Having lived in Dubai for the past 25 years I have been to my fair share of desert camps but nothing prepared me or impressed me quiet like the newly opened Sonara Camp.
Sonara Camp is an exclusive dining experience in the desert approx. 35 mins from Dubai, located in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.
Arriving guests at the Conservation Reserve gate can either leave their cars in the car park and choose to arrive at the Sonara Camp via a Land Cruiser dune drive, which takes 10 minutes, or a 20-minute camel ride (AED 100 per person)
When we arrived at the camp we were greeted at the lounge area with a welcome drink and I immediately noticed the subtle differences: size of the camp being so spread out with a very chic & modern design with a large round wooden bar in the middle of the set up; chilled background music created a very elegant vibe - think of a Nammos style play list in the beautiful desert setting; the laid back lounge style seating to bamboo pods and hammock areas all offered the perfect view to watch the sunset.
Activities such as archery, camel rides, sand boarding, football and falconry are on offer during daylight. Once the sun sets guests can enjoy an astronomy talk, fire performances and a cinema experience.
The sand boards are set out on top of the dune sliding down the dune into the dining area. You can either climb the dune back to the top or enjoy the simply way – by taking the wooden lantern lit staircase. With so much to do the children didn’t stop for a second. They totally loved sand boarding and even though they had never tried it before, they had no fear and just went for it.
The staff were ever so friendly and extremely attentive, helping the kids with the sand boards and the archery while a very well informed and eloquent gentleman educated us about the falcons with a small show on how the falcon eats its food.
If you’re like me and quite particular about a good loo, well Sonara have taken care of that. There are many washrooms available, from the outside they look like beach huts and once inside these large cubicles included a beautiful washbasin, mirrors and even a bench – it’s the little things that go along way.
At the bottom of the sand dune or the wooden steps is the dining area; this is where the magic happens once the sun goes down. All the tables are laid out around the large triangle fire setting with an open air kitchen, a bar and a cinema room on the boundary.
As this is a luxury dining experience, even the table settings are beautifully set for dinner. During dinner there’s a fire show and once you have finished your meal you can retire to the laid back seating area around a fire to roast marshmallows.
Sonara offers a stunning well thought out East meets West fusion and French cuisine menu which is carefully and passionately created by French Chef Franck Sanna who can be seen busily preparing everything in the open air kitchen. Chef Sanna has intelligently designed an innovative sharing concept for meat lovers, vegans and people with allergies.
This was our menu:
Handpick organic crudités
Creamy guacamole with tortilla chips (vegan and gluten free)
Beef tacos marinated in dak bulgogi (gluten free)
Corn fed chicken sharwarma in a cone (dairy free)
Fusion style fattoush – nicoise salad
Wild caught hammour on the grill with citrus virgo dressing (diary free)
Shrimp & leek ravioli with coconut bisque sauce (diary free)
Grass fed Angus beef oyster blade steak served with arugala chimichurri and black pepper corn sauce
Lamb chops marinated with kaffir, sweet spices and mint
Nara’s home made roasted organic potatoes
Sonara lemon & mint pie (diary free)
Cocoa ganache served with avocado emulsion & cumin chocolate tuile
Chiboust cream with strawberry ginger juice in an apple puff
Kids enjoyed wagyu burgers, pizza, corn on the cob and for dessert they had nutella pizza and marshmallows roasted on the fire.
Just like any fine dining experience, Chef Sanna came to chat to his guests about the menu and our feedback. We were all in agreement that this was one of the nicest meals we have had in a while. It just shows how amazing Chef Sanna is that he can create and serve such a wonderful fine dining experience in the middle of the desert. The food was a true highlight of the night and foodies everywhere should venture down to Sonara just for the gastronomical delights if nothing else.
We had initially arrived at 4pm and it was now 9pm so the children were getting tried, not surprising after all the running up and down the dunes.. We had requested a car to take us back to the gate which was on hand waiting for us otherwise you can stay and enjoy drinks and shisha until the camp closes at 10.30pm.
If you think the price tag for this experience is steep, that’s because you haven’t witnessed the experience for yourself. I can guarantee that the entire set up, service, quality of food was second to none. Plus the camp is eco-friendly and sustainable with a core belief in sourcing ethical products and materials while using solar energy and having a zero waste policy. With all this im I’m very happy to give Sonara Camp the Unique Family Travels stamp of approval .
Also if you want to experience an over night stay Nara’s private camp has 10 tents (2 styles) all providing the highest level in comfort while respecting the environment. We haven’t tried this yet but it sounds like my idea of glamping!
Price Per Person:
Adults AED 860
Children (5 – 12 years) AED 380
Toddlers (below 5 years) Complimentary
Getting to Dubai Desert Conservation Gate from Downtown Dubai drive east on the E66 Dubai Al Ain Road.
Watch our video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liGEfObTkXs
For more information visit www.nara.ae