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Arabian fantasies
December 2009 1342

Set amidst the Empty Quarter (Rub al Khali) and the golden sands of the Liwa desert, the new five-star-luxury resort Qasr Al Sarab has opened its doors to showcase authentic Emirati culture and heritage.

Developed by Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), every aspect of Qasr Al Sarab, from the architecture to the interior design, artefacts, activities and cuisine, reflects the local culture which was a core element in the development of the resort which is situated 90 minutes from Abu Dhabi International Airport.

TDIC and Anantara, which runs the resort, have overseen every element in the development of the resort to ensure the property remained true to the heritage of the region. It is designed in the style of ancient forts of the tribes who inhabited Abu Dhabi’s Al Gharbia region. The entire stretch of the resort is built in a crescent pattern and on the edge of a dune. The property has used design principles to ensure minimal environmental impact.

One of the key features is the façade which was designed with a wind modelling technique to minimise the harsh effects of wind and sandstorms.  During construction concrete material use was minimized by using geo-textile sandbags to reduce cost and carbon footprint from concrete. The strategic design of the landscaping also provides maximum shade to buildings, thereby reducing cooling requirements and operating costs.

The resort houses more than 2,000  artefacts collected from the neighbouring region on the Liwa stretch including Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The design team was closely involved with the Al Ain National Museum to learn about the Bedouin style of living and every aspect of their lives are now visible in the design and layout of this resort.

Qasr Al Sarab has 154 hotel rooms, 42 villas and 10 royal villas. The rooms are spacious, comfortable and private and all have terraces overlooking the ever changing sand dunes of the Liwa desert.

The resort offers four dining options, the Al Waha all-day-dining serves Middle Eastern international cuisine and a selection of Bedouin dishes. The lavish breakfast spread includes variety of local fruits and a highly recommended pastry selection. The lounge at Suhail has indoor and alfresco dining options. Ghadeer is the poolside restaurant  and Al Liwan Arabic-style lounge offers blends of tea and rich Middle Eastern coffee. However, a must try for all guests is the authentic ‘Bedouin Tent Dinner’. An experience in itself, guests can settle in a Bedouin inspired tent in the middle of the sandy dunes and indulge in some national delicacies prepared on open flame grills. This followed by some Arabic coffee and sweet tea while enjoying traditional shisha. 

Private pools and outdoor terraces and the Anantara Spa with its five lavish treatment rooms are just some of the facilities at Qasr Al Sarab. Guests can participate in traditional activitiessuch as camel riding, archery, falconry, desert exploration as well as star-gazing from the Empty Quarter dunes. For the less adventurous, there is the library of literature situated at the Al Liwan lounge or activities including cooking and henna painting. The fitness centre also offers a relaxing room, yoga and aerobic studio, weights and cardio as well as a large outdoor swimming pool.

One of the most captivating experiences at the Qasr Al Sarab resort is the chance to explore the vast sandy landscape of the Liwa desert and the adjoining 9,000-sq-km protected wildlife reserve, one of the largest in the UAE and managed by the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency.

When open, this will allow guests to watch free-roaming animals such as the Arabian oryx, sand gazelle and the Arabian hare.

Opening rates start at Dh2,700 ($735) for a deluxe room, Dh4,200 ($1,143) for a one-bedroom villa and Dh12,700 ($3,457) for a three-bedroom villa valid until December 31, 2009.

by Shalu Chandran

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