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At a glance

  • You'll love

    Guaranteed sun

    Luxurious Anantara spa

    Free, drop-in kids club

  • Kids will love

    Dune-bashing drives

    Camel-treks; archery

    Their own pool and club

  • Don’t expect

    Independent exploration

    Childcare for babies

    Mid-summer outings


Luxurious, remote and romantic in the truest sense, the family-friendly Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort near Abu Dhabi's Liwa Oasis inhabits a staggering, sun-baked sandscape. Within palatial walls, it's cool, calm and brimming with Middle-Eastern charm – arches twinkle with Arabic lanterns, palm-lined courtyards centre on babbling fountains. Lounge poolside with the kids, ride camels, kick up a sandstorm in a 4WD then dine under starry skies in a Bedouin tent.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Anantara Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort with us:

A desert-valley camel trek for the whole family (children must be aged 4+)


‘Where else can they start the day with an Emirati cooking lesson before exploring the desert expanse by camel, horse or Jeep? As a family, you can tear up the dunes in a 4WD, go mountain-biking in novel desert surrounds, or play tennis at dusk’

Smith & Family


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Need To Know


206, including 14 interconnecting Suites and 52 family-friendly Villas.


12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.


Double rooms from £347.26 (AED1,560), including tax at 16 per cent.

More details

Rates usually include a generous buffet breakfast. Children Under-3s stay free in cots; and extra beds for under-12s (AED406 a night, excluding tax) can be added to parents’ rooms. The drop-in kids club is free.


The hotel welcomes babies and toddlers and is easy to navigate with a buggy – but bear in mind that there’s no crèche (only a kids’ club for children aged 3–12), babysitting is not available for infants under 12 months, and although there’s lots to do at the resort, most of the activities are geared towards children aged 5+.

At the hotel

Spa with hammam, swimming pool, restaurants, bar, kids club, playground, tennis courts, gym, yoga salas, gardens, boutique, DVD library, free WiFi throughout.

In your room

Flatscreen TV, minibar, CD/DVD player, pillow menus, air-conditioning, black-out blinds, Nespresso machine and tea-making facilities, free bottled water. Bathrooms feature deep round oversize baths, separate walk-in rain showers, double sinks, fluffy robes and Molton Brown toiletries.

Our favourite rooms

All rooms are spacious enough for cots (Deluxe Garden or Balcony Suites offer the best value for money if it’s just the two of you plus a baby). Anantara Suites have adjoining room options, but the resort’s one-, two-, and three-bed villas are the most family-friendly, with their own separate living room, kitchenette, private plunge pool, sun deck – even your own personal butler. If you do go for a villa, book one of those closer to the pool so you don’t need to call for a golf-buggy transfer before you can go for a swim. If you’re with very small Smiths, avoid the Balcony Suites (they’re set up flights of stairs which can be hard work with little legs) and opt instead for a Deluxe Garden room with outdoor space for them to run around. Decor in all room types mixes traditional Arabic elements with dark wood furniture, marble floors and neutral earth tones.


The super-roomy, free-form pool is shaded by palm trees and looks out towards the surrounding valley. There are plenty of loungers and parasols, plus a swim-up bar (open 9am–9pm) mixing mocktails (it’s unlicensed) and serving light snacks. For little swimmers, there’s a separate covered shallow pool with a water fountain. It’s manned by lifeguards at all times and a little cart sells armbands and sunscreen. The main pool is open 7am–9pm, and the kids’ pool 9am–7pm.


Anantara   Anantara Qasr Al Sarab's sumptuous Anantara Thai spa is set among aromatic hanging gardens and around a peaceful courtyard filled with trickling fountains. There's no messing here: it's equipped with a hammam tiled in royal blue and gold, a sauna, two Jacuzzis, two steam rooms, an ice room and six lavish treatment rooms, four of which are for both Mr Smith and his missus. There are also two outdoor salas for private yoga. All therapists are Thai and, as per UAE law, women are always treated by female therapists and men male therapists. The wide range of treatments includes exotic wraps, jet-lag-combating herbal compress massage, floral foot rituals, milk baths, scrubs and OPI manicure and pedicures. Spa treatments are also offered in your room and the spa is open to over-8s for tween or teen pedis or wraps.


Yes, the mercury can soar to over 40 degrees in mid-summer (so don’t skimp on the factor 50) but the desert gets cold at night: pack some lightweight, long-sleeved numbers for alfresco dining. If you’re planning on visiting local villages on a Liwa tour, women will need to cover their shoulders and knees.

Book ahead

Book babysitting and spa treatments at least 24 hours ahead, and all other activities as far in advance as you can. The dawn yoga sessions in the desert are particularly popular – they get booked up a month in advance.

Food and drink

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Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara – Desert – UAE


Al Waha (the 'Oasis') offers all-day dining indoors under the air-conditioning or outside on an airy terrace overlooking the dunes. Its breakfast buffet is gargantuan (made-to-order eggs and omelettes, Emirati pancakes, bacon, sausages, home-made hash browns, plus unlimited fresh fruit, breads, pastries and cakes). Lunch and dinner take in Middle Eastern as well as international cuisines, but whether you want a sarnie or a shawarma, it’ll be made to order by one of the chefs at the live cooking stations (good for tailoring teatime to fussy tots). Some evenings feature traditional dance displays – easily avoidable if that’s not your cup of (mint) tea. Overlooking the pool from its terrace, and especially pretty at night, is Al Ghadeer, with an open-plan kitchen and Italian/Spanish influences. Try the tagliata of beef with pont neuf potatoes or jumbo crab salad. It's also good for kids’ toasties during the day. Upscale steakhouse and rooftop bar Suhail is open for sunset cocktails (from 7pm) and à la carte dining (7pm–11pm). The bar here means business: its walk-in wine cellar counts 120 bins, and the choice of beef includes Australian Blackmore – the world’s finest. But the best treat of all? A private, bespoke four-course champagne dinner for two in a torch-lit, cushion-filled and comfy Bedouin tent, your only other companions a butler, fire pit and the endless sunbaked sands.

Family fare

Children are allowed in all restaurants at all times, and there’s colouring-in and crayons to distract them. There are highchairs and a kids’ menu (crudités, handmade fishfingers, tomato pasta) but you’ll need to bring weaning spoons, bibs and beakers from home. Introduce them to Arabic cuisine with a finger-licking shawarma – these delcious flatbread wraps contain tender grilled chicken or lamb in a creamy, garlicky sauce, and are much tidier than their Greek counterpart, the doner kebab. If you’re staying in a Villa, you can also order a luxe private Villa barbecue (via room service) that includes sushi, sashimi and salads, lamb kofte, beef medallions and grilled seafood.

Hotel Bar

Just off the lobby, Al Liwan ('the gathering place') is all high ceilings and marble floors; it's a cool endroit to escape the afternoon heat with a refreshing mint tea, a handful of dates or a sugary, spice-laden pastry. For something stronger, there’s a long list of long drinks, whether you favour a Tom Collins or an Old Fashioned.

Last orders

Breakfast is served 7.30am–10am, lunch from 12 noon, and dinner 7pm–10.30pm. The main bar Al Liwan and the rooftop bar within Suhail open at 7pm (and close at 1am). The bars are also closed during the holy month of Ramadan (when some restaurants also have restricted service).

Smith Insider

  • Top table

    Al Ghadeer’s terrace is made for romance with its tables overlooking the lantern-lit pool. Kids will love the chef stations in Al Waha, ordering stir-fried noodles to be flipped in a wok before their eyes or an omelette to be whisked up at their say-so.

  • Room service

    On offer 24 hours, although the menu is more limited after 11pm. Try a range of Arabic dishes from biriyanis to shawarma – there are burgers and club sandwiches if you just fancy a quick snack.


    There’s a kettle in your room for preparing baby bottles, or staff are happy to heat them up for you, or bring milk to your room. The minibar is stocked with juice, crisps and chocolate (plus wine and beer for Mr and Mrs).


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Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara – Desert – UAE

Parent approved

‘Where else can they start the day with an Emirati cooking lesson before exploring the desert expanse by camel, horse or Jeep? As a family, you can tear up the dunes in a 4WD, go mountain-biking in novel desert surrounds, or play tennis at dusk’

Smith & Family

Kids Club

There’s no crèche, but if you want to spa, lounge or lunch alone, the smallish kids’ club is open for children aged 3–12, 9am–6pm during the week and 10am–7pm at weekends (under-3s are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult). It’s not big enough to keep them entertained all day, but there’s painting, colouring-in and story time for little ones, Wii, X-Box, PlayStation 3 and a pool table for tweens and teens. It’s free-of-charge and drop-in with no pre-booking required. If you want to lunch without the kids, you’ll need to feed them first: the kids’ club doesn’t provide meals or snacks.


Qualified, English-speaking babysitters are available to look after your children (they must be over 12 months old), allowing the two of you to take advantage of dinner together in the desert. Babysitting is charged at AED75 an hour (AED100 after midnight); book 24 hours in advance.


The hotel doesn’t provide baby-listening services, but do bring your own monitor from home so that you can leave your little one snoozing while you lounge on your terrace.

What's there already?

For babies

• Highchairs • Travel cot • Cot bedlinen • Black-out blinds • Baby bath • Sandpit • Crayons • Board books • Swim nappies

For toddlers

• Highchairs • Cot beds • Cot bedlinen • Black-out blinds • Swimming aids • Sandpit • Crayons/pens • Craft materials • Picture books • U-rated DVDs

For older children

• Swimming aids • DVD library • Board games • Craft materials • Wii consoles • XBox • PlayStation • Tennis kit • Mountain bikes


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Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara – Desert – UAE

Things to do

Gazing out at the neverending dunes is a novelty in itself and something about that serene, still sand-scape encourages contemplative lounging (or dreaming of adventurous expeditions à la Wilfred Thesiger) – but there’s plenty in this desert playground to keep the whole family going if you tire of the pool. Take kids out horse riding, mountain biking or camel trekking then send them into a spin with a 4WD desert tour. When the midday sun starts to stifle, pop them in the kids’ club (stop press: you don’t even need to book) while you relax at the spa, then play tennis together at the day’s end.

Hotel activities

How do you want to get out and scale that great expanse of sand all around you? A camel trek is a good place to start. You can set out en famille (with kids aged 5+) and explore for up to two hours, stopping for refreshments, or hotel guides can take you out at sunset. Next, it’s time to see the desert on foot. The hotel organises two-hour guided walks early in the morning or late at night – walking under inky, starry skies surrounded by stillness and tranquility is the quickest way to forget the 9 to 5 and truly get away from it all (morning walks open to kids aged 8+). But the best thrill of all? The hotel’s 4WD desert safaris: you can opt for a ‘soft’ safari (ages 5+), a two-hour long guided tour of the flora and fauna, or a hard-drive ‘dune bashing’ safari, tearing up the sands as you hurtle around the desert for a once-in-a-lifetime thrill (over-6s only). Fancy something sporty? The hotel’s three impeccably maintained floodlit tennis courts are open all day to over-14s. You don’t need to bring racquets or balls from home – you can hire kit for a small charge – and you can wait until the desert heat wanes for a magical, late-night hit under the stars. There’s also archery in the desert (ages 8+). If you’re keen horseriders don’t miss the chance to gallop across the Empty Quarter on horseback (adults and over-8s) and even if you’re a complete beginner, a hotel guide can take you out riding across the desert. For kids 14+, there's early-morning mountain biking, or – new in the Middle East – 'fat biking' over the dunes on specially adapted bicycles. Timings of all activities vary according to the time of year you visit and prices can vary by the season, too.

And there's more…

There’s a library with comfy armchairs and shelves laden with both fact and fiction. Tweens and teens can beat Mr Smith at Monopoly, backgammon, cards or Pictionary – just borrow from the bar. Directly opposite the bar is a small shop, open 10am–7pm daily, selling local trinkets and souvenirs. And don’t forget the gym with its kinesis wall, yoga and aerobics studio, weights and cardio room. It has its own additional sauna, steam room and sports massage centre (separate to the spa) and you can book personal training sessions (8.30am–12am, over-16s only). For the ultimate at-one-with-nature workout, book a private dawn yoga class in the desert – they're extremely popular with weekending Emiratis and expats, so book at least a month in advance.

Local Guide

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Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara – Desert – UAE
Smith tip

Most activities are aimed at over-5s and long stints in hot bumpy cars aren’t exactly baby-friendly: if you’re coming with tots, just be aware that you’re probably looking more at a pool, paperback, Peppa Pig and Pampers kind of holiday.

Don't miss…

… trying your hand at falconry, one of the UAE's oldest traditions: a hotel guide will take you out into the desert to see this magnificent bird of prey in flight and learn more about the part it plays in local culture (only available November–April).

At the edge of the fabled Rub al Khali, the Liwa Desert is an unforgettable landscape for intrepid souls, a million miles from the inbox (and the school run). You can’t make impromptu family forays out into this unforgiving sand-scape, but that doesn’t mean the more distant dunes are beyond your reach – just ask staff at the Anantara Qasr Al Sarab to book the trips for you.

Tweens and teens will thrill to making fairy tales of Aladdin and Arabian Nights a reality, trekking on camels, mountain-biking, or having a go at archery or flying falcons. Take them to find out more about the life of nomadic desert-dwellers with a tour of the Liwa Desert – you’ll discover sudden and verdant oases among the dunes and learn about the traditional Bedouin tribes who live on them. The 4.5 hour tour, organised through the hotel, takes in a date and cucumber farm, a camel farm and camel race track, plus, of course, those endless dunes. The trip is open to over-1s but over-5s will get the most out of it (and be less bothered by the unforgiving ride).


+ Enlarge
Anantara Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort
1 Qasr Al Sarab Road , Liwa Desert, Abu Dhabi, Arabian Peninsula, 131277
Hotel setting

Limitless Liwa dunes

Getting There

Surrounded by dunes as far as the eye can see, the Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort is in the emirate of Abu Dhabi near the Liwa Oasis, on the border of the Empty Quarter, the largest uninterrupted stretch of sand in the world.


Abu Dhabi International Airport ( is the closest option, a 200km or two-hour drive away. Dubai International Airport ( is an alternative option (it’s further though, at 300km away). Book your airport transfers in advance.


If you want to journey to and from Abu Dhabi airport under your own steam, follow the E11 road towards Mussafah, Tarif and Mirfa. Come off at Exit 306, turn left at the first roundabout and head straight over the second roundabout onto the E65 to (Madhar) Hameem. Point and shoot on this road for approx 154km. Eventually you’ll pass the Liwa Car Museum on your left. Once you reach (Madhar) Hemeem, look out for the petrol station on your left. Your GPS will tell you to take the first U-turn after the petrol station – don’t! Instead, take the second U-turn, where you’ll see signposts to the resort. After you’ve turned off the main road, take the first right through the gates. The track to Qasr al Sarab is another 12km.


There's a helipad, if you fancy splashing out on a chopper transfer, and parking for 14 helicopters. Unless one of them is yours, don’t expect to do anything unscripted during your stay – you really are in the middle of the desert, a million miles from anywhere, and any activities you fancy trying out will need to be booked through your hotel and undertaken with a desert guide.

Parent travel tip

If you're self-driving, make sure your car has air-conditioning and baby seats and ensure you’ve got a full tank of petrol, plenty of bottled water and a charged mobile before you set out – you’re not going to be driving through a bustling metropolis. If you're flying via Dubai, consider spending a day or two there before heading into the desert to break up the journey.


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Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara – Desert – UAE

Smith & Family  Parent Panel reviews

Every property featured in the Smith & Family collection – including Anantara Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort – has been selected and approved by parents.

The edge of the world's most inhospitable desert might not seem like the ideal place for a family holiday, but – incredible views aside – the Anantara Qasr Al Sarab impresses with its impeccable spa, dreamy pool, a free kids club, palatial villas, gushing fountains and opulent Arabic architecture. And, let's face it, the promise of guaranteed sunshine in the winter months doesn't hurt. But, of course, it’s the rare setting that makes it a really special stay for kids with a sense of adventure. Where else can they start the day with an Emirati cooking lesson before exploring the desert expanse by camel, horse or Jeep? As a family, you can tear up the dunes in a 4WD, go mountain-biking in novel desert surrounds, or play tennis at dusk under crystal-clear skies. By night, book a babysitter then sneak off for an unforgettable private dinner for two under the canvas of a Bedouin tent and a canopy of desert stars.

Smith & Family

The Guestbook  Smith member reviews

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith & Family hotel, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what real-life family guests had to say about Anantara Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort in the Guestbook below.


Stayed on

We loved

The room, meals, views.

Don’t expect

Lively or loud/fun crowd.

Rating: 10/10 stars


Stayed on

We loved

The location is stunning and the service is amazing. Activities were very good value and very well organised.

Don’t expect

There is a large pool area that was very busy with families, we had a pool villa so total privacy and I would definitely only book that again.

Rating: 10/10 stars