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MIREILLE'S MUSINGS: The Liwa desert

After islands, deserts are another fascination of mine. So far, I had only done short visits in deserts while in Israel, Morocco and Jordan. I always wanted to go to the Liwa after reading about it and seeing photos of the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world, but for years it would have meant sleeping in a tent and my better half would joke that he had passed the days of camping. I was almost ready to do it alone as years went by until I fell upon a lifestyle article about this incredible resort just opening a couple of hours from Abu Dhabi (which is in the desert but as our local friends say, until you stay at Qasr Al Sarab you don't really feel what it's like to be in the desert).

The first impression was the sight of the dunes from our room. They looked like little red hills that we could go up to for sunrise in ten minutes; it took a good hour and an exhausting one, walking in the sand and the dunes and the sand and the dunes without moving much at all. Exhilarating. We finally managed the top to see the immensity of the sand and the dunes. It's not like walking on a sandy beach, for sure. It's up and around with lots of sand hitting you from all directions and going over dunes, one after another, is a challenge. The movement of the dunes and changes of colors from a huge spectrum of light, beige to golden red, is dizzying at times but ah so beautiful. The wind pushing you can be scary. The sun is like nowhere else, and it was fun to do the walk treks both at sunrise and sunset.

The resort looks like a fortress melting into the color of the dunes. West of Abu Dhabi, it took four years and 8000 workers to displace thousands of tons of sand, a pharaonic enterprise. As you approach the resort from this straight away that seems to never end, you face two towers which hide a citadel with a feudal castle inspired by antique fortresses. The place is all silence with palm trees, gardens and wonderful flowers. The only noise seems to be the small fountains spread out all over the place which no doubt are refreshing if you visit in the hot months. January is one of those perfect months when the days are warm with breezes and both the morning and evening require some warm sweaters. Once the Guggenheim and the Louvre are built, this resort will be the trendiest place in the neighborhood. It is nowhere a bling bling kind of place. On the contrary, all was done with great taste and color tones in harmony with the environment. Here, all is softness, understated elegance, local material used whenever possible with a strong penchant for Moorish and Arabic architecture and decoration. Oriental charm at its best.

Can't wait to go back.

Qasr Al Sarab, and the lovely details on our room number:
 

Sunrise, and then sunset on the Liwa:
 

The photo at the top of the page is the view from our room