This place is obviously all about the location: in the middle of the desert, with dunes all around. Just stunning and well worth the trip. The resort itself is great in its kind, as long as you realise what kind of property you are visiting and tune your expectations accordingly. Let's make it clear: this is not an uber-luxury Aman or Alila and doesn't try to be so; it's a very big property, which caters to a diverse array of travelers (with different budgets and expectations). Another way to put it: the resort itself would deserve a "very good" rating, which becomes "excellent" thanks to the unique surroundings.
I went as part of a holiday throughout the Emirates and Oman. My expectations were very high for the location, and average for the resort itself. I am glad to say that they were exceeded. More specifically:
ROOMS - Somehow the Anantara website and particularly the amateur Tripadvisor pictures make the rooms look somehow dark and even shabby. Perhaps it's the colour palette (all brown-ish) that plays this trick. Let me tell you that the reality is MUCH better; they are very well appointed, with the design fitting the location. We had a 1-bedroom pool villa and the private pool was very enjoyable. I also liked the feeling of being separate from the big main building. Just a word of caution: the 1-bedroom pool villas are not on the first tier (facing directly the dunes). This means that you have dunes all around you, but your immediate sight is of the other villas in front. I believe only the 2-bedroom villas are in front, or the Royal Pavilion ones. I wanted to book a Royal Pavilion villa initially, but due to an exceptional promotion on the 1-bed pool it turned out to be about 1/5 of the price and went for that instead. I would probably pay up to double the rate to be in the Royal Pavilion if I were to return, but 4 to 5 times more seemed excessive.
POOL - This is my biggest criticism. I didn't like the main pool, at all. Too much "resort-like", with a pool bar, lots of sunbeds, etc. I didn't spend any time there and was very happy to have my own in the villa.
RESTAURANTS - Food was above expectations. Breakfast is exceptional, with a lot of local and international dishes made to order (waffle station, Middle Eastern station, etc...). I had dinner both nights at the pool restaurant and had such a pleasant surprise! The ambiance is not great, but the food is REALLY good. Home made bread to die for, and a really knowledgeable chef: they had a striploin as a special and it was cooked to perfection.
SERVICE - Overall good, bearing in mind the type of resort. In other words, it can't be that personalised when you have so many rooms.
ACTIVITIES - Very fun and the guides were extremely nice. However, I would recommend doing a couple of walks on your own. We woke up one morning (painfully early) and went to watch the sunset from the big dune in front of the resort. Approximately 30-40 minutes walk but well worth it, and definitely doesn't require a guide.
Overall, the place is inevitably a bit "touristy" (not sure I like the Moroccan influences, like the Tajines and some of the music), but well worth a stay. It delivers above expectations.
The GM deserves a particular mention: when we arrived he was standing in the lobby, chatting with guests and welcoming new arrivals. I saw him several times over the course of two days and I personally think this is always a good sign: he clearly cared about the guests and was always reachable to discuss feedback on the resort or the activities. Well done, this really makes the difference.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Where mystic charm, cultural passion and unparalleled luxury evoke distinctive memories. Set in the middle of the Rub' al Khali or Empty Quarter, the largest uninterrupted body of sand in the world, Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resorts by Anantara is isolated from the world, yet is less than 200km away from Abu Dhabi. The resort brings the mysticism of this eminent location to life, inviting you to discover the unique appeal of its surroundings. Enjoy an array of facilities and immerse yourself in the wonderful splendour of an eternally changing landscape. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort By Anantara Hotel Abu Dhabi