Located on the edge of the world’s largest uninterrupted sand desert, Rub Al Khali, Qasr Al Sarab delivers absolute luxury in a bucket-list location. We visited to find out if it really could live up to the high praise it receives and we left every bit amazed. Read on for our review of this spectacular Anantara property…
Since moving to Abu Dhabi almost two years ago, Qasr Al Sarab (“the Mirage Palace”) has been top of our wish-list. This incredible property really is the incarnation of an Arabian dreamscape.
Can anywhere really live up to that level of hype though? Though it’s hard to believe, yes!
Luxury in the Desert
Located approximately two hours from Abu Dhabi City (or three from Dubai), Qasr Al Sarab has been providing the very best in luxury (and the UAE sure knows how to do that right!) since it opened in 2009.
With a design that clearly mirrors its surrounding and gives a nod to the desert fortresses that once would have been prevalent in the area, there’s no denying where you are when you approach Qasr Al Sarab for the first time.
Everything about this hotel is beautifully considered – from the genuine Arabian antiques generously scattered throughout the property to the locally hand-crafted furnishings, this resort oozes warmth and romance.
Every room and common space offers expansive views out over the ever-changing sand dunes and let’s face it, it’s precisely those views that will spur your desire to visit Qasr Al Sarab.
As you would expect of any five star property, Qasr Al Sarab has a superb range of leisure facilities including a 24-hour gym, tennis, basketball, yoga, volleyball, spa services and of course, that bucket-list-worthy swimming pool. When the sun goes down at night and the pool starts to glow, you’ll pinch yourself – it’s hard to believe that a place as beautiful as Qasr really exists!
If you’ve got a family to entertain there is both a kids and teens club and a wide range of organised activities that are designed to engage every single member of the crew. Archery, nature walks, dune bashing, horse riding, fat biking, sand boarding and more – the resort is perfectly equipped, allowing you to be as active (or relaxed) as you like.
The resort offers a range of room types, from the beautifully appointed Deluxe Garden Rooms to the Royal Pavilion Villas, each serviced by private butler. Should you opt for a villa, you’ll be treated to your own private pool, taking your bucket-list accommodation to the next level again – is that even possible?!
Why not take it a step further? The team at Qasr Al Sarab can can even arrange a private helicopter offering a door-to-door service. It’s all in a day’s work when you live in the lap of luxury!
Don’t worry though, if your budget won’t quite extend to private swimming pools, butlers and tailor-made chef tastings, they can also arrange a private chauffeur to transfer you from the city to the resort, or do as we did and drive yourself out in a rental car.
However you get there and whichever room you settle on, you’ll enjoy the facilities, service and views that make this undoubtedly the best desert hotel in the world.
Eat Like a King (actually, make that a Sheikh)
With a number of restaurants and bars onsite, there’s an option to suit every occasion.
From the sumptuous but casual breakfast buffet, served each morning in Al Waha (including live cooking stations and donuts!) to the gorgeous fine-dining restaurant, Suhail, guests are able to treat themselves throughout the day. We also enjoyed a lunch and casual dinner pool-side at Ghadeer – it’s a great place to unwind whilst making the most of the beautiful outdoor area.
Everything we ate during our stay was delicious and, as expected, the service was second-to-none. You wouldn’t expect anything less at a resort like this.
Sunset Camel Trekking
Though we’ve rode camels on a number of occasions now, our experience in the Liwa Desert was by far the best.
Never ones to turn down an adventure, I must admit, we went in without particularly high exceptions – we are after all, a little bit spoilt by now when it comes to camels!
Not only have we ridden camels along the base of the pyramids in Cairo and through the towering valleys of Petra, but there was something special about this trek. It felt more authentic than the rides that we’d been on in the past – almost as if we were trekking through the desert with our newfound bedouin friends.
Surrounded by massive dunes (literally, the biggest we’ve ever seen), we wove our way around and up through this sandy paradise, reaching for one of the highest peaks. As we did so, we relaxed, soaking in the sights all around us, whilst listening to our guide impart his knowledge of the area to us. He knew the desert inside out and was more than happy to explain the history of the area and share what he knew about the indigenous animals and plants. Most of all, we enjoyed learning more about Islam through him – never in a forced manner, only ever sharing what we asked of him.
It was such a pleasure connecting on a personal level and really did sum up our entire experience at Qasr Al Sarab; the team there care deeply about their guests and it shows in all of their interactions.
Back to the whole reason we were there though – to catch the unset in the most authentically Arabian of ways.
As we slipped over the crest of the huge dune, we were greeted with tea, coffee, fresh juices, dates and fruit kebabs along with cushions and stools from which we could perch and enjoy the slowly setting sun.
The more energetic amongst us decided to climb higher still, summiting the very top of the sand dune to catch the sun drifting below the horizon.
If you’re ever visited the Middle East, you’ll appreciate that there’s nothing quite like a sunset here. The sun feels just that little closer here than it does elsewhere, glowing the most gorgeous shade of crimson – it has to be seen to be believed and where better than in the depths of the desert whilst being treated to the most luxurious of adventures?
With the last of the daylight fading away, we all pulled off our shoes and raced directly down the steepest bank to the awaiting 4WDs for the trip back to our Arabian oasis.
Why Do the Dunes Look So Different?
You’ll notice that the dunes look significantly different in each photograph. In person, the colours change frequently, with the only real consistency amongst dunes being their inconsistent colouration! This is due to the varying mineral compounds and the way in which they interact with the environment – iron-oxide, for example, gives much of the desert it’s obvious red/orange colour – it is quite literally, rust.
With the different colours of the dunes, the stunning Arabian sunshine and the winds constantly repositioning the sand, you’ll be sure to see a different desert-scape at each different time of the day, so don’t hide yourself away in your room – get out there!
Save Your Pennies – Qasr Al Sarab deserves to be on the top of your bucket list
Qasr Al Sarab is special, there’s no two ways about it. Without doubt, this remote hotel will remain one of the most unique and memorable places we’ll ever stay.
Sure, you’ll need to reach into your pockets to book a room but we assure you the experience will stay with you long after the pain of looking at your bank account is gone.
If you have the opportunity to visit Qasr Al Sarab, snap it up!
Looking for luxury in the UAE? Pin this post!
Thank you to Anantara for inviting us for the purpose of this review. As always all thoughts are our own. We had the most amazing stay at Qasr Al Sarab and every single person we know that has visited has absolutely sung their praises. A word of warning though – you’ll probably be ruined for all future accommodation – it’ll have a hard time living up to this!