You will have heard of it already, if not, it is time. Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara needs no introduction; like the poet drawn to his muse, Qasr Al Sarab will attract connoisseurs of good life. This five-star resort, perched at the edge of the world’s largest sand desert, represents the epitome of offerings man and nature can put together.
Arabian Knight was recently invited to indulge in this luxury desert getaway and here’s the verdict of our intrepid reporter…
Anantara holds forth this majestic resort property in the ethereal Rub Al Khali, the largest expanse of sand dunes in the world. Aptly named The Empty Quarter, this region exudes a haunting beauty through its desolate dunes. Developed by Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) – Abu Dhabi, the resort is meant to be reflective of Emirati culture and traditions. Modelled after the ancient forts of the Liwa region in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, Qasr Al Sarab or the ‘Palace of Mirage’ is a 90-minute drive from Abu Dhabi.
After a longer, three-and-a-half hour drive from Dubai, my partner and I were greeted by a stunning sight: varying shades of yellow sand were set against the constant, stark blue sky. A lone Arabian mountain gazelle was roaming free on larger-than-life sand dunes, a light wind was picking up, shifting the sands on the narrow winding driveway and blowing a low, ominous whistle.
The beauty of what we beheld was hypnotic, we couldn’t drive past it in a rush. We slowed our car down to a crawl, turned off the music and stared in silence. Sand dunes change their shape all the time, so what we saw ahead of us, was a unique moment captured in time, as though a canvas painted by nature just for our benefit.
After a leisurely drive winding up and down the eight-km driveway, we arrived at what looked like an Arabian fortress. TDIC’s passion for detail can be seen in the scattered hand-made artefacts imported from all over the Middle East and Africa. Senior members of the Al Ain National Museum were consulted to ensure authentic representation of the region.
After a quick check-in and a refreshing welcome beverage, we were whisked away on a buggy towards a cluster of the most exclusive accommodations in the resort – the Royal Pavillion Villas, launched this May. The one-bedroom Royal Pavillion Villas, only 10 in number, are a minute’s drive from the main reception, but also have their own reception, spa, dining and recreation areas.
Our personal butler during our stay showed us into our royal villa for the night. Not surprisingly, it had its own swimming pool complete with a discreet outdoor shower area, sunbathing cabana, outdoor dining table and a lush green lawn. But perhaps the most stunning feature of the villa was the unabashed view of the uninterrupted desert.
What makes these villas truly royal, though, is the presence of a round-the-clock, yet unobtrusive butler; in-room dining with the highest quality, cooked-to-order meals; top-of-the-line audio-video fittings; and a palatial bathroom with a bathtub fit for two.
We opted for a relaxing couple’s spa massage in a discreet chamber overlooking the sandy outdoors instead of one of the many outdoor activities due to the summer heat. On cooler days and in the early mornings and evenings during the summer months, guests at the Royal Pavillion Villas can enjoy two of several fun outdoor activities – camel riding, dune bashing, archery, desert walks, falcon show or the saluki show, among others.
When we returned to our villa after a wonderful aromatherapy massage and bathing ritual, we found our personal chef eagerly waiting to cook us the most exquisite meal we’ve had in a desert. Confused and spoilt for choice – we were, after all, asked to name anything we wished for – we ended up gorging on delicately flavoured and crunchy fresh salad leaves flown in from Australia, crab cakes, succulent Wagyu beef steaks, breaded lamb chops, salt-crusted chicken breasts, freshly made loaves of bread and fresh fruit, all in the comfort of our villa.
After finishing a large bottle of sparkling water with a twist of Brazilian lime, we explored the property barefoot and hand-in-hand in the moonlight. No one was awake for miles. The only sounds were the click of our phone cameras and the rustling of fine sand particles in the wind. We woke up before dawn the next morning eager to watch the sunrise from our bed; watch the sky and the sands change several shades as the dark night gave way to a brightly lit, new day.
Truly, out of this world!