Spa with hammam, sauna, Jacuzzis, steam rooms and yoga salas; tennis courts; gym; gardens; DVD library; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, minibar, CD/DVD player, pillow menus, air-conditioning, Nespresso machine and tea-making facilities, free bottled water. Bathrooms feature deep round oversize baths, separate walk-in rain showers, double sinks, fluffy robes and Molton Brown toiletries.
With desert views of varying distance, all rooms and villas mix Arabic decor with dark wood furniture, marble floors and neutral earth tones. Entry-level Deluxe Garden and Deluxe Balcony rooms are very spacious and offer the best value; Deluxe Balcony rooms offer roof-level views of the fort and desert, Deluxe Garden rooms also look out over the dunes but at ground-floor level, with the added bonus of a small garden and private outdoor terrace. On the upper floors, Deluxe Terraces have roomy outdoor spaces with day beds looking out across the sand. Upgrade to a super-luxurious, one-bedroom Anantara Pool Villas for a separate living area, kitchenette, a private plunge pool, sun deck and personal butler.
The super-roomy infinity-edge freeform pool looks out towards the surrounding desert valley and is open 7am–9pm. There are plenty of loungers and parasols, plus a swim-up bar (open 9am–9pm) mixing mocktails (it’s unlicensed) and light snacks.
The sumptuous and serene Anantara Thai spa is set among aromatic hanging gardens, around a peaceful courtyard filled with trickling fountains. It means business with its navy- and gold-tiled hammam, ice room and six lavish treatment rooms, four of which are for both Mr Smith and his Missus. There are also two outdoor Thai salas for private yoga. All therapists are Thai and, as per UAE law, women are always treated by female therapists and men male therapists. The wide range of treatments includes exotic wraps, jetlag-combating herbal compress massage, floral foot rituals, milk baths, scrubs and OPI mani-pedis. Spa treatments and also offered in your room.
Sunhats and swimwear. Yes, the mercury can soar to over 40 degrees in summer (don’t skimp on the factor 50; you’re still going to get your best tan ever) but the desert gets cold at night so pack some lightweight, long-sleeved numbers. If you’re planning on visiting local villages on a Liwa tour, women will need to cover their shoulders and knees.
Leave the drones at home – this is a no-fly zone.
Very welcome: tots aged two years and under stay free in cots, and extra beds for under-12s can be added to parents’ rooms (AED406). There’s a kids’ club (for ages 3–12), a playground and a kids' menu. English-speaking sitters available for kids aged 1+).
Welcome: tots aged two and under stay free in cots, and extra beds for under-12s can be added to parents’ rooms (AED406, excluding tax). There’s a kids’ club (for ages 3–12), a small playground, and a children’s menu. Qualified, English-speaking babysitters are available (but not for babies aged 12 months or under); book 24 hours in advance.
Pre-school kids and up: the hotel welcomes babies and toddlers and is easy to navigate with a buggy – but there’s no crèche (only a kids’ club for 3–12s), babysitting is not available for infants under 1, and most activities are geared at over-5s.
All rooms are spacious enough for cots. Anantara Suites have adjoining room options, but the resort’s one-, two-, and three-bed villas are the most family-friendly, with their own separate living room, kitchenette, private plunge pool and sun deck.
There’s no crèche, but if you want to spa, lounge or lunch alone, the smallish, supervised kids’ club is open for children aged 3–12 (9am–6pm during the week; 10am–7pm at weekends). Under-3s are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult. It’s not big enough to keep them entertained all day, but there’s painting, colouring-in and story time for little ones, Wii, X-Box, PlayStation 3 and a pool table for tweens and teens. It’s free of charge and drop-in with no pre-booking required. If you want to lunch without the kids you’ll need to feed them first, as the kids’ club doesn’t provide snacks.
A trip with kids here is all about the pool: a huge, infinity-edged freeform number. The heat in the summer can be searing, so you'll probably find your routines taking in an extra siesta when the middle of the day rolls around. When early morning dips get boring, start with a camel trek or perhaps a two-hour guided walk early in the morning or late at night. Give tweens and teens a thrill with the hotel’s 4WD desert safaris: you can opt for a ‘soft’ safari (ages five and over), a two-hour long guided tour of the flora and fauna, or a hard-drive ‘dune bashing’ safari, tearing up the sands as you hurtle around the desert for a once-in-a-lifetime thrill (over-sixes only).
Fancy something sporty? For over-eights, there's also horseriding and archery in the desert; and teenagers aged 14+ can play on one of the three impeccably maintained floodlit tennis courts or try early-morning mountain biking. Timings of all activities vary according to the time of year. Looking to escape the heat for an hour? Directly opposite the bar is a small shop, open 10am–7pm daily, selling local trinkets and souvenirs. There’s also a library with comfy armchairs and shelves laden with both fact and fiction. Tweens and teens can beat Mr Smith at Monopoly, backgammon, cards or Pictionary – just borrow from the bar.
For little swimmers, there’s a separate covered shallow pool next to the main pool with a water fountain (open 9am-7pm). It’s manned by lifeguards at all times and a little cart sells armbands and sunscreen.
Children are allowed in all restaurants at all times and there’s colouring-in and crayons to distract them. There are highchairs and a kids’ menu (crudités, handmade fishfingers, tomato pasta) but you’ll need to bring weaning spoons, bibs and beakers from home. There’s a kettle in your room for preparing baby bottles and staff are happy to heat them up for you. The minibar is stocked with juice, crisps and chocolate (plus wine and beer for mum and dad).
Qualified, English-speaking babysitters are available, allowing the two of you to take advantage of dinner together in the desert (AED75 an hour; AED100 after midnight). Only available for children over 12 months; book 24 hours in advance.
No need to pack
Highchairs, travel cots, cot bedlinen, baby baths, board books, crayons/pens, craft materials, picture books, U-rated DVDs, board games, Wii consoles, Xbox and PlayStation. The hotel also sells nappies, wipes, swim nappies and arm bands.
The hotel doesn’t provide baby-listening services but do bring your own monitor from home so that you can leave your little one snoozing while you lounge on your terrace.