Overnight in the Liwa Desert at the Qasr al Sarab

About 10 months ago, Google famously brought the Liwa Desert to the world by mapping it out by camel-cam.

But if you’re lucky enough to live in the UAE, you can explore the Liwa Desert in person.
And if you’d like some creature comforts with your desert, you can stay in the real Liwa oasis, the Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara.

Sand dunes

The Liwa Desert is located in the southern part of the UAE at the northern edge of Rub’ al Khali, the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world. It’s an easy 3-hour drive from Dubai on the road that takes you towards Saudi Arabia and past the Rainbow Sheikh’s car museum.

The Qasr al Sarab is a sprawling resort in the middle of said desert, an oasis surrounded by never-ending, undulating sand dunes that change from peach to brown to deep red ochre, depending on the time of day. On the approach to the hotel, you traverse a single road for 12 km just to get to the main entrance.

Road to Qasr

The scenery is stunning but for some reason, I was under the impression that this hotel was more exclusive than it actually was – even though I knew we were doing this trip on the cheap and had only booked a basic room (deluxe garden room) with no breakfast. My mistake.

There are beautiful photos of rooms on the website, with private plunge pools and expansive terraces, so next time (if there were to be a next time), I’d give the basic room a miss.

Qasr Al Sarab Buildings

I really do prefer my luxury hotels and this felt more like a family resort. It didn’t help that we went on a weekend so the resort was teeming with people. We had lunch at the poolside restaurant Ghadeer, overlooking the heaving pool area, wondering whether we were going to find a free sun lounger.

Qasr Al Sarab Pool

Like all of the other desert hotels, Qasr al Sarab offers the standard desert activities – camel treks, dunebashing, archery, falconry demonstrations – but we’ve been there done that, so were here just to relax.

Qasr Al Sarab Jen

For dinner, we had what should have been a memorable dinner outdoors at open-air Al Falaj restaurant for mezze and BBQ – it sounded so promising and there were copious amounts of food, but considering the quality, cost, and uncomfortable seats, I left disappointed.

It had to be done once – it’s not everyday you’re just a stone’s throw from Saudi Arabia in the world’s largest uninterrupted sand desert, after all. The sand dunes are lovely, but next time I want a desert break, I’ll splurge on Al Maha or Banyan Tree Al Wadi.

We paid AED 935++ per night for room only on a Friends and Family rate.

Qasr al Sarab by Anantara
Al Gharbia
United Arab Emirates
Tel: +971 2 886 2088

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