Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort
A luxury hotel oasis for fairytale nights under glittering starry skies
After a seemingly endless drive through the barren desert landscape in the border region between Abu Dhabi, Oman and Saudi Arabia, a magical desert resort flickers out of the distance – like a mirage: a palace in the style of a traditional Arabian fortress.
Dear readers, I invite you to a luxurious desert adventure. Follow and discover the wonders of the Liwa Desert!
In the endless expanses of the legendary Saudi Arabian Rub’ al Khali, the largest sandy desert in the world, is located the idyllic Qasr Al Sarab, built in the style of an oasis village. Since the ruling Al-Nahyan family once lived there, there are over 2,000 everyday objects in the resort from their private possession. For example, countless original clay jugs adorn the outdoor areas and camel bags as well as pistols are on display in the library, among other things.
The GM welcomes us with a loud “Al Salam Alaykaum”, while in the background the soft sound of the strings of an oud, a traditional Arabic musical instrument, gives this retreat a very special mystical atmosphere. Any time I enter the elegant Arabian-style lobby overlooking the endless desert landscape, I feel instant relaxation and deceleration.
My husband and I have been regular guests at Qasr Al Sarab for many years and know almost all the rooms, suites and villas. As for the Arabian-design rooms, the 50-square-meter Deluxe Room with Terrace (403) is my favorite. The breathtaking terrace of this corner room overlooks the pool and the entire resort, including the separate area of the exclusive Royal Pavilion Villas.
Of course, you do not have to do without the latest technology, and so the Qasr Al Sarab embodies a successful synthesis of the past and modern zeitgeist, a harmonious overall concept of traditional architecture and luxurious guest requirements.
As for the villas, the Anantara Pool Villa with one bedroom (130 square meters) as well as the Anantara Family Pool Villa with two bedrooms (190 square meters) convinced me. All of the generously proportioned villas are grouped picturesquely in different rows against the breathtaking backdrop of the majestic dunes. Of course, a villa in the front row offers the best view!
My insider tip for the true luxury traveler: book Royal Pavilion by Qasr Al Sarab.
The exclusive villas of the Royal Pavilion by Qasr Al Sarab truly exceed all expectations. They are absolutely picturesquely located half a kilometer from the resort. Our villa number 8 – like all the other villas – features a sturdy iron-beaten entrance door, antique wooden ceiling beams, stylish handmade Arabic furniture, ornate hanging lamps made of filigree beaten metal and hand-woven carpets. These villas also combine traditional Arabian lifestyle with today’s international elite luxury traveler’s demands and the functionality of modernity.
The outdoor area with green lawns, a private pool surrounded by greenery with a spectacular view of a picturesque postcard view and sand dunes up to 300 meters high tower in the distance are really worth a longer stay! A spectacle of a special kind. A seemingly endless sea of sand has piled up into hills here. If you feel like it, you can climb these dunes on foot. But do not underestimate the merciless power of the midday sun. Rather climb one of the dunes at sunset, because during the sunset, the sand glows in an indescribable golden-red color and the sky turns a vibrant orange.
By the way, the Royal Pavilion by Qasr Al Sarab includes full board and 2 activities. The restaurant exudes pure elegance indoors; genuine Arabian hospitality outdoors. While all restaurants in the resort are open to the public, only guests of the Royal Pavilion Villas are allowed to have breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Royal Pavilion Restaurant.
The multi-faceted culinary experience at Qasr Al Sarab is a true journey of flavors to enchant any palate.
An open-air dinner by torchlight at Al Falaj is not to be missed. Traditional Middle Eastern cuisine is served with freshly prepared dishes and an Arabic barbecue in a homely ambience.
Insider tip: stroll through the illuminated hotel grounds later.
Suhail – an upscale barbecue restaurant with an elevated terrace and unobstructed desert views takes its name from the star that once guided Bedouin peoples through the desert.
Al Waha offers all-day international and Arabic delicacies – mainly buffet style.
Ghadeer serves Mediterranean food at the poolside in a relaxed atmosphere.
The lobby lounge Al Liwan with the adjacent bar delight the taste buds around the clock.
Wellness lovers will also find their pampering at the Anantara Spa. You absolutely must try the Moroccan Hamam, an oriental care ritual. You can also unwind with the special Desert Rose Spa rituals, and then lie by the pool.
The varied activities at Qasr Al Sarab are an inspiring balm for your soul.
The resort offers exceptional experiences you won’t want to miss. In addition to archery, yoga, tennis and hiking, I considered the following to be my most memorable moments and hope you will enjoy them too!
1. breakfast in the middle of the desert
You’ll experience a touch of luxurious nomadic life on this unique private camel ride followed by breakfast. Ride towards the sunrise early in the morning, climb a dune and enjoy the pleasant silence around the campfire.
On comfortable soil cushions beside a rustic campfire bowl from cast iron you will be able to enjoy high over the mountain crest first the light of the rising sun, before afterwards an opulent breakfast in the style of the Arabian living culture is served. On a traditional Kelim carpet stands an oriental seat corner with breakfast table. In the soft morning-light, the last gray fog walls leave their place to the glowing red sun and this finally spreads out in all its splendor and beauty over the gigantic sand dunes. It’s an unforgettable natural spectacle that you can’t miss! The makers of the Star Wars movies used this very backdrop for their filming.
2. night walk through the desert
Without the disturbing lights of the cities or the resort, your private guide will accompany you through the unique desert. The sand mountains tower higher and higher in front of you. However, you can only feel them as you climb, since you are traveling through this endless desert sea without any source of light. At the top, you sit down in the sand and look up at the glittering, crystal-clear starry sky – into the natural light. On this unique nighttime journey, you’ll feel the awe, romance and soul of authentic Arabia.
Thanks to the five-star luxury hotel, you will experience the five stars by day and millions by night – thanks to the unique desert sky!
3. desert drives
The person who is a bit more into dynamics instead of rest should definitely book the Dune Bashing. During this experience you will drive with power and feeling in an 8-cylinder jeep mostly vertically up to the dune, only to leave it again almost at an angle. A roller coaster ride of the special kind expects you in this rapid four-wheel vehicle!
4. camel trekking
You will ride on your desert ship towards the breathtaking sunset.
5. fat bike
The fat bike, a specially adapted mountain bike, also offers a new way to get around in the dunes. I recommend you a ride through the biggest sandbox in the world at dusk, ride the high dunes and take unique memories home with you.
6. falcon and saluki demonstrations
Did you know that falcons can reach speeds of up to 380 kilometers in a dive and their average speed is more than 250 kilometers per hour? Furthermore, we learned that a female falcon can strike more abundant and heavier prey than a male due to its size. Also, just like camels, these venerable birds have a long and important tradition in the UAE, as their prey used to feed the Bedouin tribes. Falconry is part of the Arab cultural heritage and the Emiratis worked to have it officially included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2010. There is also an international falconry festival every December. The sheikhs love their nimble kings of the air, which live to be between fourteen and eighteen years old, and invest a great deal of time, patience and empathy in training a falcon. These noble gliders of the air are among the true friends of the heart. The love and care of the Emirati is especially evident during long-distance flights. The Falcons often fly to Europe in the summer, and to make the seven-hour journey as comfortable as possible for them, they travel in first class. Thanks to their passport and their official anklets, which contain all the important data about their origin, date of birth and owner, among other things, the falcon can check in at the airport and pass through the controls just like a human being. Once in first class, the attendant lovingly places the falcon on the seat next to him. The hood, which the bird of prey wears, is a proven way to spare it unnecessary stress. A hooded falcon relaxes very quickly and falls asleep after a short time, because the darkness gives it a sense of security. It is hard to believe, but every year, 5,000 new falcon passports are issued in the United Arab Emirates just because of air travel. There are also falcons that only travel in business class, but no one flies economy class!
The Saluki dog race is also a spectacular highlight. A Saluki is an Arabian-Persian gazelle dog with a long Bedouin tradition. You can even romp around in the sand with these affectionate and spirited animals.
7. Liwa – Oasis
You should also make an excursion to the surrounding area and see the salt crusts, camel date farms and the historical fortress.
Note: Rain in the desert
Dear readers, if you can’t imagine that there can be heavy thunderstorms and downpours in the desert, the following photos will prove you wrong. We had the outrageous luck in April 2018 – after two heavy cyclones in Fiji – during our stopover in the United Arab Emirates, to also experience rain in the desert.
Mostly, however, the sun shines! Like during our farewell three days later!