Anantara Qasr Al Sarab, UAE Hotel Review

Truly unforgettable! An oasis in the desert. I’ve traveled to over 110 countries and stayed in some amazing 5* hotels for work and pleasure but Qasr Al Sarab is definitely one of the best.

Hotel:

The hotel is stunning. Every piece of furniture and décor seemed like a work of art. Although the idea of a hotel modelled after an Arabian castle with ramparts sounds quite kitsch but the hotel is anything but. The décor is palatial yet classy with Moorish, Moroccan and Turkish Islamic influences as well as traditional Bedouin tapestries and ceramics.

  
Rooms:
My husband & I stayed in a deluxe terrace room which I recommend as you have a great outdoor seating area, perfect for sundowners and for kids to play that’s shaded. It’s on the upper floor and a corner room so more spacious and always nice not to have anyone above you. Our kids had a deluxe balcony room next door which was perfect. There was a small balcony and one morning they even spotted 2 Arabian oryxes! Each room had an enormous sunken bathtub which my kids loved and could easily fit our whole family of 6. The air-con was strong and silent, beds were incredibly comfortable and it was so peaceful and quiet assuming there wasn’t a wedding at Al Falaj.

  

Location:
Most of the drive from Dubai is fairly undramatic with lots of flattish sand dunes on both sides until the last 20 minutes where you turn off the main road and enter I think the grounds of the resort. Then the dunes grow higher and higher and then in the middle of nowhere appears the resort, perhaps even more dramatic as we approached it as the sun was rising. It’s a stunning location, right at the edge of the Empty Quarter, close to the border of Saudia Arabia. The resort is expansive and we needed a golf buggy to get to the pool area and to some of the restaurants.

   

Facilities:
The pool was fantastic, right at edge of the sand dunes. It was huge so it never feels crowded and also has a swim-up bar which we always enjoy as well as another bar adjacent which is outdoors but air-conditioned! There’s also a good sized gym with all the machines and weights you’d expect.

 

Kids Factor:
It seemed that most guests didn’t have kids. If I had a choice I also would have left my boys at home as they certainly didn’t appreciate the palatial surroundings and sadly probably won’t remember the experience. There was an excellent kids club with an outdoor playground with swings and slides as well as a trampoline. The whole outdoor area was covered by canvas sails which provided enough shade for most of the day. There were also nice sand toys. When it got too hot they played inside and watch a movie.

 

Activities:
The pool was fantastic, huge with a swim-up bar which we always enjoy! It was still summer so we were fairly limited in activities except during the early morning or close to sunset. We did hikes up the sand dune every sunset. We saw some people on the sand boards but thought it’d be too hard for the kids. We were heading to Oman so already arranged dune bashing and camel riding so we didn’t do these activities here.

 

Restaurants & Bar:
Al Falaj – My husband & I had the Arabic BBQ dinner one night. It was a fantastic experience. It’s usually closed during the hot summer months but we were lucky that it was open during the last week of October. The mezze came with Hummous, baba ghanush, tabouleh and grilled veggies. For the meats, there was lamb, chicken and beef steak. You could re-order any item. Special thanks to the staff here as we came back the next night with the kids with graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate. They kindly roasted the marshmallows on the grill so the kids could have smores, what a treat!

 

Ghadeer – We ate here often as it was casual and next to the pool. Good selection of food and there was also a kids menu.
Suhai – had a romantic dinner one night, food wasn’t impressive as I can’t remember the details of what we ordered. It was pricey for what it was is all I remembered.

 

Breakfast:
Definitely 1 of the breakfast buffets and kids & adults in terms of variety and quality. For adults, you’ve got the usual egg station, cereals, cold cuts/cheeses, Local specialties included falafel, haloumi (delicious), local cheeses and yogurts. They also had a fantastic frozen yogurt and frappe machine which we all enjoyed. For kids there was also a pancake cart with lots of elaborate toppings. The bread/pastry area was also extensive with good quality baked goods. The outdoor tables had great views over the desert but we didn’t want to ruin the zen for all the people without kids so we sat inside. The staff were so lovely and attentive.

 

Staff:
Service was impeccable! The staff was an incredible mix of nationalities from Pakistani, Filipina, Chinese, European, Indian, etc. Our driver who was from the Swat Valley in Pakistan met us at promptly at 4am from Dubai airport and drove us for 3 hours to the resort. He was professional and affable, sharing interesting stories about growing up in Pakistan. When we arrived at the resort, the check-in process was efficient quick and they allowed us an early check-in which was a relief as we’d only had a few hours of sleep since our departure from Bangkok. The restaurant, hotel and transport staff were all helpful, friendly and always willing to lend a hand when they saw us with our 4 young kids. Special thanks to the chef and staff at Al Waha. Since 1 of my boys has a food allergy we put some frozen dishes in their freezer and asked the staff to defrost them during our stay.

Cons:
This was quite minor but there was a mistake in our bill which they eventually sorted and wired transfer a refund.

Room Tip:
For families larger than 5, recommend a deluxe terrace room which has a great outdoor seating area, perfect for sundowners and for kids to play that’s shaded. It’s on the upper floor and a corner room so more spacious and always nice not to have anyone above you. Then have the kids next door in a deluxe balcony room. I’m not sure of the price difference between this combo or the 2 BR pool villa but the latter wasn’t available when we booked.

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