Recently I was fortunate to stay in what I believe to be a contender, for the best hotel in the world. The Anantara Qasr Al Sarab, located a few hundred km’s into the Abu Dhabi desert, in what’s known as the empty quarter.
The hotel was built by the UAE government as a demonstration of what is possible, when money is no object. The resort was then put out to tender and Anantara won the contract. I think this was a great thing, as the Anantara chain is both sophisticated, stylish and beautiful, whilst remaining low key and not “stuffy” like some chains.
We had been staying in Dubai the past few days in the Bonnington Hotel. In order to make the trip possible we taxi’d back to Abu Dhabi (only a 40 minute whizz along the motorway).
At Abu Dhabi international airport we rented our car for the trip, a Toyota Corolla…. Now began the interesting part, the expedition to the desert. Whilst you’d have thought driving in the UAE would be easy, we still managed to get a tad lost on the way out from the airport.
But after some “adjusting” of the navigation responsibilities, we were on the road to the Qasr Al Sarab. The Qasr Al Sarab is located off the main highway, roughly 15kms into the desert. You really do get the sense of driving into nothingness for ages until you round a corner and see what I can only describe as something out of Lawrence of Arabia. The hotel is more a palace in the desert than anything resembling a resort. Anyway this place is far too special to simply be labled as a resort.
We drove through several arches, and arrived at the main entrance, where our bags were swifty taken off us and the car parked for us. We were escorted over to a lounge area of the lobby, which gave me an incredible perspective looking out over the hotel grounds to the dunes of the Arabian Desert.
Several formalities were undertaken, like passport copies and credit card deposits taken but was low key and felt relaxed. During this we presented with refreshing cold towels, camel milk and dates which was great!
We then were taken over to our residences, which i’m still unsure what exactly to call them suites, rooms, mini palaces?! We were driven in a golf buggy over to the other side of the resort. We had a lovely member of staff called Ruth show us to our rooms, and we were taken through all the intricate operations of the room, including the largest bath I’ve ever seen!
The beds were incredible, i’ve stayed in a few Anantara’s around the world, and my word they do comfortable beds! After all, the fundamental priority in any hotel is that you actually get a good nights sleep right! As you can see above the rooms are in traditional arabic style with all the modern amenities subtly added.
Turning away from the bed you make your way into the beautifully designed bathroom, consisting of perhaps the largest bath i’ve ever had in my hotel room. It did take a good 15 minutes to fill up, but was worth it! There was a plentiful supply of Elemis products but in addition there was a soap menu, which for reasons i’m unsure i didn’t utilise (regrettable i know!)
But perhaps the most breathtaking part of the room was the reminder that you were indeed, in the middle of a desert, multiple km’s from any other civilisation. We had two rooms, one which had a large outside eating and rooftop area, and one which had a smallish balcony, giving wonderful desert views.
After settling into our new residence, we set upon walking up the hotel’s nearest dune, which was no easy feat in 35C! But as you will see below, it was 100% worth the trek, my word the desert is a beautiful place and how good to be only a few minutes away from the 5 star Egyptian cotton rich air conditioned sanctuary of the Anantara.
And what would being in the desert be, without watching the sun go down over the dunes!
What I didnt really appreciate until I walked back in the direction of the hotel was how vast it was, but also how it sort of merged into the desert. It wasn’t like a shiny glistening concrete, steel and glass structure, like what is so common in the middle east, the architect has done a great job fitting the complex into the surrounding area. Something I also found out on my walk back, was that there was another part of the complex, so exclusive that you’d have to be in the United Arab Emirates’ royal family to enjoy. In fact it’s exactly that, the private royal residence, in a separate area a few hundred metres to the other side of the dune.
So what other facilities are there at the Qasr Al Sarab?
The pool. Yes the pool or at least one of them was incredible! I can’t vouch for the Royal facilities but i imagine them to also be spectacular.
If you follow TrekTrendy, you’ll know that I love a good gym whilst i’m away, some people don’t like to work out whilst they’re on holiday but for me I find it all part of the fun, and also it’s great working out in new gyms around the world. This gym was no exception, it was large, brand new and best of all empty! There was a large selection of cardio machines, as well as a great free wights and resistance area.
I think what really makes it quite special is this is in the middle of nowhere! The whole hotel is completely independent, and isn’t connected to any kind of external mains supply as there simply isn’t one. The hotel has a sanitation plant, power plant and a helicopter if anyone needs to get out of there quick / arrive in style.
The food was gorgeous. I’ll start with breakfast which consisted of a huge buffet spread, of pretty much anything you could image. There was an egg station, pancake and waffle station, noodle bar, cakes and pastries section, fresh fruit platters… the list goes on. I was a particular fan of the camel milk, which may not sound particularly appetising, but check out the branding!
For lunch, I enjoyed a low key casual meal by the pool. The food was great and there was a large selection, on one day I had a traditional arabic meze, and the second I had Lamb kebabs… lovely! The pool area was great during the day for relaxation, there were more than enough sun loungers and cabañas, especially good as there was a balanced mix of shaded areas as well as full sun locations for the sun worshipers!
Wifi was great nearer the pool though a bit patchy further away towards the dunes. I think i’ll let them off in the desert!
Dinner at the Anantara was grand. You could choose to take dinner by the pool, on the rooftop terrace, or have an arabic bbq near the dunes…
The next day we headed out to the desert to give camel riding a go. This was great fun, as we headed out on a couple of large V8 Land cruisers, bashing through the dunes arab style!
After 15 minutes of driving into the desert we were met our camels, sat down and ready for a trek through the dunes! The Qasr Al Sarab actually has a small farm where these camel are looked after, and the guys you see in the picture cared for them all, they even told us the camels names, which I had no chance of pronouncing! Camels are still big business in the UAE, no only is there milk worth about 20 times the price of cow’s milk, but camel racing is a multi million pound business!
So after getting on the camel (which by the way are a lot higher than you imagine) we set off into the desert. And I couldn’t resist getting one of the guides to take a snap of us!
The day drew to a brilliant close with a spot of Arabic coffee and dates, watching the sun go down with the camels…. what a spectacular place!
What’s been done at the Qasr Al Sarab is truly something very special. I can honestly say that what I experienced here was perhaps the best overal hotel experience i’ve ever had, and trust me i’ve stayed in a LOT of hotels over the years. What truly hits home of how incredible this is, is that the Qar Al Sarab is miles and miles away from anywhere. The whole palace/resort/castle is self sustaining, with all the staff living onsite and everything being trucked in from Abu Dhabi (Khalifa City).
If you want to get the most out of your trip to the middle east and want to treat yourself to a trip of a lifetime, here is really where you need to stay. It’s beyond imaginable, and a very different experience to the ultra modern Dubai. If I were you I’d combine this like I did with a 5* Dubai experience for the ultimate middle east experience.
Do the same?
Fly to Dubai or Abu Dhabi from just £280
And stay at the opulent Qasr Al Sarab