Unholies in UAE – Review of Qasr Al Sarab

For the first part of our epic Unholies in UAE trip, we were whisked away to a luxurious villa called Qasr Al Sarab, one of the most luxurious and unique villas that I’ve ever stayed at. It was a fabulous way to kick off our trip and if you can afford it, definitely somewhere I’d recommend anyone to stay at least once in their life. Here’s a review of the place, more desert dune bashing pix in the next post!



The five of us loaded up the SUV with our bags, groceries and a boatload of alcohol and drove out to the resort. Qasr Al Sarab is located in the Liwa Desert, a part of what is known as the Empty Quarter, one of the largest uninterrupted desert areas in the world. It’s about 2 hours along a straight endless highway with occasional camel sightings before you hit the turnoff into the mysterious sand dunes…

First signboard at the entrance

Qasr’s main draw is its unusual location out in the middle of the desert. Now I’ve seen beachfront villas and forest villas, but rarely do you get a luxury villa built out in the middle of the sand. The entire hotel is surrounded by endless sand dunes and there’s nothing else around the desert for miles, so make sure you’re prepared to eat at their restaurants or come well stocked!

J being all NatGeo photographer as we approach the first gates
happy to be here! =)
From a distance



The buildings of Qasr look like a fortress, and your first sight of it is like seeing a mirage in the desert, an oasis in the sea of orange and brown sand. It’s quite a large place and you’ll need buggies to get from one end to the other and it looks like they’re expanding the compound. Facilities include a common pool, spa, restaurants and as all great hotels in the Middle East go, this one even comes with its own chopper and helipad!

Main building entrance
Tower-like structure
Overlooking the estate from the main balcony
Welcome drink – a milkshake-like drink with camel’s milk and dates
The resort comes with its own falcon even!


Attention to detail is paid in all aspects, from the main interior design to the little touches and flourishes throughout the resort. Love the Middle Eastern and Moorish flavour, something that’s grown on me since visiting Andalucia in Spain.

Even the tilework is pretty and detailed!
I like these angular designs that run throughout the architecture
Every morning a guy sets hundreds of petals in the main foyer’s fountain
More colourful and typical Islamic design motifs




We stayed in a 2 bedroom villa with an attached pool. Our initial villa’s overlooked the desert dunes from the pool, but apparently our neighbour found us too rowdy, so we were moved to another villa right on the other edge of the estate isolated from the rest of the villas. This time our front door opened up to a sea of sand dunes that we explored in our time there.

Heading to our villa…
That’s the villa we finally ended up in!
View from the front door. We climbed all the way up to those dunes in the distance, and beyond them is just an endless sea of sand dunes
Keycards and lots of fine sand
Welcome snacks!


Check out our digs – the villa was jaw-droppingly spacious and luxurious. Bedrooms were very comfortable and the toilets were huge! The attached pool was heated (Thankfully! The wind could get chilly) and probably where we spent the most time at, and occasionally we’d hang out on the sunbeds on either side of the pool. The rest of the time we’d explore the sand dunes and on one particular night, look for shooting stars on a meteor shower night.

The only annoying thing perhaps were the flies that would swarm if you left food out, but not much you can do other than keep the food covered.

One of the two rooms on either side of the villa.
The rooms can open up onto the pool verandah directly!
check out the cavernous bathroom! Besides the large bath tub, there’s a shower to the left, toilet to the right and 2, yes 2, dressing tables on either side of the doorway!
That’s me chilling out in the pool. There are cabana areas on both sides of the pool to suntan
heated pool surrounded by garden and dunes in the distance
Sitting on the walls of our villa and admiring the sand dunes in the distance. Or hiding their faces from the sun and gossiping, it’s hard to tell eh?



The villa as you can see above was swanky and comfortable, no complaints there! Service is pretty impeccable, you barely have to lift a finger to do much in this place, whether it’s odd requests for a saucepan or an icebox, or getting a buggy to ferry us to the main building for meals.

Breakfast was held at Al Waha restaurant on B1 and really, really extensive, a good mix of Middle Eastern and Western foods in a huge buffet spread. I loved heading to breakfast in the mornings!

huge selection of grains, fruits, dried fruits, milk, cold cuts…
Live stations so you can get eggs and other hot food

Most of the time we were too filled up from our own food and drink, or ordered room service in because we were lazy, but one night we had dinner at Suhail, a restaurant in the main building on the 2nd floor. We sat in the outside seats overlooking the desert, and it was a little bit chilly though they did provide fancy heaters. Food was alright, not mindblowing, but decent.

Backlit menu. Definitely makes more sense than torches!
My grilled chicken breast with cherry tomatoes and dates. Mushroom sauce to add on and sides of portobello mushrooms and mashed potatoes.


All in all, a very, very good stay, but Qasr Al Sarab is part of the Anatara resort chain and as you can see from the finery, not a cheap place to stay at! We were lucky to get good rates because of connections, but if you have some sort of special occasion to celebrate (ours was birthday-cum-hen parties!), I think this would be a really nice place to live it up =)

Qasr Al Sarab, Abu Dhabi
Tel: +971 (0) 2 886 2088
[email protected]

View Unholies in UAE (2012) in a larger map

Need more travel inspiration?
Sign up now and get the latest blogposts straight in your mailbox. Also, exclusive discounts and perks to help you travel better! (No spam, just travel goodies!)

Leave a Reply