Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Qasr Al Sarab

Qasr Al Sarab, or the "Palace of Mirage" was our destination this weekend. Another item on our U.A.E. bucket list, we've wanted to get to this part of the country for quite some time. Located on the edge of the Rub'Al Khali, the world's largest uninterrupted sand desert, and only a few kilometers from Saudi Arabi, the Qasr Al Sarab is a resort that redefines the meaning of the saying "getting away from it all".

A three and a half hour drive from Al Ain, the journey to the Empty Quarter took us past what seems to be the U.A.E.'s version of a roadside attraction. Named the Emirates Nation Auto Museum, this interesting stop is literally the car collection of Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan, affectionately know as "The Rainbow Sheik". One of the largest personal car collections in the world, it claims a few titles in the Guinness Book of World Records, such as the world's largest truck and the world's largest jeep. Like a proper roadside attraction, the collection is housed in a pyramid shaped garage, and it's entrance is littered with oversized vehicles like the goliath sized Land Rover and the World on wheels.

I didn't notice this while we were at the museum, but when looking through our pictures, I noticed an odd similarity between the Sheik's Rolls Royce, and the Sheik from The Cannonball Run's Rolls Royce..

We thoroughly enjoyed the museum and we were glad to have backtracked and off-roaded in the rental car in order to get there.

As we continued towards Liwa and the Qasr Al Sarab, the desert seemed to get more expansive, and the sands dunes grew larger and larger. Of course, as she always does, Amy found some friends who confirmed that we were heading in the right direction.

Entering the Liwa Cresent feels more like landing on Mars, or maybe Tatooine, than being on Earth. The desert overtakes everything. Al Ain is definitely in the desert, so you would think we would be accustomed to this landscape, but somehow this area just feels more amplified. The dunes are larger, the sun feels stronger, and the heat feels more intense.

The overwhelming feeling of the desert also makes the Qasr Al Sarab a very appropriate name for the resort. It definitely seems like a mirage when you catch your first glimpse of the property.

After taking respite from the hot afternoon sun, we joined a group heading into the desert for some dune bashing. This part of the U.A.E. is home to the largest sand dunes in the country. The dunes around the resort are around 500 feet high.

We joined some of the other guests from the resort to watch the sun set over the desert, and then retired to the patio of our room and watched the stars.

The next day we continued our tour of Liwa by heading towards the Moreeb Dune. At 675 feet high, it is claimed to be the largest dune in the country.

The Moreeb Dune is also home to an annual festival that includes hill climbs, camel races, and motocross. We weren't able to attend the festival ourselves, but this video I found sums it up...

I'm glad we were able to explore more of the Empty Quarter before leaving the UAE. It's nice to experience a place that is so different from what we are used to. And there's plenty of parking available, so head down and check it out for yourself!

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