The four-star Mafraq Hotel lies about 30 minutes from Abu Dhabi City (take Exit 35A on the Al Ain-Abu Dhabi motorway). We arrived on a quiet Friday afternoon to find not a sign of life at the hotel entrance, so we ended up leaving our car in front of the building and bringing in the luggage ourselves, and didn't meet a soul until we got to the reception desk. The spacious and bright lobby was furnished with hot pink and yellow sofas; completely detracting from this funky look were pieces of traditional furniture designed by students and arranged artistically around the area. At one end, glass doors opened on to the terrace and pool. After check-in, which took five minutes, the bell boy suddenly materialised. We declined his offer to carry our luggage and wandered off to find our room.
The hotel feels like an oasis in what is more or less an industrial wasteland. The newest addition to the area is Bawabat Al Sharq Mall, a 10-minute drive from the hotel (and already a hit with the residents).
Built in 1996, the 250-room hotel was given a complete makeover just over a year ago. Ours was a deluxe king on the ground floor, where the two rows of rooms face either the noisy pool or the quiet date palm-filled yard. We got the latter, and I was able to enjoy an uninterrupted nap that afternoon. The room was comfortable and simply decorated, with a soft carpet underfoot, a cosy armchair and a desk. The best thing about it, though, was the magnificent bed laid out in quality linen, and the soft pillows. The glass-paned balcony on the far side of the room let in plenty of light but, sadly, was sealed shut "due to security reasons". The cream-tiled bathroom, equipped with the basic soap-shampoo-body lotion trio of toiletries, was tiny and nondescript but spotless.
Patchy. At breakfast at The Olive Branch, the hotel's all-day restaurant, we had to remind staff twice about our request for hot milk. I found the lack of attention mystifying because the place was practically empty. That night, two calls to housekeeping for bottled water went unanswered, forcing us to call reception. The water arrived in a matter of seconds but without an explanation as to why the housekeeping phone line was left unmanned for nearly 20 minutes.
There were only a few families when we visited and all were at the pool. The parents napped on deck chairs under the trees and the children kept the lifeguards busy.
We had our meals at The Olive Branch, an intimate restaurant done up in pale green and beige, with a small buffet offering the standard fare. One dish that stood out was the biryani - a mix of perfectly spiced rice, golden, fried onions, dried fruit and succulent chicken. The poolside Friday brunch (Dh119 for adults; Dh69 for children), with its candy-floss stalls and live cooking stations, is quite popular with Mafraq residents.
The bed, which turned out to be one of the most comfortable I've ever slept in. The silence was immense, broken only at dawn by birds twittering in the palms.
The din the housekeeping staff made as we left to check out. They kept calling out to each other while cleaning the rooms.
A quiet getaway for parents looking to sleep off their exhaustion while the kids stake out the pool.
The bottom line
A double room costs from Dh578 per night, including breakfast and taxes. Mafraq Hotel, Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Road, Mafraq, Abu Dhabi 6770 (www.mafraq-hotel.com; 02 659 6666).