(CNN) — There is not much on Qatar’s border with Saudi Arabia. A few sunny outposts and miles of vast, empty desert all around.
Then, earlier this year, something very different appeared in its midst: a huge, gleaming luxury hotel complex, complete with its own theme park.
Hilton Silva Beach Resort and Villas is clearly no ordinary hotel.
Seen from the air, it resembles an entire coastal city. Off the main harbor are pristine twin beaches. On the sand, there are gleaming white villas and buildings around blue swimming pools. Behind them the greenery of the oasis. It is one of the largest resorts in the Middle East.
So what happens, when a huge upscale hotel appears miles out of nowhere just as a pandemic freezes world travel?
According to the resort’s general manager, Etienne Charles Gillies, it gets really busy. He says it became a haven for locals when it opened its doors in February. More recently it has been a popular destination for tourists and business travelers from the wider region.
There is plenty of space. Hilton Silva Beach has 84 villas, ranging from two to four bedrooms, with private pools and direct access to the white-sand beach (prices from US$1,500 a night). There are 31 Arabic village-style apartments and villas, while the main hotel has 246 rooms and suites.
The sprawling grounds also include more than 20 food and beverage outlets, including seven fine dining options, a high-end spa with VIP suites, sports courts, a swimming pool surrounded by landscaped gardens, corporate facilities. and includes a marina.
On top of that, there’s Qatar’s largest theme park, with dozens of attractions, including “King Cobra,” a thrilling twin-tube ride that takes riders into the mouth of a snake-like structure. goes
Health and safety
The luxurious complex is built on 320 hectares of sandy land approximately 100 km southwest of Doha, strategically located to welcome visitors from both Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Construction began in 2015 and the final phase before the inauguration focused on adapting it to better health and safety measures in line with Qatar’s traffic laws and hygiene protocols.
“Due to the impact of COVID-19, we had to accelerate requirements to open the resort and identify new unique selling points, which were focused on the accommodations,” Gillies told CNN.
This was good news for 21-year-old Doha resident Sama Jamali and her friends. “Since it was unsafe and difficult to travel, we decided to stay at a resort,” he told CNN. “The room was beautiful and very spacious and comfortable — with modern technology and very Covid-19 safe and clean.”
The introduction of travel guidelines and restrictions led to the adoption of a phased opening approach, with several outlets and facilities such as a diving center and a state-of-the-art sports academy expected to become operational in the coming months, Gillies said. .
“We are a new resort and more than just rooms. We have villas and a water park which makes our structure quite unique,” Gillies said.
Along with efforts to integrate new contactless technology, Gillies identified logistics and staffing as key considerations. “On peak days, we welcome 2,500 guests at the resort, including around 1,200 team members,” he said.
Action and adrenaline
Guests can choose from a long list of recreational activities while strolling or strolling along the resort’s 3.5 km beach on the cotton-soft sands.
At its heart is the Desert Falls Water and Adventure Park.
The adrenaline-fueled attraction includes several children’s pools and water playgrounds, as well as about 30 rides and slides, including a whirling rapids ride at its starting point — at the top of the park’s 32-meter cliff. — offers beautiful views. The entire resort.
Here, Matt Racing guests can zoom down tubes — head-to-head and side-by-side — in a high-speed splashdown, or try out a surf simulator.
The park is billed as the first man-made canyoning structure in the Middle East. There’s an outdoor go-kart racetrack — fully equipped with stands for spectators — and an indoor laser tag course.
Inevitably, given its size, the hotel has many dining options, including Middle Eastern, Italian and Chinese cuisine.
Levantine offers signature Arabic dishes with a twist, including The Qatinah, a delicious mocktail made with botanical spice syrup, a citrus kaleidoscope and 24-karat gold flakes. Main course and dessert highlights include sizzling kebabs with madkhan (smoked hummus, roasted garlic puree) followed by nafa nabilsiya (pistachio cream).
Golden drinks and foosball
At Miss Wong, the sound of a gong ushers guests into a private Chinese dining experience that begins with an elaborate tea ceremony. Recommendations include chicken and vegetable soup (enoki mushroom, dried shiitake mushroom, vegetables, chicken and turmeric wonton), various dumpling options and crispy Peking duck. A refreshing Orange Sunset Mocktail (Fresh Orange/Fresh Watermelon/Fresh Lemon/Grenadine Syrup/Oolong Tea/Egg White) is featured on the drinks menu.
The resort’s Dante Cucina Italiana restaurant serves Tuscan wines and pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven. Another, The League, is a sports and entertainment bar where guests can watch soccer matches and play games of pool and foosball. Cocktail pitches and buckets of beer are available here, as well as a gastropub menu with a selection of burgers, steaks and smoked ribs.
Of course, there is no shortage of luxury resort options in Qatar, especially as the country prepares to welcome visitors for the soccer World Cup finals in late 2022.
An already busy lineup includes W Doha, Mandarin Doha, Ritz-Carlton’s Sharq Village and Spa, plus Antara’s offshore Banana Island Resort, all of which are more convenient to the city center and airport.
So is a trip to the desert worth it?
Jamali, who is already looking forward to another stay, said, “We enjoyed the choice of restaurants, especially the continental buffet. High quality food with excellent presentation.”
“It was a wonderful experience and there was never a dull moment due to the entertainment and variety of activities available.