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 £306.50 (AED1,404), including tax at 20 per cent.
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 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 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.