Just because you’re heading off the beaten track, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice luxury – and that’s exactly what Hajar Ali has proven through her luxe travel company, Urbane Nomads.
“The combination of luxury and adventure was born from the setting of Patagonia, a fine example of where luxury exists in the coordinates of nowhere. Urbane Nomads aims to put destinations that would have been previously overlooked by luxury travellers on the radar, while also creating access to personalities who are not traditionally in the travel industry.”
“I’d travelled intensely in the first few years of Urbane Nomads’ inception to build up contacts, and to check out new destinations. Urbane Nomads fulfilled a niche – that of combining adventure and luxury – that had not been explored before.”
The Singaporean entrepreneur has always been ambitious when it comes to travel. She was the first woman to cross the Rub’ al Khali (also known as the Empty Quarter), the largest sand desert in the world that stretches between Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
Her spirit for adventure was sparked from a very young age.
“I was crossing the Dead Sea with my parents at the age of nine, when I saw a man dressed all in white, galloping down the beach on a grey-white horse. That was when I decided I was going to ride horses. And I’d say that the theme of riding and travel are the two most definitive influences on my life. Certain things happen and it leaves an imprint on your subconscious, and I believe this might have been one of those moments.”
From riding with Kazakh eagle hunters, to luxury camping in the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula and diving under the Great Wall of China, nothing is too hard or too remote. And the end result is truly a one of a kind experience for the traveller, which has been meticulously investigated by Ali.
“When I go on research trips to really far-flung destinations, I don’t always get access to the full-blown, luxurious version that clients pay for. Frequently, the worst places are also the best, in that they have this rugged beauty about them: the otherworldly beauty of the sulphur lakes of the Danakil, the rugged landscape of the North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan, the unforgiving steppes of Mongolia… they’re some of the most colourful destinations that combine the best and the worst of travel, by virtue of their ‘difficult to get to factor’ and their unsullied beauty.”
Now in its ninth year of operation, Urbane Nomads is hoping to become more proactive in pursuing social causes – but doing so in their own unique way.
“This year, Urbane Nomads is launching a card game called ‘Nomads Subversion’ that highlights the issues of the refugee existence – the true nomads of our time. The choice of a card game was made due to its popularity, as well as the educational aspects of the medium. The game has been conceived as a deck-building collectible card game, to be released over nine installations, with eighteen of the rarest cards to be kept in eighteen countries most associated with the humanitarian crisis.”
“In short, I’m creating ways for Urbane Nomads to not only bee relevant, but to stay ahead of the curve, with the purpose of building a company that would outlast me.”