Exploring the desert resort Tilal Liwa Hotel - UAE
When the hustle and bustle of city life gets too much, it's nice to know that escape lies at our doorstep. The desert has long held an allure for humanity, and even today it is astonishing to behold how arid areas that are supposedly deserted continue to support life.
Referenced in the title, without the desert there would be no The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. And closer to home, in T.E. Lawrence's writing, the unforgiving nature of the vast sand landscapes here comes to the fore, juxtaposed and — surprisingly — complemented by its beauty. The film based on his life, Lawrence of Arabia, illustrated this further. So we recently followed the Village People's advice and went west, for "life is peaceful there/in the open air/where the skies are blue".
The colours really are more vibrant here, and the Tilal Liwa hotel is an oasis amid the different shades of reds, golds and greys of Abu Dhabi's Western Region.
Haven for weary souls
Here, weary travellers find respite from the climate. Its 111 rooms and suites — two are equipped for differently abled guests and some are interconnected rooms — face either the dunes of the Rubh Al Khali (Empty Quarter) or overlook the serene gardens and pool.
If you are looking to escape, the pool provides a unique experience with its view of the desert through a distinctive arch: you can lie with a book under an umbrella with your feet in the water and refreshments close at hand without feeling like you're missing out on anything.
Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the range of activities — including sand boarding, adventure cycle rides, desert safaris and horseback riding — while there are also excursions for those more culturally inclined, such as trips to camel farms and heritage forts.
Since you're on the edge of the Empty Quarter, one of the largest sand deserts in the world, why not take in the gravel plains and huge sand dunes of this unspoilt desert landscape?
You can be your own Sir Wilfred Thesiger, with the luxury of returning to the sanctuary of a hotel built in the traditional Arabian style.
Al Badiya, its all-day-dining restaurant, serves a great seafood grill and Layali is the perfect setting for intimate drinks. Then there's the casual pool bar, Al Liwan.
An excursion to Tel Moreeb Dune (Scary Mountain) is a must for its sheer scope and breathtaking beauty. It is one of the highest sand hills in the world, with a 50-degree incline. Afterwards, sweat out the dust and grime in the health club's sauna and steam room. Then have tea on your private balcony just as the night sets in. Don't miss out on the camel races (in season) and training sessions just down the road.
The wireless internet connection can be haphazard, but you didn't get away from it all just to remain connected round the clock, right? But if you need to check in on the world, the hotel offers a host of satellite channels.
Go on. Go west.
What to see
Madinat Zayed is the official capital of Al Gharbia, established by the first president of the UAE, Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. In the area are a camel race track and traditional camel farms.
Liwa Oasis, one of the largest in Arabia, is the birthplace of Abu Dhabi's ruling family, home to the Bedouin society and traditional Liwa Forts built in the 19th century.
Rubh Al Khali (The Empty Quarter) is one of the largest uninterrupted desert landscapes in the world, spanning more than 225,000 square miles (582,750 square kilometres).
Tel Moreeb Dune is the world's tallest sand dune. It's more than 300 metres high and has a 50-degree incline.