It took me, a city dweller hailing from London 4,272 miles away from Saudi Araba, a while to acclimatise to the otherworldly terrain of the Habitas resort and its Beduin-like vibe – ephemeral even.
I had arrived at a luxury, high-end wellness resort in a place in a UNESCO site, where ancient civilizations were built and lost, where sandstone rocks stand tall throwing shifting shadows onto the beige-hued earth in tune with the perpetual sun. Yet there it was – all glowing and sundrenched in the Ashwar valley, in a box canyon in the Medina region of Saudi Arabia.
And there we were dressed in our own Western garb in a liberal environment much welcoming of tourists beyond Arabia.
We arrived at a lounge area with a 24-hour front desk, but it was an alfresco check-in on comfy seats where we were served tea and enjoyed a ritual ceremony of burning acacia seeds to cleanse the air. All the while luggage was liberated and taken to our villas.
To get around there’s a choice of calling one of the on-hand electric carts or using the e-bike parked just outside the villa. As the land undulates, it was exciting to have the desert wind in my hair as I negotiated the bends and inclines of the resort passing along winding paths and some open-air art installations.
The curious traveller looking for modern luxury surrounded by thousands of years of archaeological history.
Habitas comprises a clutch of 96 conscientiously built low-rise villas created in natural tones to blend with the surrounding yellow-orange sand oasis. Well-tended pathways lead to each villa and there’s plenty of space between them that a calming silence pervades, especially at night.
Villas are have air-conditioning and offer scenic canyon views, private outdoor lounge decks, king-sized beds, indoor and outdoor showers and coffee-making facilities.
Mine, number 76, was spacious inside with a terrace and seating outside where I could enjoy a cuppa. When I left the curtains and doors open I would awaken to a sunny day and those lovely desert views.
Electric carts are on hand to transport you between your villa, the lounge and the restaurant. Or use the bike parked by the front door.
Food and Drink
The restaurant, just beyond the pool, serves a fabulous feast of Mediterranean and Eastern mix of dishes. Breakfast is plentiful with lots of cooked dishes available. I really enjoyed the Shakshuka.
Facilities revolve mainly around wellness. Habitas has a glorious infinity pool right by the restaurant and at least once I went for a pre-breakfast swim.
There are various body treatments and several wellness experiences such as sound healing, star gazing and meditation and a particularly handsome yoga deck. A menu is put out every day for the activities available that day or evening.
There are also some trampolines for those with excess energy to shake off.
Wi-fi is freely available.
Price for a villa for 1 night for two including breakfast: £628.00. CHECK AVAILABILITY
In the heart of the Ashwar valley, where thousands of years of history are written into the rock and the sand. This is a place where an excursion is to visit an impressive set of tombs or to see the aeons’ old inscriptions carved in the rocks and areas where archaeologists have unearthed and are still unearthing ancient histories. An absolute must-see is Jabal AlFil, aka Elephant Rock and the Maraya concert hall – made of mirrors and from afar is hard to see as it reflects its surroundings.
For more information read: Saudi Arabia is open for tourism, but what can you expect?