It took us three hours to get there from Abu Dhabi, mainly because we got stuck in traffic in Sharjah, so it was a very irritable, ungracious family that stamped into the hotel that Thursday afternoon. But the super-quick check-in by the mostly German staff and the refreshing drinks and cold towels calmed us down in no time, so off we went to our room, accompanied by a smiling attendant who good-naturedly answered all the questions our eight-year-old son threw at her.
Ajman is so tiny that exploring it took exactly 45 minutes. Driving down the coast, peppered with tiny bed-and-breakfast-type motels, a few restaurants and small grocery shops, is a serene experience - turquoise waves break on white shores, with slowly sailing fishing boats and boys playing football the only signs of life. The hotel is situated high up on a stunning stretch of palm-fronted beach and is flanked by a stone-walled inlet which serves as a channel for fishing vessels and, now and then, a private yacht.
We were given a deluxe double room which seemed a wee bit small, but this was mostly because of the spare bed squashed between the king bed and the chaise longue. This setup involved a lot of leaping over bits of furniture, but no one complained. The bed had a traditional canopy suspended over it, while Moroccan-style lamps hung on each side. The bathroom continued the ornate theme - beautiful brassware took the place of the usual stainless steel fittings. Wallowing in the bath was a pleasure, mostly because of the lovely bit of opaque glass inserted in the wall; the Arabesque carved screen behind it created an interesting play of light and shadow. But stepping out on to the balcony through the sheer pearly curtains was the best part of all - the sea and sky merged into one solid wall of blue, the horizon discernible only by the line of ships. Directly below us were sprawling lawns and a sparkling pool.
Within 15 minutes of settling in, room service was at our door, bearing a plate of exotic fruit. They also presented our son with a pretty bag of Kempinski kids' shower products, but he was more impressed by the tray of chocolates that arrived at the same time. And there is much to be said for German precision and efficiency. We were so impressed by the dizzyingly swift response to all our requests that we found ourselves synchronising watches and formulating a detailed, military-style itinerary for the next day.
We dined at Cafe Kranzler, a buffet restaurant with terrific views of the beach. The restaurant does a different theme every night. We arrived in time for the barbecue dinner; while the meats were grilled to perfection, the rest of the food catered mainly to the clientele - German and Russian tourists - so there was plenty of mashed/baked/fried potato, hearty goulash and soups, a selection of cold cuts and enough bread to feed an army. My husband found the spread too bland for his liking.
The hotel was full of couples and families who awoke at the crack of dawn and, with towels and children in tow marched single-file to the beach, determined to enjoy every minute of the sun-filled day. We admired their disciplined approach, but stayed in bed until 10 and then breakfasted at leisure on the lawns which, according to the hotel's marketing executive, were once home to a beautiful bunch of peacocks. Unfortunately, they had to be given away when they got too chummy with the hotel guests.
The Ayurveda Spa. After Dr Suni, the in-house Ayurveda doctor, helped me to decide on the treatment I wanted - Elakkizhi, US$122 (Dh450) for one hour - a motherly looking masseuse led me to a dimly lit room filled with the soft, plunky sounds of the sitar, and then worked what felt like a litre of warm coconut oil into my skin. This sent me into a deep coma, from which I awoke only when she brought out the hot bags - herb-filled pouches heated just enough to energise tired skin and limp muscles. After 60 minutes of much bag-on-skin slapping and yelps of "Ow! Hot!", I was given some herbal shampoo and a small bar of Ayurvedic soap to wash off the oil. Afterwards I sauntered out to join my husband and son. They wanted to know why I was glowing like a 100 watt light bulb, so I knew the treatment had worked.
The food. It was a bit of a disappointment, featuring the kind of fare offered at so many hotels nowadays, with nothing unique on the menu to make a lasting impression.
The hotel is a destination in itself and visitors would be hard-pressed to find a reason to leave its well appointed, luxurious confines.
Ajman Kempinski Resort (www.kempinski.com; 06 745 1555), Sheikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi Street, Ajman. Double rooms cost from US$114 (Dh420) including taxes. firstname.lastname@example.org