About a week ago, I headed off with the family for a mini break to Tilal Liwa Hotel. Located 175 kilometers beyond central Abu Dhabi, Tilal Liwa Hotel is located in Madinat Zayed – the Western region of Abu Dhabi, in close proximity to the Saudi border. Getting to the hotel from Dubai entails an infinitely long road-trip across the desert, and adds to the thrill of adventure and exploring a brand new territory right in our very own backyard.
Tilal Liwa Hotel is a strikingly Arabesque 4-star property that was originally created for VIP guests and royalty visiting the annual Camel Beauty Contest. Yes, such a thing exists – and only in the UAE! Celebrating its tenth year, this event showcases the best breeds of camels both from the UAE and beyond. During the event, the occupancy at Tilal Liwa is on record high. However, given the unique concept of this beautiful property, the hotel has been opened up to the public and is slowly but surely gaining a steady stream of tourists and local staycationers alike.
We booked a two-night stay at Tilal Liwa, and headed off in the early hours of a Wednesday morning. We faced the manic morning rush, but once we hit the highway to Abu Dhabi it was pretty smooth sailing. With a total of three leisurely pit-stops on the way, it took us around 5 hours to arrive at our destination, just in time for check-in at 2 pm.
Given the long drive down, we were a little worried about petrol. Would we get petrol stations on the way? I was getting a little paranoid, envisioning a breakdown on the side of a deserted highway sans fuel and was nagging Hubby to refuel at every ADNOC we passed. Ofcourse he didn’t listen. Driving 120 km out of the main city of Abu Dhabi, even he started getting worried. Thankfully we spotted an ADNOC on the highway. The attendant told us this is the very last petrol station (and the very first if you are driving into the UAE from the Saudi border) and it is a good 112 km away from Tilal Liwa. Do remember to make a pitstop here! GPS coordinates: N24.04104 E53.89983
We spotted the hotel a good 5 kilometers away. A lone property amid the whirling desert dunes, Tilal Liwa has a strikingly majestic appeal. The outer facade looks like an Arabesque castle complete with traditional wind-towers, a trickling fountain and a very solid, brass-studded door.
Tilal Liwa Hotel – Day 1
The reception area is very spacious and flooded with natural lighting. Beautifully decorated with Arabesque touches, the area is dominated by a stunning water feature, complete with vintage-style, larger than life urns.
The area also has ample seating, all cushy and comfy for sitting back and enjoying the free high-speed WIFI offered across the property.
If you are shopping for souvenirs, Tilal Liwa has a little gift shop at the corner of the reception area, which also includes ‘Tilal Liwa’ branded merchandise.
The reception area looks out to a wide, spacious balcony that overlooks the absolutely stunning poolside area. The poolside at Tilal Liwa features an Arabesque dome at the end of the pool that artistically frames the majestic dunes of the Rub’ Al Khali desert.
Already in awe with the reception area, the anticipation of seeing our room got me pretty excited. Although the corridor leading down to our home of two nights was rather dark and lonely, the room itself is very bright, sunny and inviting.
Accentuated with traditional decor including a very stunning antique-style lampshade in the corner and Persian carpeting by the bed, the room is inclusive of all the amenities you would expect to have in a home away from home.
At Tilal Liwa Hotel, you can opt for a room with desert or pool views. Ours had the later, and I loved the stunning view of the laidback poolside area and the little garden beside it. The balcony itself has a cushy little corner ideal for delving into a favorite novel, or idly sipping a warm cup of tea.
The bathroom in our room is of a comfortably wide size. One thing I detest about certain hotels is how they compensate with a larger room by offering a tiny cubicle of a bathroom. Not the case here at all, and I was also intrigued to see that the bathroom toiletries were a special organic brand that has been made specifically for Tilal Liwa.
After unpacking and having quick cups of tea in the room, we headed down to the pool. At Tilal Liwa they don’t have a separate pool for little tots, but my little one was very happy splashing about in her floatie, constantly being monitored by both parents.
You can easily idle away an entire afternoon by the Tilal Liwa pool. They have ample seating all around, including beach chairs, secluded little cabanas, and even an Arabesque majlis-style area. I prefered swinging on the hammock, a perfect setup for holiday bliss.
Apart from splashing about the pool, my five year-old was delighted they have a trampoline on the premises, as well as an enclosed, CCTV monitored play area complete with a television screen running popular cartoons.
After our day by the very scenic pool, we took a tour of the premises. Tilal Liwa Hotel is comfortably compact with all the amenities at very close reach. The hotel has an all-day dining restaurant called Al Badiya, where we had all our meals, an intimate bar called Layali Bar that comes to life with live entertainment in the evenings, and a gym and sauna. You can also explore the very traditional-style tents, set up behind the pool where guests can opt for shisha and late evening drinks.
By night the property takes on a different charm altogether. The hotel looks magical with its lit up lanterns and Arabesque decor.
Tilal Liwa Hotel offers ‘Romantic’ packages that include private dining cabanas with intimate views of the desert dunes. We also noticed cozied-up couples at the Al Badiya buffet got red roses and candles added to their tables! Do consider Tilal Liwa for your net romantic getaway!
Given the scenic beauty of this unique resort that takes full advantage of the spectacular views of the mystical dunes, I am not surprised it has played as the background for a Bollywood movie. Even during our stay, we saw a fashion shoot taking place here.
Al Badiya Restaurant
The long drive down, and an entire afternoon by the pool whet our appetites for the buffet dinner at Al Badiya, Tilal Liwa’s all-day dining restaurant. Al Badiya has very spacious interiors, and the floor to ceiling glass windows at one end of the restaurant take full advantage of the stunning views of the hotel’s pool area.
Al Badiya restaurant offers an intercontinental spread, although our first night there was predominated with Arabic dishes.
Lunch and dinner the next day was a different story. The buffet had a wider variety of European-style dishes, as well as many favorites from the Indian subcontinent.
We had a brief chat with the Head Chef of Al Badiya restaurant. An Indian expat who has lived many years in the United Kingdom, he has a true sense for international cuisine. I especially praised him for the divinely delicious spicy Hyderabadi mutton biryani we had for dinner. Both Hubby and I had two very generous servings of it!
I was especially impressed with the breakfast spread at Al Badiya. They have the essentials including fruit platters, cereal and milk, and live stations making pancakes and eggs as you like it. I asked for my eggs to be broiled in water, and made spicy. Just look at how pretty my plate ended up looking!
The breakfast buffet is predominantly intercontinental but includes Arabic-style Foul Medames and Indian Idlis. My loaded up plate has a little sampler from each corner of the globe!
As an all-day restaurant, Al Badiya caters to a wide range of palettes. The ambience is suave and sophisticated, white linen tablecloth and all, and the pool views are a lovely reminder that you are on holiday! Best of all, the buffets here are very reasonably priced.
Tilal Liwa Hotel – Day 2
With all the excitement of being surrounded by all the mesmerizing beauty of our surroundings, we didn’t realize just how tired we were. After a long hot soak in the tub, I snoozed like a baby. My slumber came to an abrupt end with my little one throwing a tantrum, demanding to be taken back to the pool.
We consoled her with a bubble bath, and decided to order in our breakfast. We opted for two continental breakfasts, and were quite taken aback by the generous spread that reached our room within 20 minutes of ordering.
There was baked beans and toast, eggs cooked sunny side up, mini jars of spreads, a bread basket inclusive of croissants and jam-filled pastry, and my favorite, the fluffy freshly made pancakes with whipped butter and maple syrup. What a feast to start off the day!
Energized, we headed to the pool with a frisky little tot. It was another idle day of happy splashes and energetic jumps in the trampoline while I swayed in that hammock, very content with playing photographer for my little family.
After lunching at Al Badiya, we had a walk around the premises and discovered the unchained bicycles at the front. The lady at the reception told us these were free to use for all guests, so we took a spin on wheels, racing like excited adolescents with a squealing toddler in tow.
All that exercise managed to drain out my little Energizer Bunny, and before long she was snoozing into a deep siesta. We took this opportunity to sneak out of the room and check out Tilal Liwa’s adventure sports.
Tilal Liwa offers a number of very exciting desert activities including camel riding, quad biking and, if you book in advance, desert safaris, nature walks, and a barbeque in the desert. Hubby and I had a very memorable time riding the quad bikes into the desert. We even witnessed the majestic sunset, a beautiful spill of orange and gold, over the dunes.
After dusk, we headed out to the Arabesque tents at the back. We discovered a quiet corner facing a man-made pond, and sat at the bench to unwind.
It was Thursday evening, and the hotel was getting packed. Suddenly there were far more people than when we first got here. The weekends bring the crowds to Tilal Liwa, and to top it off, that particular weekend was scheduled to witness the hotel’s very first Pool Party. Gutted we had to miss it as we headed home on Friday morning itself.
The next morning we were up by 9, and I was feeling rather glum that our short break was coming to an end. Checkout is at 12 noon, and given the long journey back home, we left right after the hearty intercontinental buffet breakfast at Al Badiya.We were back in Dubai in just over 2 hours’ time. The journey back was alot smoother and faster sans any workday traffic.
We left Tilal Liwa with a camera full of happy clicks, and a thankful heart for a much needed mini break. If you are looking for a uniquely Arabesque experience and want to get up close and personal with the beauty of the desert, I suggest you plan a trip down to Tilal Liwa Hotel. I am recommending it to all my friends, and would love to be back with a larger group.
For more information on Tilal Liwa Hotel, do look them up on their website.