Africa Middle East Arabian elegance, via Waldorf Astoria By Michelle Gross / April 20, 2017 Share 1 The Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah resort in the United Arab Emirates is a 346-room property about an hour drive from Dubai Airport. -- It was just after midnight in Dubai, and my driver, a young Emirati named Omar, just made a sharp right turn off the highway. "Shortcut," he said.We were driving north from Dubai Airport to the seaside of Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates, and all I could see out the passenger window, save for the occasional factory and camel farm, were the vast swaths of desert that surrounded us. Thirty minutes of desolate, dark desert road later, our destination, the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, came into view. Pulling into the grand porte-cochere, it soon became clear that this was not only reminiscent of the palace in my Arabian desert dreams but it was actually designed to embody the look and feel of one. Walking inside the grand foyer — a large, open atrium with sand- and sea-inspired colors and decor, a nod to the property's windswept sand dunes and the Arabian seaside — the surroundings were secondary to the 20-foot grand lobby clock. Designed to honor the regional culture, the clock's dials include the five daily prayer times and is inscribed with a traditional Bedouin poem, "From your homeland travel abroad to find glory," around its circumference.I made my way to the third floor of the 346-room property, where my one-bedroom, seaview suite was waiting. I slid my balcony door open and let the sound of waves crashing against the shoreline lull me to sleep.The next morning I put on my most modest, floor-length maxi dress and made my way down to Azure, a Mediterranean-inspired breakfast buffet, when I was immediately struck by something: A woman in a cutoff tank top and shorts was standing behind another woman in a fuchsia bathing suit and polka-dot sarong. This was not the "modest attire" I was expecting to see in the UAE. I soon learned Ras Al Khaimah, unlike its Emirate counterparts, is known for its relaxed, easygoing ways. Because of its proximity to the Hajar mountains, local hot springs, Bedouin campsites and thousands of acres of desert where off-road dune bashing and sand surfing have become popular pastimes, it's only recently that Ras Al Khaimah has firmly established itself as a premier adventure-seeker destination, with all the modern luxuries and over-the-top elegance you would expect to find in the Emirates.The Waldorf Astoria is one of several five-star hotels in the area, with nine bars, lounges and restaurants, including Marjan, a stylish Middle Eastern eatery serving up local specialties including camel and reindeer meat. It also has a spa complete with a variety of steam and herbal sauna rooms and my personal favorite amenity — a pillow service menu — not to mention heated pools, water-sports and an 18-hole golf course. This really is seaside luxury at its finest, even if you have to trek through a dark desert road to get there.Rates start at $212 a night. The drive to Ras Al Khaimah from Dubai Airport takes about an hour, and a private transport shuttle is available through the hotel for a fee. Visit http://waldorfastoria3.hilton.com/en/index.html.