, critical for any city in order to
maintain its identity. Where previously many traditional buildings were
being removed to make way for modern buildings in this rapidly-expanding
city, we now see many detailing their Arabian heritage in their
The award was made to Al Maha on the basis that it embraces and celebrates
the indigenous culture, the wildlife, desert habitat and the environment of
the United Arab Emirates.
The history of Islamic Architecture is minimalist in nature, however at Al
Maha what is important is how this aspect was used effectively to reflect a
building style that evolved in the region where there was a need to create
comfortable living spaces within the dry desert climate.
Al Maha represents a significant landmark in the evolution of the
architectural language in a country that is little more than 30 years old
and because it is the first concentrated effort by Dubai to address the
issue of energy conservation in the built environment.
In addition to its unique architecture, The Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa has
contributed to conservation of wildlife and traditional heritage not only
for Dubai but also for the entire Gulf region. Based on global norms and the
need to protect Dubai’s last remaining desert habitats, the Dubai Desert
Conservation Reserve covers 225 Km2 (5% of Dubai’s land area) and Al Maha is
the only resort within the desert where visitors may experience the true
tradition of the region and the wildlife of the Arabian Gulf.
It is the largest piece of land ever dedicated to a single project in Dubai
and ensures conservation of desert habitats into the future and acts as a
major attraction for both residents and visitors in the region.