The desert is one of the most relaxing environments on Earth. It’s the silence of its cool crystal-clear nights, where you can lay on the roof of a car and feel like you can touch the stars that seem to be glimmering just above. It’s no surprise that some of the most luxurious and exclusive hotels in the world are in the middle of these otherworldly landscapes.
The Al Faya Lodge and Spa is the latest–but unlike many resorts, it’s a perfect example of adaptive reuse architecture.
The hotel is situated in a building that was built in the 1960s. Originally, it was a grocery store and a clinic at the base of Mount Alvaah, a small range in the Sharjah desert in the United Arab Emirates. Built to serve the people working at the area’s now-defunct oil rigs, the building wasn’t very different from the many simple concrete boxes that exist in countless suburbs around the world.
The architectural firm Anarchitect was tasked with transforming the grocery store into a luxury hotel–which it did by leaving its concrete walls intact while completely gutting the interiors.
On the facade, the Dubai-based company made extensive use of large glass windows with steel panes that swing open to offer unobstructed views of the desert. A large saltwater pool sits inside the simple walls of the former store. Each of its five rooms are paneled in teak and weathered steel, and each has its own semiprivate patio that faces the mountain range. More importantly, each has its own skylight right above the bed, so visitors can fall asleep looking at the stars from a comfortable mattress rather than a van rooftop.
Unlike typical super-luxury hotels, the Al Faya is quite small. According to the interior design blog The Spaces, there are only five rooms available. It’s also relatively affordable; you can stay at Al Faya for about $240 right now.