Besides sleeping on the side of a mountain in Peru, Qasr Al Sarab by Anantara (aka Palace of the Mirage) tops the charts for the most unique hotel and backdrop I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Mirroring a desert oasis, the long (and I mean long, like 20 minutes long) entrance to the property had our jaws dropped and eyes wide open, rudely gapping at the dunes before us. After finally arriving, the property welcomed us with delectable dates and camel milk…which reminds me. I never want regular milk ever again. It was thick with a hint of cinnamon and other mouth-watering Middle Eastern spices I couldn’t begin to name, and I felt the urge to thank whatever camel produced such greatness. I knew I’d get that chance shortly.
With 205 rooms, Qasr Al Sarab doesn’t short-change any guest due to its 360-degree panoramic view of straight sand. I guarantee you that even the Harry Potter closet has a view of the wavelike dunes from the crack in the stone. Whichever way you look, however, note that sunglasses are a necessity. ‘Blinded by the light’ takes on new meaning here. The skies are hold more of a whiter hue than blue, and come high noon, you’ll most likely have already gravitated towards the hotel’s swimming pool that feels more like a lukewarm bath than anything else. Being surrounded by one of the largest sand deserts (Liwa Desert) in the world will do that (and then will promptly have you ordering vodka-anything-with-ice to halt from perspiring inside said pool).
If you decide to embark on an adventure to the middle of nowhere, you must remember to partake in a few things:
1) 5am Sunrise Camel Ride: The alarm clock sounded earlier than early that morning, but I can’t imagine who wouldn’t want to wake up for a camel ride…until we arrived to the meeting point and were told the family of 5 joining us was still in bed. Their loss! Suhan and Shahen were our camels and BFFs for the day as we headed into the 300 meter high dunes.
2) Sand Boarding: Unless you’re Hulk Hogan, Usain Bolt, or some other insanely athletic character who can defy all odds and therefore extreme temperatures, you’ll only be able to go up and down the dunes a couple of times. Maybe more depending on how much water you brought with you. The only way to slide down is to walk up! There are no ski lifts in the desert.
3) Private dinner in the dunes: While this was super tasty and beautiful and romantic (I mean, I was with one of my best girlfriends, but one can imagine), note that it’s not entirely private. While paying an arm and a leg for a private dinner at sunset, half the hotel was out and about right next to us witnessing the colorblasts as well. Just check out the photobomb in the background of the picture below. I felt as if the property needed to either lower the price for this activity or move it a bit further from the backyard of the hotel.
4) Sand is like herpes. You can never rid of it entirely (while in its vicinity.) It will be in your bed, in your shower, in your bathtub. Just go with it, and become one with the sand.
Note that traveling in the UAE means a 10% service fee and 6% tourism fee on each and every purchase and activity you do. Be prepared for a hefty bill at check-out. #worthit