Kalba, United Arab Emirates

Photo: The Sharjah Collection

The lodge is buzzing tonight. A group is in the main tent, where soft lighting, sand couches, and turquoise chairs face open, sliding-glass doors. More people are eating dinner by candlelight on the huge terrace outside. While a few couples have made their way over to the benches surrounding the sunken fire pit. You’re not part of the merriment, though. You’re off to the side and staring up at the twinkling stars.

The sky doesn’t look like this at home. It rarely looks dark, much less black. The city’s bright lights obscure the stars. Plus it’s always noisy. After people drift toward their tents, it’ll be completely silent here. The first night, the peacefulness seemed eerie. Now you’re loving every minute of it.

You had to travel far, very far, to find this serene setting. You’re in the United Arab Emirates, the small country on the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula. You’re not in Dubai or even Abu Dhabi, though. This time, you’re in Sharjah. Though it’s the third-largest emirate, Sharjah isn’t as well known and certainly isn’t as extensively explored as some of its wealthier neighbors. Especially on the east coast. Though Sharjah shares a border with Dubai, it also has unconnected land along the Gulf of Oman.

Photo: The Sharjah Collection

Kalba is a small city on the gulf. It’s known for its Portuguese fort, royal home that’s been turned into a museum, and waterfront promenade. It’s also home to Khor Kalba, a nature reserve with rare birds and the oldest mangrove forest on the peninsula. This is the area that’s being developed into an eco-resort.

Kingfisher Lodge is part of that new eco-resort. When you arrived in Kalba, a small wooden dhow sat in the harbor. It slowly moved toward a private island, where a sand buggy was waiting for you. That brought you to the Bedouin-inspired main tent. You munched on dates and brownies as you learned about the secluded desert retreat.

Mornings would be spent doing yoga on the deck, kayaking through the mangroves, biking down dusty trails, and paddleboarding in the warm sea. Freshly pressed juices would await your return. Afternoons would be reserved for desert-sand body scrubs at the spa and dips in your plunge pool. While mocktails (remember: no alcohol is served in this emirate), seafood platters, and constellations would fill the evenings. You were skeptical about the latter.

Then you were shown to your tent. Chairs, sun loungers, and umbrellas sat on the wooden deck. They faced your private pool. The tent itself was massive. It had a king-size bed, a cozy sitting area, and a loaded fridge and pantry. Double sinks and a large tub were also in the bathroom. This is glamping at its best. You just had to wait for the stars to appear. It didn’t take long.

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