Saturday, March 28, 2015

HOTEL REVIEW: Tilal Liwa, Abu Dhabi's Empty Quarter

Posted at  7:43 AM  |  in  Hotel

Tilal Liwa is located on the edge of the Rub Al Khalil desert in Abu Dhabi’s famous Empty Quarter areaAfter reviewing a variety of city and beach hotels across the UAE over the past year and a half, we decided it was the perfect time to experience a more secluded resort in the middle of the desert for the first time… and what better place to visit than Tilal Liwa, located on the edge of the Rub Al Khalil desert in Abu Dhabi’s famous ‘Empty Quarter’ area.

The four-star property, which is managed by Danat Hotels & Resorts, took a couple of hours to reach by car from Abu Dhabi City. The journey is quite scenic. You will pass some of the highest sand dunes in the world, which are stunning, and might even spot a camel or two along the way, so keep those cameras at the ready!

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Our excitement about finally arriving at Tilal Liwa was somewhat dampened by a bad check-in experience. Despite asking for an early check-in on a couple of occasions, and not receiving the courtesy of a response, we decided to arrive at a respectable 1pm. Our room would be ready in 30 minutes, we were informed, but two hours later and we were still waiting. Not the ideal start to our weekend away, we must admit.

Tilal Liwa Hotel has a large outdoor pool that overlooks the sweeping desertA number of different rooms are available at Tilal Liwa. We selected one of the 32 square metre options (the Tilal Room, Courtyard Room, Oasis Room and Al Sahab Room, which as their names suggest, offer different views). Alternatively, those looking for extra space can book the 64 square metre Executive Suite, the 96 square metre Royal Suite, or the lavish two-bedroom 175 square metre Majaheem Suite.

The Arabian-style décor inside the rooms are understated and visually appealing. Guests have access to a range of standard in-room facilities to make them comfortable, including a 32-inch television with multiple channels, tea / coffee making facilities, mini bar, safe, and coffee table with chairs. The larger rooms also have DVD players.

ALSO READ: OUR OPINION ON RAMADA DOWNTOWN DUBAI, NEXT TO BURJ KHALIFA!

Once we settled into our room, our grumbling stomachs needed to be filled. There are four different restaurants at Tilal Liwa – we headed to a buffet at Al Badiya, which boasted a wide variety of cuisine from around the world. We were impressed, not only with the selection and quality of food, but also the incredibly friendly staff. Indeed, we were back there hours later for dinner and then again in the morning for breakfast. Kudos to the team there for making us feel so welcome.

The Arabian-style décor inside the rooms are understated and visually appealingWe were also informed that a family cooking contest was about to start in a different part of the hotel, which sounded like fun. After eating, we headed there to participate. Families were competing to make the best pasta dish, with all ingredients, cooking utensils and chef’s clothing provided. Needless to say, everyone had a great time and the families were cheering each other on as the winners were announced by staff. This was definitely a highlight of our trip and a really nice touch from the hotel.

After all of the excitement, it was time to rest in our rooms for a while and then venture to the swimming pool, which overlooks the sweeping desert. Unfortunately due to a menacing sandstorm, we only had a short dip before admitting defeat and exploring the rest of the hotel, including the spa facilities. Unable to resist temptation, we booked ourselves in for a relaxing 30 minute massage. This was a pleasant (but way too short) way to unwind, although there was some noise from the kids club, which is located directly outside the spa entrance.

A range of outdoor activities are also available at the hotel, such as sand boarding, cycling through the desert, camel riding and quad bike safarisA range of outdoor activities are also available at the hotel, such as sand boarding, cycling through the desert, camel riding and quad bike safaris, but again due to that nasty sandstorm, we were unable to try them on this occasion. However, despite the unpredictable weather, we happily spent the rest of our time relaxing and enjoying our break from the city. The unfortunate experience from our check-in was almost forgotten by the end of our stay!

We say “almost” because at the time of check out, we once again experienced an unnecessary delay due to staff miscommunication, resulting in another unwanted stretch at the lobby. This was frustrating, to say the least (especially at a time when hotels are trying to outdo each other with world-class customer service levels in the UAE) and hindered what would have otherwise been a pleasant family staycation. As Tilal Liwa undergoes a revamp and expansion in a bid to become a five-star resort, this is one area that we hope is not overlooked.

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