United Arab Emirates

Empty Quarter

03 January 2020

Everyone who visits the United Arab Emirates love to go and check out the desert for obvious reasons. But what most tourists and even some residents don’t know is that deserts next to cities are not that extraordinary compared to the Rub Al Khali – the “Empty Quarter”. The Empty Quarter is the world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass, that covers an area of 650,000 sq km (250,000 sq mi) and stretches through Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

To reach the borders of this huge sand desert it took me 2 hours of driving south from Abu Dhabi (add another hour if you are going from Dubai). It’s an impressive desert road trip that transports you from the sea, the malls and skyscrapers to the cinematic landscape of true arabian adventure. You will see lonesome camels by the roadside, few date palm groves, and might witness how wind blows sand from one side of the road to the other. The Empty Quarter desert was one of the filming locations for the 2015 Star Wars movie. In this desert you can find world’s tallest sand dunes, including the 300 meters (984 feet) high Moreeb Dune. This dune, with a 50 degree incline, even has its own festival with sporting competitions. At the time when I visited Moreeb Dune there was nobody, just an empty land with a tall dune in front, which is not that beautiful compared to the other dunes in the area, so I didn't even bother to take a shot of it.

On the road through the Empty Quarter desert Road through the desert Sand dunes as seen from the drone Dunes of the Empty Quarter desert

Qasr Al Sarab (meaning from arabic is Mirage Palace) is a luxurious hotel in the midst of the desert. It resembles an old Arabian fortress town situated in the valley of sand dunes. This five-star resort is operated by Anantara. Hands down it is the most expensive hotel I have ever stayed in, but it was the oasis in the desert I was looking for. With an outdoor pool overviewing the desert, restaurants serving delicious meals, a full range of desert activities, warm hospitality, unique location, and traditional design, Qasr Al Sarab always appears on world travel charts. The hotel was voted the Most Instagrammable Hotel in the World by Luxury Travel Advisor and I can tell it lives up to this. I felt as if I was in a fairytale of “1001 nights” that came alive. I haven’t even talked about the gorgeous sunsets that light up the sky and dunes in a whole spectrum of colors. One word: paradise. I truly want to visit Qasr Al Sarab and the Empty Quarter desert again, to explore more this endless land of sand.

Qasr Al Sarab desert resort as seen from the drone Sunset in the desert Pool like an oasis in the desert Hotel rooms of Qasr Al Sarab
Hi, I'm Anton! I've lived in Europe, Middle East, Asia, and recently I moved to South America. While global travel industry is on pause, I share memories from my past trips on Instagram, and can't wait to start posting in this blog about upcoming journeys. #StaySafe