February’s – ‘The Love Issue’ – Download Now
Founder of NARA Desert Escape, Stephanie Danial tells us the secret to creating the ultimate bespoke experience.
What do your first 30 mins of the day look like, your morning routine?
The first thing I do in the morning is to wake up my kids with a big kiss, then I either go for a walk or do a yoga class with Nitai. I also play tennis twice a week with my coach, Michal.
What inspired you to launch a bespoke desert experience?
I have been living in Dubai for around 11 years and our visiting friends always wanted to experience the desert. However, I realized that nothing unique existed so I decided to create it. I wanted to share my passion for the desert and create a bespoke uplifting experience for everyone to remember. My vision was to offer a unique dining experience in the desert where restaurant standard cuisine is set in the un-spoilt beauty of the Dubai Desert. Nara stands for the initials of my four sons, Neil, Adam, Ryan and Adrian and I founded Nara Escape almost 3 years ago, with one tent and a dining table in the middle of the dunes and now I’m lucky enough to have not only Nara but Sonara along with future projects in the pipeline.
What has been the biggest hurdle since launching and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was finding the land to open the camp, there are very few spots available in Dubai. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve and presented my project and vision for Nara. They loved the innovative and eco-friendly elements and supported me in the idea.
You launched NARA first. Tell us about why you decided to launch sister brand SONARA and how it differs?
Nara Escape is for our private events this is where an individual guest or group of guests are able to select their own cuisine, entertainment and activities.
Sonara functions like a restaurant, where anyone is able to book an experience or table and will be offered the beautiful Mediterranean sharing menu prepared by amazing French Chef, Franck Sanna. Alongside the incredible dining experience, guests are able to enjoy a host of other activities and entertainment alongside sunset drinks at our unique lounge bar set up high on the sand dunes.
Since the initials of NARA stand for my four children, Sonara was imagined as a family destination with something special for all ages where guests can enjoy precious family time together.
You’ve grown so swiftly as a brand. To what do you attribute this growth?
To find the right balance between Nara and my children. When you start a company it takes 200% of your time and finding the right balance is essential. By also taking the time to realize what an asset social media is, has made a difference to our bookings with many bypassing the website and going straight onto social, making it imperative to keep all our news updated on our Instagram and we keep checking messages on a regular basis to ensure we haven’t missed any guest requests or questions.
Which Instagram accounts do you follow for inspiration?
I follow event companies that create unique weddings or birthdays, along with inspirational women who are either entrepreneurs or work towards a better tomorrow.
What advice would you give to your younger self, starting out?
Believe in your dreams, build your life step by step, and tomorrow is another day.
As a young brand, what is your approach to scaling the business?
I take it one step at a time. I first opened Nara Desert Escape as a private and exclusive concept and then Sonara camp as a restaurant. We also offer Nara on-the-go creating our unique settings wherever you need. I organized an amazing event in December, Nara on the Beach in RAK with amazing DJs such as Jamie Jones and Bedouin.
Are there any exciting plans in the pipeline for Nara Escape?
The next step is to open Nara in other Emirates and then in other countries. After having created this brand, I want to expand it to the moon.
You’ve included wellness and relaxation practices within the brand experience. Tell us about this?
I have practised yoga regularly for 25 years and practising this in the desert gives it a completely unique dimension, more on the lines of – recharging outside of the busy city. As the desert is a fresh location and the perfect retreat from the city to practice yoga and meditation, at Nara we offer yoga and meditation as part of the activities and at Sonara we can arrange morning yoga to start the day followed by our sunrise breakfast experience. As I’ve been practising yoga for 15 years now, it helps me keep my balance when leading such a busy life.
If you had not launched the brand, which other role would you choose career-wise?
I used to be a Private Banker for East Africa for 18 years and having my own company was my dream. I could not imagine doing anything else now, especially since I’m so passionate about this concept.
This issue is ‘The Love Issue’ – what is love to you?
‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry’ – It is a quote in the 1970 movie, Love Story.
Set in the Arabian desert with a stunning picturesque surrounding, guests can also enjoy a magical Romeo and Juliet experience within the Dubai Conservation Area, this Valentine’s day with your loved ones, as you sip on a delicious mocktail sharing a specially curated menu by the head chef while you enjoy the contemporary Romeo and Juliet story.
Sunset at SONARA – Dhs600 per Adult
The Sunset and Dinner Experience – Dhs1,100 per Adult
The Overnight Adventure –Dhs1,850 for Adult and Dhs380 per child (Nomad Tent), Dhs2,100 for Adult and Dhs380 per child (Lotus Tent)
February’s – ‘The Love Issue’ – Download Now
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