by Sonia Sultan
  • 4 minute read
  • July 20, 2023
Oasis Of Opulence: Unveiling The Ultimate Luxury Of Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort By Anantara

A love letter to the Bedouin ways of yesteryear, Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara is a masterstroke of Arabian culture. Otherworldly is the first thing that comes to mind as you bump along the dusty road to the resort, the wind-blown sand dunes conjuring up childhood memories of bedtime stories where mythical desert heroes outwitted robbers, uncovered magic lamps, and discovered lost cities. On the horizon, a gazelle stands proudly in repose against the rolling dunes, welcoming you to the fortress that lies beyond. From afar the hotel seems to disappear when you blink, then reappear like a mirage, holding true to its moniker Qasr Al Sarab – Arabic for ‘Mirage Palace’. In a world where travellers are increasingly seeking seclusion, the resort – worlds away from the cacophony of city life – offers full desert immersion.

A lantern-lined pathway welcomes us into a vernacular courtyard fringed by stately palm trees laden with bunches of the region’s Liwa dates. Zephyrs cooled by the cascading water feature provide respite from the desert heat as we walk into the lobby spilling over with ancient artefacts. Ornate chandeliers shine their lights on old photographs, bronze camels, teapots, daggers, and ancient books which line the walls and display cases. With so much to take in what strikes me most is the warmth and attentiveness of the staff. Within minutes of our arrival, we are comfortably seated and treated to cold flannels, sweet dates, and a refreshing elixir as the check-in process is expertly handled.

As our man Friday ushers us to a buggy to take us to our room, I take in the fortress-like resort, a maze of turrets and palm-lined courtyards centred around trickling fountains. Through the zig-zagging paths, I catch glimpses of arches that twinkle with dimly lit lanterns and falaj-style water systems that pay homage to days gone by. Dotted in between are solar panels and a greenhouse, which along with the plastic-free water bottle and wooden key card in my hand signal to me that the resort is true to its ‘Sustainable Luxury’ promise.

The sprawling crescent-shaped resort houses 140 rooms, 14 suites, and 53 pool villas, yet retains an intimate village-like feel. The subtle exterior of our one-bedroom pool villa leads to a room filled with natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows with vistas of the sun-baked sandscape as far as the eye can see.

Décor throughout the villa in earthy hues and contemporary Islamic-inspired furnishings has just the right amount of Middle Eastern opulence which is echoed in the elaborate and impressive bathrooms featuring dual vanities and luxurious oversized soaking tubs. Outside in our private garden the climatized plunge pool sparkles in the sunshine, and the outdoor deck with its sun loungers and cosy dining table beckon.

For those who seek palatial opulence, the resort offers two villas – the four-bedroom Sahra Villa and the two-bedroom Al Sarab Villa – in its exclusive villa compound, located a few minutes’ drive from the resort in a secluded area offering unobstructed views of the Empty Quarter. Each villa offers ample indoor and outdoor entertaining space with private pools and terraces. Guests staying in these villas can book the private Majlis situated in a separate building, designed for entertaining in true Emirati style with a team of butlers on hand to attend to every need.

After a gargantuan breakfast spread at the Al Waha all-day dining restaurant, which culminated in a melt-in-your-mouth brioche French toast topped with lemon labneh, pistachios, and drenched in date syrup we head to the pool. Located just past the 24-hour tennis and padel courts, the resort’s expansive infinity-edge freeform pool is surrounded by ample parasols, loungers, and a swim-up bar – the perfect respite from the midday sun.

The more adventurous can book to experience desert life in 4x4s, fat bikes, sunrise and sunset walks, or on camel and horseback where trained guides introduce guests to the flora and fauna of the region. For the more flip-and-flop travellers, a leisurely pool session can lead to lunch which is best enjoyed at the Mediterranean restaurant, Al Ghadeer, which overlooks the pool.

Post lunch I head to the serene Anantara Spa, set among aromatic hanging gardens, around a peaceful courtyard filled with water features. Tempted to try the entire spa menu which offers everything from a hammam to an ice room and various massages, I settle on the ‘Desert Fusion Massage’. As the hot stones and heated desert sand poultice release my muscle tension and detoxify me, I can feel the stress literally melting away. I unfurl myself from the massage bed, just in time to see the sky turn from vermilion to plum as the last rays of the sun settle themselves behind the red dunes for the night.

With a canopy of stars above us in the clear night sky, we head to dinner at the hotel’s upscale steakhouse and rooftop bar, Suhail. On the walk there, I see staff setting up a romantic meal in a Bedouin tent for two, where the dimly lit fanouses and luxurious sofas set the tone, and I take a mental note for next time to opt for the ‘Dining by Design’ offering. At Suhail, more than the steak we enjoy the nightcap at the rooftop bar with its surrounding desert landscape and chatty staff who have enough stories to fill 1001 nights.

Taking in the last of the hotel’s location, landscape, and grandeur, I fall asleep with my worries slipping away like grains of sand. Qasr Al Sarab has to be lived to be believed.

Visit and follow @anantaraqasralaarab on Instagram

Images courtesy of Anantara

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