“ Hotel in Abu Dhabi, UAE. „
Recently, business travel has taken me to some exotic places, but in keeping with most work-related travel, this usually means getting very well acquainted with your hotel with very little exposure to the "outside" world. Such was the case with my recent trip to Abu Dhabi, when I spent six nights at the well-appointed, 400-room Beach Rotana hotel. In this case, I was grateful to be shielded from the unrelenting heat and humidity outside, and took the opportunity to make a detailed exploration of the property I was staying in.
The Beach Rotana is located beside a man-made lagoon, with a private beach and outdoor pool, play and fitness facilities. Like most of the UAE, it offers a strange juxtaposition of the sublime and the ridiculous. On the one hand, the layout of the leisure area evokes images of sweeping Caribbean and Indian Ocean resorts, on the other hand, across the lagoon, is one of the largest construction projects in the United Arab Emirates, as the new Abu Dhabi financial district emerges from the sands of Suwwah Island.
The front entrance of the hotel is not that impressive, but such was this Westerner's desire to escape the searing heat that I am probably doing it an injustice. Once inside however, the vista is one of understated opulence, with marble floors, water features, high domed ceilings, and the hustle and bustle of a busy and somewhat cavernous lobby. There is an obligatory over-priced hotel shop selling expensive nick-nacks and a few snacks and sweets, and the raised central area hosts "Café Columbia" serving coffee, tea and pastries.
Check-in was efficient, but the oily obsequiousness of the male receptionist was almost Fawlty-esque in its execution. With rooms assigned and card keys secured, we set off to explore our accommodations, practically fighting off the ministrations of several bell-boys eager to earn a few Dirhams by porting our negligible amount of luggage. I managed to get to the lifts without resorting to physical intervention (I am not a patient sort, so this was a considerable achievement) and when I reached my room, I was delighted to find it spacious and well thought through.
The Beach Rotana is a five star hotel and it shows in every aspect. The room was very tastefully decorated in understated tan, light brown and gold hues, well proportioned, and with all mod-cons present and correct (including stocked mini-bar, large LCD TV, hair dryer, WiFi access, fruit bowl, up-market toiletries from L'Occitane, a selection of pillows, room safe, and real wood hangers). The only down-side was that the AC unit refused to push the temperature below 20C for some reason, but I wasn't bothered enough to have it looked at. Two complimentary 500ml bottles of mineral water are provided and refreshed every day.
The room offered plenty of storage with a generous wardrobe and chest of drawers, and a pair of bedside tables on either side of the king-sized bed, one of which contains a Quran and a prayer rug. The hotel does a turn down service, leaving a flower and sleep-related quote on a card on the bed - a nice touch. The bed itself was very comfortable, and in spite of my usual first night troubles in a new bed, I had no problems sleeping. While lying on the bed, looking at the ceiling I saw a discreet arrow pointed in a seemingly random direction. It took me three days of wondering before I made the connection with Mecca.
Breakfast is served in the Essence restaurant on the ground floor, which is situated in the atrium of the main wing (there is a separate lift block for the "luxury" wing of suites and executive rooms). It is a buffet-style offering, with most international palates catered for, and it offers a similar service at lunch and dinner as well. Most of the food was good, but short of excellent, with some of the cold meats and cheeses looking a little worse for wear.
The hotel has a number of dining options that are available to both residents and non-residents. Given we were pretty much confined to the hotel for our meetings, we managed to visit most of them including the German style Brauhaus, offering weissbier on tap and sausages on the menu, the Rodeo Grill catering to meat lovers, Prego's for Italian-style pizza and pasta, and up-market India Indigo. There is also a fish restaurant called Finz which is sited mid-water over the lagoon, Japanese Benihana, and French-Polynesian Trader Vic's.
For those looking for less expensive (fan)fare, the Beach Rotana has a dedicated entrance into the Abu Dhabi Mall, whose food court features international greats such as Hardees, Popeye's and McDonald's, along with a number of outlets serving local food. Room service is also available for those who can't (or won't) venture out of their rooms. Alcohol is only served in hotels (and one or two very select bars) in Abu Dhabi, and the hotel doesn't want for outlets serving it.
The hotel also has an on-site spa, a large, airy and well equipped fitness centre, and the aforementioned pool complex with a kiddie pool, main pool with on-water bar, a covered children's play area and the beach. There are two large segregated changing rooms, which each incorporate a sauna and Jacuzzi - there are no shared indoor facilities - and a deckchair-side bar service available throughout the complex. The beach is pristine despite the ugly view opposite. Bathing in the Gulf is like taking a warm bath. The water is quite saline, making for exceptional buoyancy.
The Money Part
I was booked in on a corporate rate, which came in under £110 per night (including breakfast and free WiFi for the stay) but normal rates for standard rooms are not too far off this. It's the extra's which are expensive and rack up quite quickly. Internet access is relatively expensive (about £6/hr - but this is in keeping with international hotels of this standard), the mini-bar extortionate, and the food prices in the hotel restaurants rarely less than £50 per head. The UAE is not a place for bargains as almost everything is imported.
All-in-all, despite a few niggles, I found the Beach Rotana experience a memorable one. Staff are very attentive (sometimes a little too much, but you get used to it), the facilities are outstanding and child-friendly, and the room rates much more reasonable than I expected. There is talk of us returning to finish our business in early December and I, for one, am looking forward to it.