Sharjah, UAE – Amidst the sight of an endless stretch of undulating golden sand dunes - their curved tops litby the sun and contrasted by little tufts of green, rises a desert retreat quite like no other. Nestled in the archaeological site of Mleiha desert, near the Fossil Rock, it is hard to say where nature ends and the chic, minimalist structure of Al FayaRetreat begins.
It is in this centuries-old natural landscape, framed by spectacular mountain ranges of immense geological significance,that Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) sought to create an exclusive local experience, repurposing with robust, sustainable materials what remained of a stone structureoriginally constructed during the 1960’s.
Originally comprising oftwostone buildings, one of which was a medical centre and the second a store near one of the oldest fueling stations in the Mleiha region, which served as a focal access point for commuter spassing through from the neighbouring emirates.
Developed under the Sharjah Collection brand, and operated and managed by Mysk by Shaza, Shurooq reinforced its emphasis on site-responsive criteria to govern the design, architectural interventions and choice of materials in construction when re-imagining the existing structure. Sustainability, thus, emerged as an integral element in reimagining this decades-old structure,which Shurooq masterfully transformed into an elegant contemporary boutique luxury retreat.
The intense and prolonged sun exposure and temperature fluctuations of the desert necessitated the use of special construction materials equipped to provide heavy thermal mass. Attention to detail marked every aspect of the retreat’s design and construction process as the choice of materials was dictated not merely by the arid climate, but also referenced the iron-rich mountains that surround it.
The earthy colour combination of natural stone, sandy-brown concrete and Corten steel allows the eco-retreat to blend discreetly into its scenic environs. To enhance the nature-inspired setting, skylights in the rooms enable guests to soak in the splendours of the desert sky at night.
Al FayaRetreat accommodates various areas with different space functions.In the first building are fiverooms, along with a library, dining room and reception hall. An additional building houses a spa consisting of herbal and Himalayan salt rooms and an outdoor saltwater pool. Across the road is a café featuring locally sourced products.
Use of glass water bottles, tree planting initiatives, and a host of recycling practices further elevates the environmentally friendly policies in place at Al Faya Retreat.
Perfectly blending history, culture, heritage, leisure and luxury, this oasis of relaxation is an ideal abode for those looking to escape the intensity of urban living or wishing to set off on rugged adventures in a desert setting.
The Kingfisher Retreat is another jewel in The Sharjah Collection by ‘Mysk’, which opens the gateway to a unique world of conservation. This boutique nature retreat in one of the UAE’s most diverse ecosystems, Kalba – a verdant mangrove forest recognized as a globally important wetland by the Ramsar Convention, champions the environment through its many admirable green credentials.
Its20 exceptionally designed luxurious tents are set up approximately 30 meters away from the shoreline to avoid deep dewatering and raised from the ground by almost 1 meter to preserve the flora and fauna. Three layers of insulated roof minimizes heatinside the tent while low lightingoptions are mindful of the sensitive wildlife.
A sea turtle rehabilitation center will soon open here, and in a tie up with the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) in Sharjah, Shurooq will create education centers to foster greater environmental awareness amongst guests and visitors about ongoing efforts to preserve this crucial habitat.
In addition, it has further improved visitor experiences with a host of sustainable initiatives to minimise its impact on thefragile ecosystem. Kingfisher Retreat is a car-free zone and bases its waste management plans on the principles of reduce, reuse, and recycling. An organic garden, bird water pond, turtle meeting point, nature walks, and beach cleaning activities are other eco highlights here.
Completing the Sharjah Collection by Mysk is Al Badayer Retreat, thefirst-of-its-kind luxury retreatin the heart of the tranquil Al Badayer desert in Sharjah’s central region, inspired by authentic Emirati desert living experiences. A scenic resort offering a fully integrated hospitality experience, it provides guests a new meaning to “desert-camping” and dune experiences through 21 fullyserviced rooms, 10 luxurious tents, traditional mix of delicacies and thrilling desert leisure activities.
Al Badayer’s sustainability ethos areevident from its recycling and desert cleaning practices, chemical-free private pools, use of locally sourced ingredients at its restaurant and glass water bottles throughout the facility.
The Chedi Al Bait, Sharjah
If it was Sharjah’snatural wonders and archaeological treasures that inspired Shurooq to push the sustainability envelope with Sharjah Collection, it was to a vibrant heritage and arts district–rightin the heart of the emirate that Shurooq turned its focus onto take its sustainability agenda one step further.
With its alleyways, Majlises, and masterfullyrevitalisedsouqs and traditional homes,Heart of Sharjahis one ofUAE’s historical preservation and restoration projects led by Shurooq.
The latest addition to this historical revitalisationproject is The Chedi Al Bait, Sharjah, the emirate’s first
5-star luxury and heritage hotel developed by Shurooq and managed by GHM. Named as the UAE’s most luxurious hotel 2019, The Chedi Al Bait, Sharjah,which translates to ‘the home’, celebrates local aesthetics and heritage. Here, traditional Arabian ambience easily intermingles with modern luxury.
Home to 53 luxury rooms and suites, The Chedi Al Bait,Sharjah, is built upon theoriginal foundations of old 19thcentury coral stonehouses, historical pathways to souqsand facilities, and the only round windtower in the UAE dating 100 years old called Barjeel. The house was once belonged to Sharjah’sAl Midfa family, which had an influential role in the area back in the day. The hotel room interiorsmirror traditional Emirati architectural design and principles, and feature Arabic-style floor sofas, hand-carved wood furniture and decorative brass flourishes.
The commitment to sustainability does not end with a tribute to the vernacular architecture of the region alone; instead, it is ingrained in the ethical practices that the hotel complies with in its daily operations. The Chedi Al Bait, Sharjah embraces sustainable alternatives such as steel straws, glass bottles, biodegradable garbage bags, and metal room keys to eliminate the use of plastic. Its portable water filtration plant produces both still and sparkling drinking water.
Apart from recycling all its glass, cardboard, and kitchen oil as part of a zero-waste policy, the hotel also transforms all organic and non-organic food waste into high quality compost. Motion sensors for lighting helps avoid unnecessary use of energy and optimises air-conditioning depending on occupancy.There is even an electric car charging station both for in-house guests and other visitors. This eco-friendly guest service is also offered in all Sharjah Collection destinations.
With The Chedi Al Bait, Sharjah, Shurooq upholds both the magnificence of Emirati hospitality and heritage without any compromises on its environmentally conscious journey.