After living in Les Roches for a year, situated in a small village on a mountain, you’d think that us students would be equipped for remote living. For sure not! As a management trainee for Minor Hotel Group, I have been placed at Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara for the first 6 months of my placement. Before going, I was told that it was a 2-hour drive from the city and that there is nothing near it within a 20km radius (the next closest building beyond the hotel vicinity is a petrol station).
Qasr Al Sarab is situated in Liwa Desert, part of the Empty Quarter, the world’s largest uninterrupted desert, spanning across 4 countries – Abu Dhabi, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The architect of the hotel is absolutely splendid, inspired by the old fortresses. It spans 2km in length and is a shape of a crescent moon. Staff accommodation is well equipped, and is a 3 minute drive from the hotel.
It’s been a month since I arrived at the UAE and started work. In this program, I have the opportunity to cross train in different departments as well as work on projects to improve guest satisfaction and increase revenue capabilities. Compared to being an intern or being hired directly to a position, I believe that the main benefit of being in a graduate program is that I am able to work across different areas of the hotel and gain a better understanding of how everything works.
After week one of training, I started my rotation with the Engineering Department. I really respect these men who brave the heat and use their skills (carpentry, painting, electrics, plumbing, etc.) to ensure that the property look ageless.
I am currently based in the Front Office for the next one month, doing check ins, room assignments, showing people around etc. Considering my previous occupation in conference production, I find much more satisfaction in my current role as I am able to host guests in a personal manner, making them feel welcome and relaxed during their stay with us. I also consider it a personal triumph to be recognised by the management team whenever the guests write my name down in those feedback forms stating that I had a made a positive impact during their stay. As a career changer, I definitely am not regretting the investment which I have made at Les Roches.
As a graduate from Les Roches, I was also comforted to find out upon arrival that I was not the only Les Rochian in the middle of the desert. There are 5 other students from Les Roches Marbella on internship at the same time as me and it is great to be able to have this affinity from the very beginning.
The weather in the desert is surprisingly bearable. Although we have high temperatures of up to 50 degrees during the summer days, the atmosphere is not that humid and the entire property is very well air-conditioned. Surprisingly, I have been enraptured by the charm of the beautiful red sand and am finding it quite comfortable to stay here.
On my days off, there are a few ways I can spend my time – I can take the shuttle and travel to the city in the early morning, or arrange with the activities team to do some desert activities. So far, I have done camel trekking to watch the sunrise (beautiful!) and dune bashing (which I can describe it as roller coaster in the sand, but in a jeep).
While I had never heard much about UAE before working here, some facts which I have found interesting, compared to countries I have lived in before include:
1. Weekends are Fridays and Saturdays (due to Friday prayers)
2. Pork is supposedly not sold here
3. Shopping malls. Everywhere.
4. 85% of people living here are expatriates / foreign workers, most who have been here for at least 5 years!!!
Despite only being here for a month, I am already collecting so many stories to share about my new adventure here in the middle of the desert. I am learning a lot about the industry, and am on my way to be the hotelier I’ve always aspire to be. I am really contented and thankful, and try to work my best every day to make this opportunity count.
As the hotel moves into the high season in November and December, I’ll be sharing more stories about my journey here.