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Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Review: Abu Dhabi’s Luxury Desert Resort

Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Review: Abu Dhabi’s Luxury Desert Resort

The five-star luxury Anantara resort of Qasr Al Sarab sits in the Liwa desert, fittingly named the Empty Quarter. The desert contains some of the world’s most extensive dunes and is the largest sand desert, covering an area the size of France. 

This part of the Empty Quarter lies within the United Arab Emirates. The UAE consists of several states, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and the location of Qasr Al Sarab lies in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, 200 km from its city.

With nothing but sand around for miles, Qasr Al Sarab is a destination, allowing guests to experience life in the desert with modern-day luxuries.

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Vast Sand Dune

Getting to Anantara Qasr Al Sarab

During a trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, I spent two nights at Qasr Al Sarab in the Liwa desert to experience ‘desert life’. I had already spent two nights in Abu Dhabi before arriving at Qasr Al Sarab, a 90-minute drive from the city.

Following my stay in the desert, I spent four nights in Dubai. The journey from Qasr Al Sarab to Dubai took three hours. The resort can arrange transfers.

Best Times to Visit the Liwa Desert

My family travelled at the beginning of May when the temperature was in the low 30s and manageable. During the summer months, Qasr Al Sarab weather can reach highs of 50 degrees plus!

Plan your trip to Qasr Al Sarab in the cooler months – December through to May – and book your stay at Anantara Qasr Al Sarab during the week when it is less busy. Even though the resort is in the middle of the Liwa desert, this is a popular weekend destination for guests from Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

First Impressions of Qasr Al Sarab

The drive from the main highway turning to the resort is 12 km, along Qasr Al Sarab Road, and seems to go on forever. Passing through massive dunes on either side of the road, it feels like you are entering another world.

And then, suddenly, a glimpse of the fortress-like resort appears, blending seamlessly into its desert surroundings, and you realise why the translation of Qasr Al Sarab means ‘Mirage Palace’; it is an utterly unique desert destination.

View of Qasr Al Sarab

Step Inside

Arriving at the massive wooden gates of this Abu Dhabi desert hotel is like arriving at an Arabian palace; think Ali Baba or Alladin, and you are on the right track.

When you enter the Qasr Al Sarab desert resort, a warm Emirati greeting awaits you.

An ornament of four camelsby the window looking out to the desert

The spacious reception area leads to an exquisitely designed lounge spilling over with Arabic artefacts.

Bronze camels, teapots, chandeliers, old photographs and ancient-looking books jostle for space alongside a gently cascading water feature. Cold flannels, beverages, and, of course, dates are ready to make you feel more refreshed after the desert drive.

reception area at Qasr Al Sarab

Resort Design

The property winds through the dunes, forming a crescent moon shape and measuring 2 km from one end to another.

Connecting paths and roadways lined with lush palm trees mean guests can avoid venturing onto the often scorching sands. At the height of summer, temperatures can soar over 50 degrees!

view of the buildings in Qasr Al Sarab

Room with a View

One hundred and fifty-four guest rooms and suites, each with spectacular views across the desert, are designed to give guests complete privacy. There are also 40 luxury pool villas for a truly exceptional stay, offering guests unparalleled luxury in the desert.

Entrances to the rooms and suites are beautifully maintained, with hardly a grain of sand in sight. Gardeners and housekeepers can regularly be seen sweeping up unwanted sand to keep communal areas looking immaculate. It must be a challenging job, and I can’t begin to imagine what the place looks like after a sandstorm!

Entrance to Guest suites at Qasr Al Sarab

Inside deluxe rooms, the tasteful Arabian design is in keeping with the rest of the resort. Walls are left plastered and painted in light ochre colours, the lighting looks like something out of Arabian Nights, and the bed is sumptuous, like sleeping on a cloud.

If you are travelling with a loved one, romantic bathing for two is a must! The enormous circular bath is the statement piece in the room; you will feel like an Arabian princess when you sink into the bubbles. It is designed with luxury in mind, with hints of gold and cast iron fittings.

Deluxe Garden rooms have small terrace gardens with views out across the desert. It’s pretty amazing to see grass growing in the desert, and it’s real.

All the garden areas in Qasr Al Sarab are maintained using recycled wastewater from the resort. Ingenious!

Angie sitting in an outdoor patio at Qasr Al Sarab

Relax and Rejuvenate

The pool area is a true oasis in the desert. Relax on plush loungers under the shade of a palm tree or cool off in the pool. There is also a separate shaded pool for children.

If you fancy cocktails or a light lunch from Naseem Pool Bar, no problem; the staff are happy to assist in making your stay unforgettable.

Expect to be treated to goodies around the pool, from smoothies, fresh fruit, and ice lollies to even having your sunglasses cleaned; after all, this is a five-star Anantara luxury resort!

Swimming pool at Qasr Al Sarab

For guests looking for a spot of pampering, the award-winning Anantara Spa offers a range of hands-on treatments and five treatment rooms to allow guests to relax in beautiful Arabian surroundings.

The resort also has a Meditation, Yoga and Wellness Centre.

Qasr Al Sarab Restaurants

Dining at Qasr Al Sarab can be expensive, but the food is outstanding and priced accordingly. There are several restaurants to choose from, catering for all guests’ tastes.

Breakfast at the resort is served at Al Waha. It is a buffet-style restaurant with a lovely selection of everything you could want for breakfast.

Lunch at the resort can be eaten by the pool at Ghadeer serving Meditteranean cuisine, or at Al Liwan, the all-day lobby lounge.

Dinner at the resort is a special event with choices from a desert BBQ, Bedouin dining or an interactive chef encounter at Spice Spoons. Whichever you choose, you can be assured of a fantastic dining experience.

Suhail Rooftop Terrace was my favourite place to sip a cocktail, read my book and watch the desert sky change colour as the sun went down.

Sun Set over the desert atQasr Al Sarab

Booking Availability and Pricing for Anantara Qasr Al Sarab

Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Adventure Activities

Activities are desert-based, ranging from camel trekking, falcon and Saluki dog encounters, and sandboarding. For thrill-seekers, participating in the 4 x 4 dune bashing over the world’s highest dunes will undoubtedly increase the heart rate.

Camel trekking

You can take a camel trek through the desert in the morning or evening; however, the sunset trek is magical.

Join the caravan of camels as they cross the dunes for around one hour.

Finish this incredible experience with drinks as you watch the sunset over the everchanging desert scenery.

Caravan of camels trekking across the desert at Qasr Al Sarab
Sun set over the desert at Qasr Al Sarab

4 x 4 Dune Bashing

To quote one of my adult son’s reactions after the dune bashing – “that’s the most terrifying thing ever – it was horrible” and to mention my younger son and husband – “that was amazing, shall we do it again”. So it shows you that this terrifying, or should it be an exhilarating experience, leaves everyone with a different memory!

Whatever your thoughts are on dune bashing, the trained staff at Qasr al Sarab have the utmost care for your safety and are experts at navigating the dunes.

Two men standing beside a jeep to go Dune Bashing in the dessert
Sand dunes


Sandboarding in the desert is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Sliding down the world’s largest dunes is great fun but hard work.

Getting back to the top of one of these dunes with the sand slipping away beneath you is very tiring on the legs.

Even so, grab a wooden board and head out into the desert playground for a rush of adrenaline.

Wooden board in the sand at Qasr Al Sarab
Man standing on a sand dune at Qasr Al Sarab

What to Wear at Anantara Qasr Al Sarab

Around the resort, the norm is smart casual wear with a hint of glamour.

My packing list on what to wear in Dubai for ladies will help you understand Emirati etiquette regarding fashion.

For desert activities, take clothes suitable for walking, including enclosed footwear – the sand gets everywhere!

Looking for a desert hotel in Dubai? Read more here about Bab al Shams Desert Resort

Please Pin for Future Travel to Abu Dhabi

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Monday 30th of October 2023

Am I allowed to wear a two-piece bikini at the resort's swimming pools?


Monday 30th of October 2023

Yes you can.


Friday 8th of April 2022

Anantara resort of Qasr Al Sarab appears to be a lovely spot for a desert holiday. From the numerous activities to the restaurant and surrounds, everything is so appealing. Although I have experienced desert safari before, would definitely like to try sand boarding for the adrenaline rush.


Friday 8th of April 2022

There are lots of desert activities at Anantara Qasr Al Sarab but sand boarding is one of the more challenging ones, coming down is good fun but climbing back to the top of the sand dunes is pretty tiring!

Shreya Saha

Thursday 7th of April 2022

The place looks lovely. I would love to stay in such a palace in the middle of a desert. This is just so luxurious. Qasr-al-Sarab is surely going to my list when I am visiting Abu Dhabi.

Ami Bhat

Thursday 7th of April 2022

Wow, this definitely looks like a mirage in the desert. I am so envious of you that you got to stay in this lovely resort. It seems perfect to enjoy the desert life'. Not only it is comfortable and luxurious but quite authentic too. Especially their food - the Mediterranean fare is always something I look for.

Subhashish Roy

Thursday 7th of April 2022

Love the color of the resort matching the desert. What fantastic views from the beautiful resort. Wish could be there.