Before leaving for the United Arab Emirates, I did quite a bit of reading, in search of the most luxurious places to stay and visit around Dubai and Abu Dhabi. (I wanted a real desert experience.) I came across an article written about Qasar Al Sarab Desert Resort and immediately knew I had to experience this incredible place for myself. The resort is located in the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world, Liwa Deserts’ Empty Quarter. It is a two-hour drive into the desert from Abu Dhabi or 3 hours from Dubai in order to arrive at Qasar Al Sarab (literal translation means “The Mirage Palace”). When I say drive into the desert, I literally mean nothing but sand dunes in sight for miles and miles before arriving at the lavish oasis resort (the actual address of the resort are coordinates, how crazy is that?!?).
When booking my stay at the Desert Resort by Anantara, I also decided to hire one of the their private drivers to pick me up at my hotel in Dubai. A wonderful driver, driving a luxury car that included Wi-Fi, snacks, refreshments and cold washcloths, picked me up promptly at 8am. My chauffeur was beyond professional and extremely knowledge. During our 3-hour drive to the resort, I must have asked him thousands of questions; everything ranging from how he survives the heat to living in Dubai to how he learned to navigate the desert. He acted as my tour guide and stopped the car to show me various things I would have never noticed on my own. For example, when you cross a certain point in the desert, the sand completely changes colors, going from almost white to a deep gold. The further away you get from the sea, the darker the sand becomes. He also pointed out a mirage (which was truly incredible to see in real life) as well as camels that were roaming the desert. Don’t let the drive deter you from visiting this beautiful resort, I know it sounds a bit long but it is without a doubt, worth it.
Upon arriving at Qasar Al Sarab, I was completely mesmerized by the incredible, lavish architecture. I felt as if I was taking a journey into one of the stories from The Arabian Nights. The resort greatly resembles a castle, blending traditional desert culture with signature luxury. It is truly an oasis located inside of another oasis.
As I waited to check in, I couldn’t help but explore the lobby that was filled Arabian elegance. The entire resort is designed to absorb distinctive customs from the region, adorned with hints of Bedouin tradition, embroidered fabrics and handcrafted furnishings. The moment you step inside the resort, you feel a million miles away from the fast paced city life many of us are used to.
After checking in, I was taken to my suite via a golf cart: because of the extreme heat, golf carts are used to get around the property. After settling in, I was ready to grab a quick bite to eat and continue exploring. There are three restaurant and bars in the resort where you can relish in delicious Middle Eastern flavors. After indulging in a delicious lunch, I signed up for some exciting excursions. The resort has so many activities to offer such as biking, desert hiking, tennis, yoga, archery, camel trekking, dune bashing and so much more. My assistant/friend (not sure) and I decided to be a little adventurous and signed up for the dune bashing and sunset camel trekking.
First up, afternoon dune bashing. We had no idea what to expect as we hopped into 4X4 vehicles. This was an action packed activity that had us laughing (and screaming) the entire time as we sped up and down the enormous desert dunes. Imagine a roller coaster in a 4X4 in the middle of the desert, that is the best way to describe dune bashing.
After our adventurous afternoon, we headed to the incredible pool to cool down and relax before dinner. It was so incredible to see such an enormous pool surrounded by nothing but desert for miles and miles in every direction you turned. It was truly a surreal experience to look at the dunes while relaxing by the pool. I was so happy to learn that Qasar Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara is sustainable and environmentally friendly. The resort was developed by the Tourism Development and Invest Company with respect and consideration to nature and the environment, using maximum efficiencies and minimal environmental impact. They have a sophisticated water recycling system that reduces daily demand by 45 percent while using solar energy to contribute to the resort’s power demands. These are just a small percentage of ways in which the resort is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
After relaxing by the pool and running around the sand dunes, as the sun began to set we decided to head to dinner at one of their incredible restaurants, Suhail. Suhail is a rooftop bar and grill where you can enjoy delicious Middle Eastern inspired food as you watch the sunset. By the time you finish your meal, the sky is a sight to see, as the dunes are completely starlit. Writing this article makes me want to go back!
After our wonderful dinner, we headed to bed somewhat early as we had signed up for a sunrise camel trekking tour (with a 3:30am wakeup time). At exactly 3:30, we awake, ready and excited for the camel trekking. We called the front desk to have a golf cart driver pick us up (they are available 24/7) and made our way to the lobby to wait for our tour guide. We took a short 10-minute car ride into the desert where we mounted our camels and started our trek through the desert.
As we made our way through the dunes, we stopped right before 5am to watch the most incredible sunrise. Imagine being surrounded by nothing but sand and watching the sun slowly makes its way above the tall dunes. This was one of the most memorable experiences and something I will never forget. The sunrise trek took about an hour and 45 minutes with a quick stop for refreshments in an Arabian setting. This is what I call a once in a lifetime experience that is absolutely breathtaking.
I have nothing but incredible memories from my stay at Qasar Al Sarab by Anantara. It is no wonder why Forbes recently rated it as the number one desert resort in the world. It is the epitome of luxury. Although I didn’t have time to experience the Anantara Spa, it looked incredible; it is a haven of Arabian and Thai expertise among a sea of dunes. If you want a more private experience, the resort also offers The Royal Pavillian Villas, which are comprised of self contained villas complete with a private pool, cabana, outdoor rainforest showers and terrace dining.
If you are looking for an escape to a secluded luxury resort with one of the world’s most breathtaking landscapes, Qasar Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara is the place to visit. It is an unforgettable experience rich in Arabian culture, local traditions and incredible hospitality.