Location: Ritz-Carlton Al Bustan Palace

From traditional Bedouin dinners in the desert to the soaring heights of the world’s tallest building, the desert kingdoms of Oman and the United Arab Emirates offer a wedding destination rich in contrasts and unexpected pleasures.

Ancient forts and fragrant, frenetic markets known as “souks” abound in Oman, where a beach wedding at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, the Ritz-Carlton Al Bustan Palace, or the Chedi Muscat can be combined with 4x4 Jeep safaris, day trips to the forts of Nizwa, or shopping trips to the Mutrah or Nizwa souks.

Location: Burj Al Arab

Dubai and Abu Dhabi put a modern face on the UAE, an ancient land of wide deserts and Bedouin villages, the wadis and peaks of the Hajad Mountains, and beaches strung along the Persian Gulf. A dhow ride along the Dubai Creek is a must-do for wedding parties gathered to celebrate in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa, which has the highest observation deck in the world and offers a completely different perspective on the city and the surrounding desert and sea. Abu Dhabi’s major landmark is the massive Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and wedding couples will find relaxed gathering spots at the city’s waterfront Corniche, the beaches of Yas Island, or the Liwa Oasis to the south.

And when it comes to the big day, couples will thrill to an unmatched selection of luxury resorts to host their wedding ceremony and reception, from the Abu Dhabi outposts of the Four Seasons, Rosewood, and Shangri-La chains to the Raffles and One&Only resorts in Dubai. For the truly discriminating, there’s not much that compares to Jumeirah’s striking Burj Al Arab, a six-star resort that floats like a fairytale sailboat over the waters of the Gulf.

>Written by: Bob Curley