x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Revisit simple pleasures with your kids in the Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet hotel, Al Ain

Travelling with kids. When you've lived in the UAE for eight years, there comes a time when you need to try something new - or in this case, a little older.

When you've lived in the UAE for eight years, there comes a time when you need to try something new - or in this case, a little older.

There are only so many marble-encrusted hotels that you can take the kids to before they start confusing one marble creation with another.

Which is why the Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain, in all its faded glory, made for a refreshing change.

The journey up to the hotel was an adventure in itself for my six-year-old daughter and son, aged four. Round and round you go as the road snakes up Jebel Hafeet, a 1,249 metre rocky mountain overlooking Al Ain and nearby Oman.

Every 200 metres or so, there is a rest point with a children's playground causing screams of "stop, stop" from the back seat. But it was too hot for a midday play session and we persevered until the white hotel came into view.

Stepping inside, the decor had certainly passed its heyday, with the green vines covering the lobby walls a feature - whether it was a good one or not, I am unsure.

First built in 2002 - admittedly not a long time ago, but in UAE years that's a lifetime - the hotel was aching for a modern-day makeover.

We were with a group of families and, for the adults more attuned to the UAE's luxury offerings, it took a while to settle into this 124-room mountain resort.

But the kids ignored our airs and graces. For them, this was a playground paradise.

First, and most importantly in their eyes, the pool had water slides. Three of them - all super fast. With lifeguards at a minimum, the children slid down, raced round, slid down again, raced round and slid down again, often arriving in the water on top of each other.

There was a large area of grass for them to charge around, a spacious playground and a crazy golf course perfect for my golf-obsessed son. There was also an indoor playroom. While the adult eye might spot this as a former squash court with lots of plastic slides and wendy houses stuffed into the space, for the little people it was simply a great hide-and-seek spot and somewhere to scream at the top of their voices, echoes bouncing off the walls.

Even the food - which, I have to be honest, is not the best - didn't faze the children. In their eyes, there was an endless supply of chicken nuggets and chips, milkshakes and ice cream to keep them happy, while we munched slowly on our less-than-average fare.

The breakfast, probably the highlight of the dining offerings, is like any UAE buffet, providing the perfect opportunity for little hands to grab chocolate croissants, pile strawberries and melon slices onto plates and pour maple syrup over pancakes.

While the hotel might not provide everything an adult wants, it keeps the kids completely entertained, which in a sense is what the adults want. And when you check out, the very reasonable bill is a nice bonus, too.

When we left and headed up to the top of the mountain to take in the view, the adults "oohed and ahhed", trying to interest the children by pointing at everything they could see. This time, the children were less impressed, preferring to stay in the car.

"We want to go back on the water slides", they shouted, in unison.

ahaine@thenational.ae

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