I have enjoyed pretty amazing seaside villas, but this is the first time I found myself in the middle of a sea of sand at the Qasr Al Sarab by Anantara Resorts, in possibly one of the most luxurious and unique resort stays ever. It was a fabulous way to kick off a trip with my good friends – definitely a far cry from our backpacking grad trip days in Taiwan. If you are looking for something out of the ordinary, this is definitely it.
Read on for my review, or check out some of my other posts about exploring Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
WHERE IS QASR AL SARAB?
The five of us loaded up the SUV with our bags, groceries and a boatload of alcohol and drove about 2 hours from Abu Dhabi to Qasr Al Sarab. It’s located in the Liwa Desert, also known as the Empty Quarter, one of the largest uninterrupted desert areas in the world. It’s about 2 hours of straight endless highway with occasional camel sightings before you hit the turnoff into the mysterious sand dunes…
Qasr’s main draw is its unusual location – I’ve seen beachfront villas and forest villas, but rarely do you get a luxury villa built out in the middle of the desert. The entire hotel is surrounded by endless sand dunes and there’s nothing else around the you for miles, so make sure you are prepared to eat at the hotel, or come well stocked with your supplies.
The first glimpse of Qasr Al Sarab is a bit of a mirage in the desert, a palace-like structure amidst the orange sand.
Since there’s no space constraint, the grounds are quite sprawling and you do need to hop on a buggy to get around the compound. The resort has its own chopper and helipad because WHY NOT, and even its own falcon.
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.
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!
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.
We stayed in a 2 bedroom villa with an attached pool. Our initial villa 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 the cooler mornings and evenings.
The villa was jaw-droppingly spacious and luxurious – more than enough space for the 5 of us. Bedrooms were very comfortable with a door that led out to the pool verandah, and the toilets were huge as well equipped with a giant bath tub, shower and two dressing tables because rich people just don’t believe in sharing.
The attached pool was heated which is actually a good thing because the wind could get quite chilly – it’s also where we spent the most time, in the pool and on the sunbeds on either side of the pool. The rest of the time we would explore the sand dunes beyond our door, 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.
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.
THE SAND DUNES
Most people do a desert tour with the intention to go dune bashing – honestly in this case, you just walk right out your door and you have a ton of sand dunes to play on. We usually went out in the mornings or evenings when it was cooler
You’ll be picking fine sand out of everything for the next week, and it’s not a cheap stay either because the Qasr Al Sarab is under the Anantara Group and a luxury resort after all – we manage to get staff rates back then so we lucked out, but if you’re willing to fork out the cash or want something special, this is totally worth it.
Qasr Al Sarab, Abu Dhabi
Tel: +971 (0) 2 886 2088
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