Location: Qasr al Sarab, Abu Dhabi
If you’ve been following my Instagram or blog over the last few weeks, you may have noticed that I’ve become obsessed with one of Abu Dhabi’s best kept secrets – the beautiful Qasr al Sarab resort in Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter. This will be my final post using my pictures from Abu Dhabi. I thought to myself what better way to wrap up such an amazing holiday than to talk a little bit more about this mind-blowing hotel, what is so special about it, and why you should consider it during your upcoming holiday planning. This post is really heavy on the pictures and I wanted it to be that way as I felt that words were not enough to describe the sheer beauty of this resort.
The best way to reach Qasr al Sarab is to fly into Abu Dhabi International Airport, rent a car and drive over to the resort. The drive will take anywhere between two to two and a half hours to get there so if you land at night, you might want to start the trip south the following day. Once you’ve left the city, you’ll find yourself driving down a very long road with not much going on, other than desert on either side and the occasional warehouse or lone building. At the end of this long road, take a left once you see the Qasr al Sarab sign and enter the resort. You’ll be greeted by a guard at the gate who confirms your reservation. When you’re through, you begin the 10km drive through some stunning burnt orange sand dunes. Have the cameras ready because it is by far the most extravagant entrance to a hotel I have seen and whilst you are driving, you only build up the excitement for your arrival.
So you’ve driven through the windy road enclosed by sand dunes and finally get through Qasr Al Sarab’s imposing entrance. Qasr al Sarab literally translates to ‘Mirage Palace’ and it truly does feel like one, where somehow they have managed to build this sprawling oasis in the middle of the desert. Since the resort is so big, you get around using these cute golf buggies driven by the hotel staff. We spent some time walking around but after a while the heat became a little unbearable so the buggies really are necessary.
In terms of accommodation, you have three choices. You can either opt to stay in one of their rooms or if you can, and I suggest you do, you can upgrade to one of their stunning poolside villas. We were in Villa 21. Each of these villas has a bedroom and huge bathroom (with amazing bath!), lounge area and large terrace. Of course, the highlight of this is the small private pool in the middle of the terrace, complete with outdoor shower and sun lounges. Some of my favourite moments of the holiday were spent chilling on the terrace by the pool under the stars, having rose shisha and mint tea. Just up the road from our villa was the Royal Villa, a suite reserved solely for the use of members of the Emirati royal family, who normally arrive at the resort via the conveniently located helipad.
The third and final option is to upgrade from the pool villa to the Royal Pavilion – a collection of ten villas cut off from the main resort. These villas are similar to the regular ones, just a little bit more luxurious and no kids are allowed. The Royal Pavilion has its own pool, gym and reception area, ensuring absolute privacy and luxury.
The resort is located in the middle of Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter, and it’s called the Empty Quarter for a reason. The hotel is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. That being said, there are plenty of activities that you can do whilst at the hotel, and I’ve listed a few of them here. We had already done a desert safari a few years ago, however if it’s your first time to the Middle East, I would recommend giving it a go. You get to go dune bashing, which is where you drive up and over the huge sand dunes in the desert in a 4×4. This is normally followed by sand-boarding, camel riding or desert biking. We opted just to go camel riding at sunset, my favourite time of the day, and it was such a sight. We were a small group of about five people and, along with the camel handlers, we rode through the sand dunes and watched the sun setting over the desert.
There are a whole host of different activities that you can sign up for whilst you are at the resort. I’ve linked their brochure here.
If you are more into just chilling by the pool, you’re in luck. The resort has a huge free form pool with a bar in the middle. Check out this blog post for pictures. Once you’re done with the pool, be sure to book a treatment at the resort’s amazing spa. We went for the couple’s message with a rose milk bath and it was dreamy. The treatment room had one glass wall, so that you could sit and watch the imposing sand dunes right outside, whilst relaxing in the rose bath.
If you’re anything like me, food is a major part of your holiday and Qasr al Sarab will not disappoint. We had breakfast each morning at Suhail, a rooftop lounge terrace overlooking the beautiful sand dunes. We also had dinner there one evening and the food was delicious. There are of course, other restaurants but you can also request a private BBQ in your suite or attend one of their cooking classes.
As it was my birthday, we did something extra special. We went for the resort’s ‘Dining by Design’, where you are collected from your room in the little buggy and taken to a secluded area lit up by fire. We went for the vegetarian option and had loads of food to choose from! A table is laid out with food of your choice, and there is no one else around. It’s just you, your waiter and the desert. I truly recommend this if you are looking for something extra special as you really are given personalised service in utmost privacy.
Last but not least, apart from the novelty of staying in a resort in the middle of the desert, it is the staff that really makes the hotel special. I got the impression that everyone was truly happy to be there and was determined to give each guest the best service possible. Everyone we spoke to was just so genuinely friendly. As the hotel is so far from any major city, the staff all live in a compound a few minutes away from the resort. The good thing is that those families who work at the hotel are allowed to remain together. We also chatted to another staff member who works at the resort all year round, but over the summer travels back home to his native country to see family for 40 days each year. He was about to head home the day we were leaving Abu Dhabi and so must have returned by now. I found it so admirable that he was away from his family all year, yet had such dedication to his job and carried out his duties in such a positive manner. The staff also wrote me a lovely Happy Birthday card, which is now sitting on my bookshelf in London. I really can’t praise them enough and think that it is their dedication and positivity that makes Qasr al Sarab all the more special.
There you have it. The final post in my Abu Dhabi series of pictures, ending with my favourite part of the holiday – the incredible Qasr al Sarab. I truly recommend you consider this place when booking your next holiday so that you can experience all of the above for yourself. If you have been already, what were your favourite moments whilst there? Did you have any other experiences that you want to share? Would also love to hear more about your favourite hotels, wherever they are in the world! Just drop them in the comments section below!