The drive from Abu Dhabi took four hours. After navigating through mountains, stretches of desert and a sudden dust storm with our son singing “9,999 bottles on the wall” at the top of his voice, we reached Fujairah with fraying tempers, only to find the hotel conspicuously absent. Stopping to ask for directions at a petrol station, we were told that the hotel is practically in Dibba, Oman. This infuriated my husband, who pointed out that the word “Dibba” should figure more prominently in the hotel’s address. Once we had arrived, though, check-in was super-fast: we were led to comfy red chairs in the bright lobby, offered juice and cold towels and then escorted to our room by a charming attendant.
Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort sits on a stretch of white sand between the Hajjar Mountains and the Indian Ocean, so there’s plenty to do: snorkelling, deep-sea fishing, sightseeing trips to the nearby Fujairah Fort, and hiking in the mountains. The hotel has a daily shuttle to Fujairah city (which, as it turns out, is a good 50 kilometres away).
From a craving for hot chocolate in the middle of the night to the demand for a three-pin plug to revive a dying laptop, every request was handled efficiently and quickly, even though the hotel was swarming with guests when we visited.
We were alloted a large room on the 10th floor. Despite the huge extra bed, the room managed to retain its airy, spacious feel. Although the furniture was non-descript and a little worn, the immense king-sized bed with its mound of soft pillows and the wide, glass-fronted balcony facing the ocean more than made up for it. But I liked the bathroom the best. Divided into three areas – shower, toilet and bath – each with a separate door and opening on to a main dressing area, it could have accommodated four dancing couples quite easily.
We breakfasted, lunched and dined at Views, the high-ceilinged restaurant overlooking the gardens. Breakfast was a noisy but happy affair, with a vast spread that included large baskets full of fresh bread, jugs of ice-cold juices, fresh fruit, felafel, spicy alu bhaji and puri, and a staggering variety of cold meats. Dinner – it turned out to be seafood night – was a quieter experience, and as delicious: we feasted on grilled tiger prawns, lobster and crab with cumin rice.
The hotel was full of guests, mostly European and Middle Eastern, wandering around in slippers and bathrobes. A few families spent the entire day by the huge, free-form pool, with dads and children splashing in the water while the mothers sat on deckchairs, holding French fries and glasses of juice for the kids. We visited in summer when it was quite hot, but everyone stayed outdoors slathering on suncream. The pool stayed full that weekend, from morning until nightfall.
Strolling around the beautiful gardens at dawn. There’s a lot to see and enjoy – a little bridge, a pebble-filled stream and an enormous chess set in the shade of a flame tree. We stumbled upon a couple of fat rabbits sleeping in a corner, and wooden cages with chickens and mynah birds.
The lack of deckchairs around the main pool. We had to stand around for ages and then dive as if our lives depended on it the minute one was vacated.
A (remote) getaway with something for everyone, from a professional dive centre to a spa offering Balinese massages. If you go, make sure you have a GPS, and that the kids have enough to keep them busy – and quiet – during the long drive.
The bottom line
A double room with a balcony and ocean view costs from Dh1,176 per night, including breakfast and taxes. Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, Dibba Road, Fujairah (www.lemeridien-alaqah.com; 09 244 9000).