Why visit … because there are few occasions in life where you can disappear off the grid and into the desert. An easy drive from Abu Dhabi or Dubai, city life soon slips away behind you and your gaze is filled with golden dunes stretching as far as the eye can see.
Stay at ... Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara. This desert outpost is hidden away in the Rub’ al Khali, the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world – stretching some quarter of a million square miles. Blink and you’ll miss the turn for this hidden palace rising from behind the dunes.
Check in … to one of the Terrace Rooms on the edge of the desert and settle down for sunset on your rustic terrace. Watch the endless oceans of sand transform into a magical velvet carpet scattered with lanterns, set against the navy sky.
Relax… with the Rose Bliss Balm Body Massage. Inspired by the scent of Arabian roses, this nurturing massage uses Dubai based Shiffa’s gorgeous balm which blends extracts of Arabian Aegean oil, mango butter and macadamia with delicate petals.
Why not …. rise with the birds and join the daily sunrise walk. Set off early and you’ll be rewarded with the sun transforming from a dull glow into a warming beacon in the sky. It is perhaps the silence you’ll notice the most. A light breeze fills the Empty Quarter and every rustle is discernible. We found tracks belonging to sand gazelles, kangaroo rats and beetles. There are also snakes. Go barefoot – if you dare – and climb to the top of the sand dune and retrace the footsteps of Thesiger.
Eat …. in the great outdoors at Suhail under a canopy of endless stars. The menu is an effortless mix of local and international cuisine. Before you depart sample Qasr Al Sarab’s afternoon tea in The Library. There is something very charming about enjoying scones and cream that taste like they should be served in an English cottage garden in a desert sandscape with a backdrop of Bedouin artefacts and documents, alongside and artworks commissioned from 60 local artists.
Amos-phere loves… the parting gift of a thimble of red sand. The adage ‘Leave only footprints and take only photographs’ is excusable on this occasion, as there’s little chance of the endless oceans of the grains running out. For weeks I shake the red grains from my shoes and discover dust from the Empty Quarter in the corners of my bag. I later discover that Anantara is derived from the ancient Sanskrit meaning ‘without end’. Now it all makes sense.