Hidden in the Arabian desert is Qasr Al Sarab, a place where sand dunes are skyscrapers, camels lead the way & breathtaking sunsets illuminate the sky.
There are very few hotels in the world, that I would consider to be a destination in itself. However Qasr Al Sarab, located between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has rightfully earned a place very high on my list. The destination, the architecture, the surrounding area, everything meets the hype and give you that once in a lifetime experience.
Hidden in the middle of one of the largest deserts in the world, Qasr al Sarab reminds me of a glamorous mirage you see in an Arabian fairytale. The entire area of the Liwa Desert seems to have a golden glow and the contrast between the sand dunes and the blue sky, is simply breathtaking. As if constantly on cue, camels trek by, making imprints in the perfectly smooth sand and the slight wind, causes the dunes to take new forms and shapes. It’s a place where Emirati heritage has embraced ancient desert culture and for the next few nights we would be calling this fairytale home.
Arriving to Qasr Al Sarab
You know you’re close, when the sand dunes go from 1 meter high to over 40 meters. A quick turn and the scene became so dramatic, we just had to get out of the car for a closer look. It was like an ocean of sand was surrounding us, as far as we could see and not one other person was in sight. Casually grinning, our driver told us we were now on the private road that would take us further into the desert and to the property, which was only about 10 minutes away. As if the pictures don’t tell you enough, trust me when I say a two hour car drive has never been so fun.
Because of the resorts remote location, the closest airports would be at Dubai or Abu Dhabi. So after our trip to Abu Dhabi, we arranged a car transfer to take us to the resort, which was about half way to Dubai. You can expect the drive to be around two hours (whether you’re coming from Dubai or Abu Dhabi) and remote. A few times we would pass other cars, but for the most part, you’ll be driving through completely remote areas.
When you first approach the property and get over the grandeur of everything, the architecture and design start to come into focus. The aesthetic is meant to echo the surrounding area and the result is a modern desert fortress full of little treasures. The palette is mostly natural with soft shades of beige and taupe, mixed with artifacts collected from around the area. The design carries into the rooms, where everything reflects a comfortable vibe, yet with classic luxurious touches.
Guests have the choice (at an expense of course) between one of the deluxe style rooms, a spacious suite or a private palatial-style villa. For our stay we were in a deluxe terrace room, which was beautifully appointed with a large room and large private terrace, overlooking the pool area and onto the sand dunes. Our room was very comfortable and the perfect amount of space for us. Even though our neighbors were pretty close to us, the layout made everything seem very private and we never heard anyone else. Next time I think we’ll book one of the pool villas though...you just can’t beat a private pool!
What to do at Qasr al Sarab
Before we came, I knew I wanted to do two things - ride a camel and go dune bashing, so we made sure to make our reservations early, so we were guaranteed a spot. Most of the activities only have a few other people, so don’t worry, these won't be saturated with kids or overzealous tourists.
If you’re not into vigorous activities like dune bashing, you can always take off your shoes and hike up the sand dunes to watch the sunset. I was reluctant to climb the dunes at first (they really are incredibly tall) but after a bit of convincing from Chris, we did it and I am so happy we did! The climb wasn’t tough at all and if you go around sunset, the breeze feels wonderful once you get to the top!
We choose to do our camel trek during sunset, so that we could capture photos with the sunset in the back...and let’s be honest we aren't really morning people. With only 4 other people we set out through the dunes in a 4x4 to a more remote part of the desert where a group of camels were waiting for us. After what felt like several hours of riding around and trying to get the best pictures, we all took a break on the dunes, to watch the sunset with tea and cookies.
The morning of our departure we decided to do a dune bashing sunrise session...big mistake! At least for me anyways, as I got really bad motion sickness. Now to be fair, the dune bashing was an adrenaline pumping blast, but if you’re prone to getting queasy, definitely take your motion sickness pills! Alone in our 4x4 with our driver leading the way, we went down some of the tallest sand dunes and I swear we were completely sideways going down. It really was fun and getting undisturbed views of the sunrise was priceless!
Spend a Day at the Anantara Spa
Qasr al Sarab is part of the Anantara collection and if you’re familiar with the group, you know their spas are typically incredible and this one did not disappoint! Set in a separate building from the hotel and near the pool area, the spa was the perfect spot for us to relax after a day of climbing the dunes. We indulged in a classic couples massage, where we were pampered and massaged into utter bliss.
I was amazed by the exceptional standards of the spa and the knowledge that our therapists had. After visiting plenty of the world's leading spas around the world, I can say without a doubt, this was one of the best massages!
Dining at Qasr Al Sarab
Being in the middle of the desert means that you have to rely on the hotel to feed you...and that usually make me a bit uneasy. I like options! However at Qasr Al Sarab they have 5 different restaurants ranging from Moroccan to Mediterranean, to Arabic and Western, all with equally appealing ambiance. Meals are not included in your stay and can be a bit expensive, however they food is great as are the options!
Definitely make sure to reserve one of your evenings at Al Falaj. Every evening a space by the dunes gets transformed into an elegant outdoor Bedouin Camp and the food is a delicious mix of Arabic inspired dishes. The menu is set and includes a sampling of cold mezzeh, your choice of BBQ and wine is included!
Visit Qasr Al Sarab if…
Qasr al Sarab is not easy to get to, so I recommend a stop at this resort, if you’re going to be in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, as it’s about a two hour drive from either city. If you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion like a honeymoon, anniversary or birthday, you’ll definitely get a romantic and cozy experience. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a unique family vacation or have young ones in tow, there is plenty to do, to keep the kids entertained. Between the pool, the spa area and the amazing adventures, everyone will have something to do.
Maybe it was the novelty of being somewhere so remote and picturesque, yet these memories go down as some of the best. Qasr al Sarab is so much more than a hotel. It’s an experience that will take you on a voyage, through the beauty and culture of one of the world's most remote areas.
For more information about Qasr Al Sarab, visit their website: