“Escape to a 5 star hotel oasis in the deserts of Abu Dhabi.” Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara
Staycations in our home emirate are fulfilling our impeded travel plans, not only great for a change of scenery but also hassle free without the requirement of PCR testing or border crossings. Current international travel restrictions don’t have to stop the capital’s residents enjoying that holiday feeling, just pack up the car and take a roadtrip to a fabulous five-star destination.
Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara is located in Abu Dhabi’s remote empty quarter (also known as Rub’ al Khali) which is part of the largest uninterrupted sand dunes in the world and close to the Saudi Arabia border. The resort is a magnificent oasis spread out across its expansive desert locale, a traditional style fortress rising like a mirage from the entrance road admist the rolling dunes. This was our second trip here and it’s still just as stunning ten years later as our first visit before this blog even existed. The architecture and sandy coloured facade could be mistaken for an Arabian palace with its overly high traditional arches, Arabic lanterns and regional touches. Its wow factor hits you as soon as you pull up to the courtyard entrance.
It may be a hot and humid desert outside but inside the turreted walls it’s cool and peaceful. A series of palm tree lined courtyards and water features link the main buildings with the 206 rooms and suites while the villas and Royal Pavilion Villas are further away in their own enclaves. The accommodations may differ in size and facilities but they all share a desert view and a touch of Middle Eastern elegance, earthy toned decor inspired by the resort’s sandscape mixed with dark wood furniture and colourful patterned rugs. Welcome drinks are served at Al Liwan lobby lounge, a large area with a library showcasing the bumper collection of regional artefacts.
We stayed with friends in a private, spacious two bedroom pool villa that had unparalleled panoramic views of the surrounding dunes. This villa was the epitome of luxury and the perfect place to relax, I highly recommend a stay here. A huge open plan lounge and dining room also accommodated a study/library area, bathroom and small gallery kitchen and opened onto the outside terrace and good sized plunge pool. The two bedrooms were either end of the living area and had enormous ensuite bathrooms with dual sinks, sunken bath and separate walk-in rain shower and toilet. The beds were super comfortable, a pillow menu was available and amenities were from luxury British brand, Elemis. The sizeable outside space included a poolside dining area, two shaded areas with a double day bed and loungers, an outdoor shower and garden.
As the villas are a buggy ride away from the main building we were served breakfast at our villa on the outside terrace as well as in-room dining deliveries for lunch and dinner, a service that certainly enhanced our stay. On our final night we dined at Suhail, the rooftop steakhouse with a great vista of the desert. This fine dining restaurant offers the best cuts of meat and an extensive wine selection. It is also family friendly and accommodates vegetarians, its sunset views are hard to beat. Al Waha restaurant serves Arabic cuisine while lighter meals and drinks are served at poolside at Naseem and Ghadeer. If you fancy a true desert dining experience Al Falaj offers unique Bedouin camp-type dining under the stars in the nearby dunes*.
Somewhat surprisingly there’s plenty to do, the most obvious being exploring the surrounding dunes. The early worm certainly misses the heat as it’s already hot by 8am at this time of year or a trip at sunset is recommended, try climbing the dunes (exhausting) or sand boarding with the equipment provided. There’s desert based experiences for a taste of Arabian lifestyle. We visited the farm to ride camels, met salukis and horses, saw the gazelles and oryxes and even got stuck on the dunes. The trip included a tour of the Green Room part of the resort’s sustainable project where produce, plants and flowers are grown for use in the resort. The falconry experience was not available due to the time of year.
Desert walks and drives in 4×4 vehicles are available as well as dune bashing, horse riding, archery, tennis, fat biking and a kid’s club. There’s also a state of the art fitness centre for the gym bunnies and Arabic cooking classes. Prefer to just sit back and relax? Chill at the large pool area (unfortunately closed while we were there) or try the hammam and desert inspired treatments offered at the onsite Anantara Spa (sadly we did not visit the spa on this occasion).
The welcome was warm, the food was tasty, the accommodation was plush and the stay itself was super relaxing, what more do you need for a perfect staycation? Just a two hour drive from Abu Dhabi and you will find yourself in your very own desert oasis. The resort’s versatility means it’s suitable for a swanky business trip, vacation with family and friends or for a romantic getaway.
The Nitty Gritty
Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, Liwa Desert, Qasr Al Sarab Road 1, Jurayrah, United Arab Emirates
Telephone: 02 886 2088
Check-out: 12 noon
*In light of COVID-19 and for precautionary measures some of the hotel’s dining, recreational and other services and operations may be limited or temporarily suspended until further notice. Face masks or coverings are required at all times unless inside your own room, suite or villa. For more information click HERE
Incredible desert location
Luxurious pool villas
Perfect place to relax and recharge
Family friendly with welcome camel themed gifts for younger members of the family
In-villa check-out service
Free fast wifi
The Not so Good…..
Temporary closure of the main pool area
Read more about staycations in Abu Dhabi in my previous posts HERE
All views are my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2021. All rights reserved.