Embedded in one of the largest sand deserts in the world, Qasr al Sarab Resort by Anantara is truly an oasis of luxury. About two hours outside of the city of Abu Dhabi, you’ll turn off the main road and head through towering sand dunes for approximately 12 kilometers until the resort emerges like something out of a movie. It’s as if you’ve arrived at an Arabian palace.

The remote location makes it a perfect retreat from civilization, but the ample amenities and plush rooms are ultra civilized. All rooms and suites boast an earthy palette with lush Middle East fabrics, jewel-embedded chandeliers, and either a balcony or terrace from which to enjoy the stunning desert views. Standard goodies include DVD players, personal Nespresso coffee machines, and a pillow menu. For more space and privacy, upgrade to one of the villas (with one to three bedrooms), which offer private plunge pools with sun decks and outdoor showers, kitchenettes, and personalized butler service.

Though you’re deep in the desert, you won’t want for water…or food. On the water tip, the main hotel pool is gorgeous and, like the hotel itself, has sweeping views of the desert landscape. On the food tip, you can enjoy a lavish breakfast buffet in the all-day Mediterranean/international restaurant Al Waha. At dinner, head to the delicious, high-end steakhouse Suhail. For lighter fare, kick back with a shisha in Ghadeer, offering Mediterranean sandwiches and snacks, or enjoy a hot drink and Arabic pastries in Al Liwan, the lobby lounge. If the desert is calling you, though, sign up for the Dining by Design experience, in which you’ll be served a private meal amid the sand dunes (very romantic).

Even if you choose not to dine in the dunes, there are plenty of desert activities to keep you occupied. A popular sunset activity is to climb the highest dune to watch the sun go down (make sure you’re well rested−the climb isn’t as easy as it looks!). You can also book activities in advance like camel trekking, mountain biking, dune bashing, and falconry. That said, if you prefer leisure activities that don’t involve getting sandy, there’s a fitness center, tennis courts, and a sumptuous spa. The spa, tucked into tranquil garden courtyards with trickling fountains, is designed around Hammam healing baths and features double treatment rooms for enjoying massages with your significant other.

No matter how you spend your time at Qasr al Sarab, you’ll be completely transported by this desert jewel. The evocative landscape, night sky full of stars, and mystical Middle Eastern ambiance carry you to an ancient time and place far, far away from the slick, modern bustle of Abu Dhabi.

QasrAlSarabFromTheDunes

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QasrAlSarabVillas