Vast, hot, and dry- the desert covers more than one fifth of Earth’s land.  One does not enter this sea of sand casually.  There is no strolling or ambling along. When meeting the desert, come prepared; pack a canteen, a compass, something to keep you warm at night.  You could be wandering for a while. The palaces of ones wildest mirages have materialized on the dunes of the largest deserts in the world, providing travelers dreamlike getaways. The following is a round up of NOMAD's top oasis destinations.
A prestigious girls school for the Vanderbilt, Pillsbury, and Westinghouse families, the Hacienda Del Sol of Tucson, Arizona was transformed into a guest ranch in 1948.  The resort became inhabited by a different celebrity presence- that of secret romance. It’s Casita Grande was a favorite hideaway for off-screen lovers Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn.  The resort lies on 34 acres with botanical gardens beautifully enveloping thirty private casitas and guest rooms.
Located in Canyon Point of Southern Utah, Amangiri (‘peaceful mountain’) sprawls over six hundred acres of sand and rock formations, near the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  Appearing to be almost carved out of the natural stone landscape, its robust walls resemble an ancient settlement.  However, Amangiri does not fall short of modern day luxury, with a 25,000 square foot spa in the desert. Discover peaceful solitude amongst the mystic geometric planes.
Like a dreamy mirage, Abu Dhabi’s Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort offers a retreat in the Empty Quarter of the Liwa Desert, a 250,000 square mile sea of sand.  Visit from October through March, when it’s 60 to 90 degrees, as summer temperatures are scorching.  Find refuge from the desert heat in the free-form pool, adjoined with steam rooms and a hammam. Remedy dry skin with a floral footbath or indulge in a green tea scrub at the spa.  Activities can include tennis, mountain bike rides, sunrise yoga, and archery.
The fourth tallest hotel in the world, the Burj Al Arab appears as creamy linens billowing over the Persian Gulf- the modern building softened by the sail-like shape it invokes.  The hotel calls itself the “World’s Most Luxurious Hotel,” boasting a private beach club, four swimming pools, a restaurant with floor-to-ceiling aquarium, a fleet of white Rolls Royces, Mercedes, and helicopters (airport pick up anyone?), and 202 enormous duplex suites equipped with king-size beds and elegant furnishings.
In the heart of the Negev Desert in Israel, the Beresheet Hotel (“Genesis in Hebrew) is a collection of forty one- and two-story buildings on 12 acres of honey-colored sand.  Most rooms face the 24-mile long Ramon Crater. Explore the crater in an open jeep, peruse the ruins of ancient Nabataen city of Avdat, and relax at a nearby winery-  the bold reds cultivated from the desert soil. Swim the hotels infinity pool at dusk, enveloped by a holy mosaic of stars in the vast sky.
The stone and glass structure of the Four Seasons Hotel Amman in Jordan perches on a hilltop between the quiet residential area of Al Sweifiyah and the bustling Shmeisani financial district.  Each guest room provides a panoramic view of the city. A visit to the Dead Sea, only an hour away, is a must.  Book a signature Sea Salt Body Scrub at the spa.
In Luxor, Egypt, feel captured by the assertive essence of Al Moudira, meaning “boss lady” in Arabic.  The leading lady of this desert story is Zeina Aboukheir, a Lebanese-born jewelry designer, who has designed the palace to showcase her collection of salvaged doors, windows, and wooden screens- found in Egypt and Syria.  
European chic ties with Moroccan style in Marrakesh. The Murano Resort shares design elements with its sister property in Paris, but implements the warmth of Moroccan culture with four riads, a plunge pool, domed fireplaces, and hints of habanero red.  The bar hosts plasma screens and a local DJ recreating a night in the Marais.  For a private Moroccan stay, the Riad Joya is an elegant, traditional home adjacent to Djemaa el Fna Square.  

For desert Glampers, Hud Hud Travels’ provides a luxury camping experience along the coast of Oman. With a package starting at $1,000 a person for a minimum two-night stay, you can enjoy a proper desert safari, driving through dipping dunes and rugged mountains and taking a nightcap under the roof of a swollen white tent surrounded by endless sand. 
No time for the desert venture?  Substitute a bike ride for a camel.  Pair handmade, leather sandals with billowy, linen pants for open air summer cocktails.  Savor a bowl of Harira at a Moroccan café.  Create your own luxury camp by piling pillows and lighting perfumed candles on the rooftop of your city apartment or in an open patch of grass near your home.  Pinpoint the reddish star of Mars, the only planet in the solar system with a sandy complexion—dunes in the form of half-moons. 

An excursion through the desert is an apt metaphor for a certain type of travel. Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist- a primer for introspection- places the desert as the setting of self-discovery. It takes bravery (and maybe a little bravado) to attempt to navigate so foreign a landscape. An oasis appears amongst the endless dunes. It could be a treasure in the form of a person or place, only reached and appreciated after a trying journey. Linger in this paradise, drinking it in. The exotic allure of an extreme, foreign destination can quickly turn to discomfort. A moment of discovery and exhilaration moves, the mirage disappears and soul-searching begins. One leaves this place a little altered and certainly stronger than upon arrival. Perspective gained is a worthwhile reward.

~Susan Brickell