A lot has happened since my first trip to Doha. Both personally and…Qatar-ily. In the three years that followed the country has pushed full steam ahead to build all things World Cup 2022, fallen into an unexpected diplomatic crisis (severing ties with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain), and developed faster than any country I’ve visited in my lifetime.

The skyline is no longer a skyline. What was once a handful of aspirant skyscrapers has become a pop-up book of investment, expansion and pride.

One which now harbours much more than you’d expect from the eminent stopover destination…

(All outfit details at the end of the post!)
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As suggested in the desert safari travel blog, the personal intrigue of a trip to Ras al Khaimah churned in the thrill of undiscovered territory.

If anything, the Emirate is renowned for both its proximity to Dubai and its luxury resorts. Neither are qualities I rate with personal importance.

Somehow still, Ras al Kaimah charmed me.

Having spent a few frenzied months in climates that will shiver anyone’s timbers, exiting my final night flight to a warm breeze and a one-terminal airport took a weight off my shoulders I didn’t l realise I was buried under.

As a culture junkie, I would never have built an itinerary around it, yet spent the majority of the following three days swapping between robe and bikini around the grounds of the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa: Marjan Island.

Not even the bolshiest traveller can refuse paradise when it’s on their doorstep.

From the warm cookie on arrival to the caring send-off from our genuinely lovely airport transfer driver, DoubleTree ticked every available box.

The resort, in fact, felt like an expansive microcosm of the unusual city around it.

An accidental ghost town with soft flashes of Arabian influence amidst white sandy beaches and long stretches of motorway, Ras al Khaimah proved to be very untouched, indeed. Consistent with the rest of the UAE, the culture revolves around the religion of Islam and Arabian architecture, influence, and – most enjoyably – food.

From September to March, Ras al Kaimah is an idyllic host for the traveller in search or R ‘n’ R (less so in the Summer months, where record highs of up to 118 degrees Fahrenheit sus​t​ain the Emirate’s farming infertility).

Personally, Ras al Khaimah made me feel incredibly thankful. As much for the translucent azure waters as the death-defying desert dunes. The adjacency and availability of such conflicting experiences – almost around the corner from each other – is an unusual gift.

With Qatar Airways launching direct flights from Doha to the city, Ras al Khaimah is a Londoner’s long weekend hotspot I never imagined I would so joyfully recommend.

What I Wore:
St Thomas ring bandeau bikini – Heidi Klein (similar here)
Silk kaftan – Jage Jagger (similar here)

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desert safari ras al kaimah
Never heard of Ras al Khaimah? Don’t worry. Neither had I.

As travel blogger luck would have it, I found myself invited to spend the weekend in the UAE’s most Northern Emirate and couldn’t turn down the opportunity to explore a land uncharted by anyone I knew.

With all three days offering up something a little different (you’ll get the full run-down in tomorrow’s blog), the irrefutable highlight was an afternoon and evening spent in the desert.

Over five hours, my travel companion and I Carmen Sandiego-ed our way through a desert safari like no other. Starting with short trips to feed our hump-backed friends at camel farms, we entered the desert and paused to let the air out of our tyres (a safety must) before buckling every possible part of our bodies into the Land Rover and undertaking numerous madcap leaps over skyscraper-height sand dunes.

Adrenaline well and truly pumping, we took a moment to collect ourselves at the highest point in the desert and let our heartbeats recline as the sand danced around us and rippled the floor beneath our toes.

Neither words nor photos can describe the halcyon that lives at the top of a desert.

Having regained composure, we then set off for a remote desert camp to watch the sun set, get twinning henna tattoos (natch), help the locals make sand bottles for tourism, and enjoy an enormous Arabian-Indian hybrid barbecue alongside belly dancing and the most impressive fire dancing I could ever fathom.

With the option of shisha available as a night cap (not all that boat-floating for the both of us), we chose to chat with the camp owner’s very lovely sister before hopping back into the trusted ‘Rover with warm bellies and even warmer hearts.

A photo posted by Lela London (@lelalondon) on


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In a major world first, Giorgio Armani hosted their first fashion show in an airport and I was, naturally, all over the fashion-meets-travel collaboration. In partnership with Qatar Duty Free (QDF) and Hamad International Airport (HIA), Armani showcased their Autumn/Winter 2015/16 collection utilising their own duty-free boutique as the runway.

Breaking the all-too-annoying barrier between brand and consumer, Giorgio Armani chose to fly their Milanese stylists and make-up artists in to offer passengers a personalised shopping experience, make-overs, styling tips and advice that extended well into the brand’s stunning make-up collection.

After creating my inevitable wishlist of handbags and outerwear, we wrapped the day with a feast at Parisa in Sharq Village and Spa (a final dinner of dreams) before taking a walk through the village’s beach, spa, and incredibly romantic gardens.

If I wasn’t in love with Doha already…

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A photo posted by Lela London (@lelalondon) on

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With the best flight of my life as my sole frame of reference for Qatar, I showered the night flight away, changed into an ensemble more appropriate for 50-degree humidity, and set straight out for a day of exploration in Doha.

The loose itinerary was one of 24-hour perfection: a stop at The Pearl’s development centre for an immersive walk across to the Porto Arabia boardwalk, a meander through the maze of Souq Waqif’s alleyways for an authentic Arabic lunch, a trip to the stunning Museum of Islamic Art, a short drive back to the souq to see how it transforms in the evening, and – finally – dinner at the incredible Al Sufra in the Kempinski Marsa Malaz Hotel (Arabic foodie side note: more is more).

As the economic centre and capital of the richest country in the world, part of me felt I would find it difficult to take to Doha and its apparent hyper-affluence. I was mistaken. Over the full day of exploration, I fell in love with the city, citizens and a culture that has somehow endured in authenticity regardless of Western influence (unlike Dubai).

Almost no stretch of land from its four million square metre artificial island to the souq’s spice-scented falcon shops is untouched by construction and, rather than being material for Holidays From Hell, it is all surprisingly inspiring. The city purrs with anticipation over their turn as hosts of the FIFA World Cup 2022 (they will be the first Arab country to do so), almost overflowing with opportunity and excitement.

I cannot wait to return over the next seven years to see how the city develops.

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