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Abu Dhabi / Luxury Hotels / Middle East

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

Qasr Al Sarab guest buildings

Condé Nast Traveller 2022 Gold List Winner

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 worlds most extensive dunes and is the largest sand desert in the world, 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 in its own right allowing guests to experience life in the desert with modern-day luxuries.

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Getting to Anantara Qasr Al Sarab

During a trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, I stayed at Qasr Al Sarab for two nights 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 30’s 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 desert, this is a popular weekend destination for guests from Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

First Impressions

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 as if 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.

A warm Emirati greeting awaits you from the moment you step inside Qasr Al Sarab desert resort.

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 itself 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 sand storm!

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, 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 its own Meditation, Yoga and Wellness Centre.

Qasr Al Sarab Restaurants

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

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 and range from camel trekking, falcon and Saluki dog encounters and sand-boarding. For thrill-seekers, 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 off 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
Sand-Boarding

Sandboarding in the desert is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Sliding down the world’s largest dunes is great fun but hard work. Trying to get 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, smart casual wear with a hint of glamour is the norm. 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

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About Author

Angela Price

Angie is a full-time travel writer with over 30 years of travel experience. She has always had a passion for travel, and after a 3-month world trip with her 18-year-old son, she created her popular travel blog to share her adventures with a wider audience. When Angie is at home in the UK, she enjoys exploring the English countryside, visiting castles and gardens and planning her next big adventure. Her motto is "Live Life Wandering not Wondering".

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Aradhana
1 month ago

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.

WhereAngieWanders
Reply to  Aradhana
1 month ago

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
1 month ago

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
1 month ago

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
Subhashish Roy
1 month ago

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

Joanna
Joanna
1 month ago

What an amazing place to go for a few relaxing days in the middle of the desert. I love the typical Arabic design of the rooms and that gorgeous tub. It’s nice that you can combine a series of activities in the desert with relaxing by the pool and enjoying delicious cocktails at the rooftop bar.

WhereAngieWanders
Reply to  Joanna
1 month ago

It really was an exceptional place to stay in the desert and far removed from the hustle and bustle of Abu Dhabi

Linda (LD Holland)
1 month ago

The Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort sounds like an amazing spot to get a desert experience with luxury touches. I can see why it might look like a mirage when you first arrive. I can see myself relaxing by that big pool. A cocktail at the rooftop bar with a view sounds like my way to finish a day.

Jackie
1 month ago

This sounds like such an incredible experience! It’s almost inconceivable to think that this luxury resort is in the middle of the desert. The “mirage’ name is so fitting! I would certainly enjoy soaking in the gorgeous tub, and relaxing by the pool with a cocktail. A sunset camel tour is right up my alley, too. You are spot on when you describe this amazing resort by Antara an “oasis.”

WhereAngieWanders
Reply to  Jackie
1 month ago

I think I may need to rebook at some point as I do love a desert resort. Check out this one in Dubai – https://whereangiewanders.com/bab-al-shams-dubai/ It’s not as big as Qasr Al Sarab but is equally as authentic.

Pamela Mukherjee
1 month ago

This dessert Resort looks like a fairytale palace from Alladin. What beautiful breathtaking views of dessert. I am sure you created a lifetime memory and cherished that forever. I wish to visit and stay at this property once in a lifetime for sure..

Natascha
1 month ago

The Quasr Al-Sarab resort looks like an oriental fairy-tale. Staying there must have been amazing. A sunset camel trek through the desert sounds perfect with drinks at the resort afterwards.

Elle Burne
Elle Burne
2 months ago

Gosh what an absolute dream stay – looks so luxe and such gorgeous surroundings! I love! Added to the list <3

Nilima
2 months ago

What a lovely resort! I have been to Dubai…Abu Dhabi hopefully soon alongwith Oman

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