Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A foodie in the UAE: desert decadence

For Sam’s birthday I took him on a surprise overnight getaway. We drove into the desert about 100 miles southwest of Abu Dhabi and turned onto a nearly unmarked road which wound for five miles through nothing but golden sand dunes.

The road to nowhere...or to a fabulous resort?

Coming over the last hill we found what appeared to be an elaborate sand castle but was actually a five-star hotel --called the Qasr Al Sarab--literally in the middle of nowhere. The harshness of the desert surrounding the resort was a stark in contrast to the cool marble corridors and heavy Arabian antiques, lush gardens and fountains, and doting hotel staff dressed in crisp uniforms and welcoming smiles.

We were greeted by no less than five people, who in turn whisked our car and bags out of site and brought us into the cavernous lobby to sit on plush chairs and take in the view through an enormous picture window while they checked us in. In seconds we were given hibiscus tea and damp towels to cool ourselves, and shortly thereafter a woman arrived to escort us to our room and explain all the amenities. We dressed up for dinner and decided to check out the grounds while we waited for our reservation. But after a 5 minute stroll, we decided to take in the setting sun from the safety of the air-conditioned bar (man, it’s hot in the desert!).

What was most surprising about this little escapade to the desert was the fine dining, which if you've read my previous posts has been hard to come by out here (and yes, I am a food snob). We indulged in a chef’s tasting which featured foie gras prepared two ways, tuna tartare with wasabi cream, fresh sole with clam reduction, kobe beef and truffles, mojito sorbet, and the freshest, sweetest strawberries and basil you ever tasted, all in one meal. I don’t want to think about the carbon footprint this decadent experience left on our planet, so don’t even say it!

[imagine pictures here - I was too busy eating to take any]

Returning to the room Sam discovered a chocolate mousse the hotel staff had left for his birthday (with candles and everything) that was so delicious it was a shame we could each manage just one bite.

When I requested the cake I gave this message: "Happy Birthday Sam! Love, Your Wife" (okay, not very inspired, but I was on the spot). However, what we got was "Happy Birthday. Some love your wife." Gotta love the language barrier.

The next morning we lazed about, ate at a sprawling breakfast buffet, made a half-hearted trek into the dunes (again, so hot!), and then headed back to Abu Dhabi, and to reality.


  1. Your pictures are sooo amazing! I love the message that came with the mousse...that is hilarious. You will never forget that. (also, if you do, it is written here forever. :) )
    This is probably bad of me, but it kind of made me laugh to think about you eating all that seafood in the middle of the desert.

  2. Just checking out the blog to make sure I haven't missed anything recently, and was so excited to get to read about your trek through the desert to the hotel "oasis" and your lovely stay there. Sam's birthday greetings by the hotel really got me laughing and resonated with me since I remember all the strangely worded highway and road signs we laughed at when I was there. You obviously splurged on Sam, but, as your "Ode to Sam" indicates, he was well worth it. I know all too well what a "food snob" you are! After all that cuisine, guess it's good you had a couple of weeks before shopping for a swimsuit! :)