Review: Qsar al Sarab Desert Resort by Anatara, The Empty Quarter, United Arab Emirates

The Qsar Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anatara was an especially neat experience. Being able to experience resort like luxury in the middle of sand dunes was a unique and unusual experience. In this report, we’ll go over the accomodations and resort features. In then next post, I will review some Desert Retreat activities at Qsar Al Sarab and share some of the experiences that we did while staying at the property.

This post is one chapter in our trip to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Maldives on United Airlines and Etihad Airways. This trip was booked and credited to Aeroplan and Etihad Preferred Guest. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort by Anatara, The Empty Quarter, United Arab Emirates

“The Qsar Al Sarab is the ultimate desert retreat experience, likely in the world. Beating out our past experiences in Morocco, Namibia and Egypt, the resort provides a range of activities in 5 star excellence”

Booking and Getting there:

I found this place courtesy of the Lonely Planet guidebook. It advertised the ultimate desert experience. The name, Qasar al Sarab means “The Mirage” when translated into English. I booked the Desert Discovery rate directly via the Anatara Hotel website, since the rate offered two activities included for almost the same price as the regular room rate. Our rate at the time was approximately 1,300 AED or $260 USD per night, buffet breakfast for two per day plus one activity per day, which I thought was quite reasonable.

The Qsar Al Sarab Resort by Anatara is located in the middle of the desert. The property is surrounded by sand dunes all around it.

After about a 2.5 hour drive from Abu Dhabi, we found our way to the hotel through the well marked resort entrance. The road in was about 12 km long. It was a fantastic first impression. Approaching the hotel round about, the report was discreetly designed to fit in to the landscape. I literally had shivers and goose bumps on my forearms (no small feat in the 38 degree weather) as we arrived in our Toyota Corolla. The resort looked that different, and totally cool and chic.

Access Road to Qsar Al Sarab
Sand Dunes outside of Qsar Al Sarab Resort
Entry Gates to Qsar Al Sarab
The Gates to the Resort
The Gates to the Hotel Resort Reception

Arriving to the entrance, an army of 5 people rushed to meet us as our car pulled up. (How do you tip 5 people?) We were led in to the wonderful lobby, and the first impressions continued to impress. A massive lantern bar met us with a fountain that ran the length of the building. We were given a date and yoghurt smoothie as they completed the check in process, and led to a golf cart to take us to our room. 

The Room: A Deluxe Terrace Room

On arrival, our driver explained the features of the room and showed us the terrace, even taking the time to explain the light switches for the inside and outside lights. 

Deluxe Terrace Room – King Bed
Unique Bedroom Views of the Desert
Double Vanity Bathroom
Traditional Arabic Welcome Dates

Welcome dates are the traditional welcome of the Middle East. They were sure tasty!! The hotel also offered a welcome amenity of chocolate cake in celebration of our honeymoon.

Welcome Amenity

The Hotel Room offered a Deluxe Terrace, which was a handy place to be at sundowner.

Deluxe Terrace under searing heat
Deluxe Terrace with seating areas

It is always nice to have a little extra space in a hotel room and this place was no exception.

Views from the Room: A Spectacular Desert view

The resort continued to impress with most areas taking in the wonderful views of the desert. I couldn’t stop taking photographs. It was absolutely surreal to be in the middle of such a natural beauty, yet surrounded by the availability of modern luxuries (like air conditioning!) This place was a wonderful retreat to visit.

Room with a View of Desert Dunes
Rooftop Resort Views as surrounded by dunes

The Deluxe Terrace room was also handy for taking in sunsets over the dunes. It’s nice to have this sort of view looking out over the desert.

Sunset with a Private Lounge Area
A unique way to watch the sun go down

I appreciated having the extra room from the Deluxe Terrace. It made it much easier to have a little extra room. Keeping in mind, if you spring for the Deluxe Terrace Room, you’re not likely to spend much time using the space in the middle of the day under the desert heat.

Around the Property:

Being a desert retreat, you can expect a solid pool and great recreation facilities. We spent some time incinerating ourselves at the pool in high thirty degree Celcius temperatures. It was well worth our time.

A resort pool with a spectacular view
Poolside Sunsets

The desert is certainly one of the more unusual places to enjoy the sunset.

Food and Beverage:

The resort is pretty much in the middle of the desert. This means that there are not a lot of local restaurants that you can go off property in order to discount your stay. Despite this, the food and beverage on the property was excellent.

Camel Milk as a Breakfast Delicacy

Our rate included buffet breakfast every day. The buffet was pretty standard fare, although they did have one item that I really enjoyed that I was unable to ever locate anywhere else.

The buffet offered “Camel Milk” or milk from a camel. It was described as a staple food of nomad tribes with the mill being richer in fat and protein that cow mile. It also offers benefits of lower choloestoral and higher in Vitamin C and up to ten times higher in Iron. I had one taste and I was hooked. Unfortunately, there are not many camels in my postal code in Canada so I haven’t been able to locate any camel milk after departing the property.

Camel Milk Informational Placard

A very tasty experience!

Dinner at Qsar Al Sarab:

We enjoyed an evening dinner at their top tier grill restaurant. The restaurant was seated under patio lights al fresco to the desert breezes in the evening. The Restaurant was award with a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence during our visit. It was a very warm, but dark experience.

Lobby Reception Area
Pausing at the Bar Area
Lantern Lights in the Lounge

After passing through the lounge, we were led up to the roof top restaurant on the top floor. There were Arabic Lanterns everywhere, which really set the mood of the whole experience.

The hotel felt like an Arabic Castle

We were led into the restaurant. The restaurant was quite dark and had transitioned to iPad’s for the menu. It was a bit of an “office” like touch staring at a white screen in the darkness.

iPad Menus

I had a some wonderful Lamb Cutlets off the rack with middle eastern spices. It was perfectly cooked.

Perfectly Seasoned Lamb Cutlets off the Rack
There is nothing I don’t like about that plate- tasty!

I was quite pleased with the dining experiences at Qsar Al Sarab. Despite being well off the beaten track, the property made an effort to treat it’s guests well with outstanding food and beverage.

In the next post, I will review some Desert Retreat activities at Qsar Al Sarab and share some of the experiences that we did while staying at the property.

The Bottom Line:

Staying at the Qsar al Sarab resort was a fabulous and spectacular experience. We were well taken care of during our stay in this beautiful corner of the United Arab Emirates. The views of the sand dunes were unique and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in my travels. Although this property is not easy to get to, it is well worth making the time to get there.

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