Bab Al Shams – reimagined as a A Rare Finds resort

With a design by LW Design, Nakheel and Kerzner International launched its first property, Bab Al Shams, A Luxury Desert Resort & Spa, under its new brand, ‘Rare Finds’…

wood and stone colours in dramatic pillared hotel entrance at Bab Al shams

LW Design was commissioned to reinvent Bab Al Shams, a landmark destination, into a contemporary and glamorous desert resort and significantly, the first property in the Rare Finds portfolio . The brief was to create a refined yet extravagant leisure and entertainment venue to attract local and international travellers with a cost and time-conscious approach. The eclectic and contemporary Arabic theme creatively maintains much of its original heritage, allowing a re-launch with ultimate style and offering cultured desert experiences under the new brand.

hotel lobby at Bal El Shams with traditional design elements and backlit art behind the desk

Image credit: Natelee Cocks

The overall fabric of the design is a seamless blend of the confluence between contemporary Arabic elements and sustainable heritage. Early during the concept phase, the design team paid special attention and made efforts to preserve and re-purpose key furniture pieces, iconic artwork and accessories into the new design, adding to the resort’s overall sustainable value and heritage.

As visitors enter ‘the gateway to the sun’ through oversized doors, the grand driveway, landscaped by Square M, has lush palms and water features and well-preserved decade-old foliage that instantly transports guests into a forgotten world. The restrained palette of materials marries the barasti-style canopies, adobe walls and columns with the existing vernacular-inspired architecture. The new porte cochere provides a threshold with dappled shade providing an engaging guest arrival experience.

the back wall of the bar designed to look like a vintage travel trunk

Image credit: Natelee Cocks

A curious journey uncovers corners of mystery and intrigue, eventually leading to the main lobby bar. A grand traveller’s chest inspired the design of the back bar. The eye-catching piece of furniture is the perfect balance of heritage and glamour. Vividly lit, a collection of the finest bottles, intricate herb drawers and hand-cut crystal glasses add a playful layer to the design. The ornate counter, detailed with metal studs, walnut wood and mocha cream marble, is designed as an apothecary table. Mixologists interact with guests while they create unique infusions inspired by much-loved Arabic tea and coffee traditions.

focussed and filtered lighting in the bar and seating area of hotel by LW Designs

Image credit: Natelee Cocks

LW Design retained the skylight in the lobby bar as one of the key features of the original design. Daylight softly filters through the intricately patterned architectural elements casting shadows and creating a magical atmosphere blending nostalgia with romance. Once the sun sets, supple decorative lighting creates an intimate ambience. The lighting designer Studio Lumen carefully considered soft hues throughout the resort to ensure a subtle and restrained approach to the lighting design.

bed in guestroom with adobe style wall finish and small windows above bed for focussed natural light

Image credit: Natelee Cocks

The design team also retained the novel concrete flooring integrating indoor and outdoor spaces. The indoor flooring has been re-finished with durable micro-concrete. The solid teak doors were stripped and stained to a more authentic natural timber tone, balancing the soft bastakiya colour palette synonymous with Bab Al Shams. Challenged by the original small windows and doors, the rooms have limited daylight, so a lighter colour palette and mirrors reflect light where possible. Studio Lumen paid extra attention to the lighting within the guestrooms to ensure a brighter and more spacious guestroom experience.

A large shower, beautifully clad in marble mosaic, translates into a modern interpretation of Arabic patterns adding an authentic backdrop to the washroom. A stunning hand-carved vanity inset with mother-of-pearl inlay elevates the design to true luxury. A unique valet stand displaying the amenities adds a sense of extravagance to the limited space, with hand-picked items displayed on different tiers.

The five signature suites are a true ode to Arabian glamour. A rich colour palette of burgundy and teal immediately lifts the design. The living area is a luxurious depiction of a bygone decadent time with beautiful handcrafted furniture pieces detailed with rope and tassels. Sliding metal-studded doors reveal the bedroom, a floor-to-ceiling cabinet-style mini bar with an internal pop of colour, a walk-in wardrobe, a double vanity and a free-standing bathtub.

central courtyard with arabic style architecture , desert colours and palm trees

Image credit: Natelee Cocks

Al Hadeerah, the iconic Arabic heritage restaurant, also underwent a complete refurbishment, creating a dining experience full of Arabic glamour and theatre. Anwa, the rooftop restaurant, has been fully refurbished with an Asian concept. Fashioned around modern-day Asian cuisine, the small indoor space has woks and cold counters on display while the exterior is still in keeping with the original architecture of Bab Al Shams. A new central bar has been erected at the centre of the terrace to create a focal point around the seating under the barasti roofs with modern Asian FF&E. The outdoors maintains its original charm of subtle coves and seating, affording the best desert sunset views.

view through archway to restaurant overlooking palm trees

Image credit: Natelee Cocks

Art consultants, Capsule Arts, worked in parallel with LW Design to create a unified curated art collection to elevate the original hotel’s existing items whilst bringing new pieces to complement the contemporary design. The team re-purposed the existing collection and stylishly presented them to juxtapose seamlessly with the new additions sourced from local artists and artisans who offered a refined, feminine and unique perspective to the resort.

An exceptional original artwork is hanging behind the reception desk in the hotel lobby. The stunning textile art by Iranian artist Mahsa Baraghani was inspired by Bedouin jewellery and headdresses worn by Emirati women. The artist carefully selected a beautiful representation of traditional Emirati culture to enhance the story of the lost princess, which is woven throughout the project. Its careful placement ensures that it is one of the first pieces guests see upon arrival to Bab Al Shams, setting the tone for the rest of the resort’s art collection. In the same area, another textile artwork by Loretta Bilinskaite-Monie is a minimalist contemporary interpretation of an embroidered Bisht, a traditional cloak worn in the UAE.

blue tiled wall with mosaic inspired artwork behind dining table

Image credit: Natelee Cocks

Visitors will find works by Emirati photographer Mohammed Ahli presenting striking views of the Arabian desert throughout the resort, together with contemporary plasterwork on linen canvases inspired by the hotel’s architecture by Melissa Charlier. Each piece of art, from handcrafted items and framed objects to textile artworks and contemporary photography, was carefully selected to contribute to the hotel’s overall aesthetic.

“This approach is a prime example of how hotels can refurbish sustainably and stylishly,” commented Rachael Brown, Co-founder and Creative Director of Capsule Arts. “By re-purposing existing items and elevating them with expert curation, the hotel retained its authentic charm and legacy while embracing contemporary design elements.”

evening in central courtyard with palm trees on either side of arabic style pool with lighting and fountain

Image credit: Natelee Cocks

A stark contrast from the exterior, which maintains its original bastakiya appeal, the interior boasts a kaleidoscope of colour, texture and pattern defining the glamour of modern Arabia. Each space has a carefully curated selection of vibrant fabrics and accent finishes that balance with the fresh and neutral palette of the architecture. Sustainably re-used and upcycled existing FF&E, art and accessories are used throughout Bab Al Shams, providing a consistent theme throughout the resort.

Main image credit: Natelee Cocks