There’s something about the drive from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain – the greenery, the red sand dunes, the occasional camel and the empty road – that automatically helps you unwind. Upon arrival, our car is promptly dealt with by a valet, and in less than five minutes we’re handed our door key and escorted to our suite in the Rotana’s new Falaj Wing, which opened last year.
The Rotana is right in the heart of the city and close to all the major attractions – it’s practically across the road from Al Jahili Fort and a few minutes’ drive to Jebel Hafeet; Al Ain Zoo; and the recently renovated Hili Fun City theme park. The hotel is apparently a preferred weekend retreat among residents, judging by the hordes camped out by the pool.
Our 105-square-metre, one-bedroom suite is on the ground floor of a low building, one of several that house 48 exclusive suites clustered around a private pool, away from the hotel’s main buildings and pool. The rooms are spacious and bright, with modern furniture upholstered in grey, purple and yellow and a massive dining table and chairs. An extra bed has been set up in a corner of the living area for our 11-year-old son, and there’s still enough space to swing a dozen cats. The suite has two TVs, which stops my husband and son from fighting for the remote. The kitchenette is well equipped, and both bathrooms are large; the en suite has an enormous bath and enough towels to keep an army dry. Our bedroom faces the pool, and the curtains keep out the smallest pinprick of light.
When we visit, there’s a poolside party in full swing: there’s squealing children, sunbathers and a well-stocked food station. The Falaj Wing, in contrast, has only a couple of other families staying, and the birds and rippling pool aside, all is gloriously silent.
Exemplary. A couple of calls to housekeeping – once for a minor flood in the bathroom because the shower door wouldn’t shut properly and another for an extra pillow – are attended to immediately. Restaurant staff appear and disappear on cue, and are never overattentive, the curse of so many hotels in the UAE.
Zest, the all-day restaurant, does an excellent Friday brunch (Dh149). We feast on grilled tiger prawns in a tikka marinade, melt-in-your-mouth dim sum, Thai green curry swimming with tiny aubergines, fragrant lamb biryani, raspberry souffle and tiramisu.
Dinner is at Trader Vic’s. It’s lovely to sit outdoors gazing at the stars, dipping into a platter of crispy prawns, barbecued ribs and crab cakes (Dh64). Our main courses – crispy duck with pancakes (Dh88), mango chilli beef stir fry (Dh87) and Cantonese-style sea bass (Dh102) – are delicious and large, and it takes a pleasant eternity to finish everything on our plates.
Zen the Spa, in the Falaj Wing, is a retreat within a retreat: dimmed lights, quietly falling water and soft music. I book the 60-minute personalised facial (Dh375), and Chandi, the Thai therapist assigned to me, tut-tuts over my skin, puts together a routine and sets to work with the lightest of touches. I emerge looking a million dollars; the glow lasts a whole week.
The overflowing shower cubicle, but it’s the only off moment.
The Falaj Wing transforms the Rotana from family friendly to utterly private getaway.
The bottom line
A one-bedroom Falaj suite costs from Dh1,430 per night, including taxes. Al Ain Rotana, Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Ain (www.rotana.com/alainrotana; 03 754 5111).
Follow us @TravelNational
Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.