The perfect travel break in Abu Dhabi
Photos by Deanne Scott: The Sheraton from the outside;
ERIC SCOTT October 22, 2009.
AFTER a fascinating but gruelling six-week tour of Europe my wife and
I needed some real R and R on the way home and we found it with a
three night stopover at the Sheraton Hotel and Resort in Abu Dhabi.
We spent the nights and two sun-filled days in utter luxury in typical
Emirates style – the hotel is big, marble and crystal chandeliers
dominate the foyer and the rooms are huge, with marble
bathrooms and every comfort.
The hotel sits on the edge of the Corniche, Abu Dhabi’s premier
beachside location.And everything you need is on site including top
class dining, a spa, bars, pool, gym and even a private beach. It’s the perfect hideaway from Abu Dhabi’s hot
and dusty streets where the building and rebuilding never stops.
There are even road works outside the hotel, but they do not intrude on the tranquillity inside.
To take the short breaks in the UAE you’ll need to fly either Emirates or Etihad airlines on the return journey to the UK or Europe. We flew Emirates, which is based in Dubai, but because we chose business class the airline chauffeur-drive passengers to any destination in the Emirates,
which meant a 125 km ride to Abu Dhabi.
It was a late night arrival, but with a four-hour time lag, fatigue was
not an element. There was time to take a luxurious shower, don the
clean white bathrobes supplied and rest up in an armchair with a
duty-free night cap and tune in to the BBC world news on the large
flat screen TV.
Like all Sheraton hotels, this one has the decadent sweet sleeper
beds, which always give the best hotel room sleep time. I reckon
they are the best hotel beds in the business. There is also a
complimentary fruit bowl and bottled water which is replaced
daily. The bathroom toiletries too are of exceptional quality, as isthe service everywhere in the hotel. Breakfast runs in the Flavours restaurant from 6-10.30 am and has an enormous range of international foods from popular cereals to exotic Arab dishes – despite it being a Muslim country you can still get your porksausages and bacon. And if you like a drop of honey with your toast – you don’t get fresher that the Sheraton because the honey was dripping straight from thehoneycomb into a glass dish.
It’s a habit of mine, no matter which country, to take a walk to absorb the atmosphere, even in Abu Dhabi with a temperature hovering around the high 30s. It was not long, nor was it one of most pleasant walks I have experienced; it was a matter of dodging round building and demolition sites to get to the famed Abu Dhabi shopping mall.
As expected, the mall was big and filled with world famous fashion names, but there were very few people there. Apparently no-one goes out until after sundown. We had a light lunch from a fast
food franchise and experienced a peculiar middle-east custom.
The shopping centre is declared smoke-free, but smokers are allowed INSIDE
restaurants, which meant that non-smokers like us were relegated to the outside.
The walk back was shorter than the initial trip, but we were ready for a dip in the
beautiful free-form lagoon pool, where despite the constant blast from the sun,
the temperature was controlled at a perfect 28 degrees.
After a few laps of the pool, we swam to the pool bar and enjoyed a cold beer and
the cocktail of the day. We gave the beach a go too but the water temperature there
was above 30 degrees and the pull of the cooler pool was too much.It proved to be
the perfect way to spend the remainder of the day. A few minutes would be spent
in the sunshine, and then we would make a move to the many shaded areas in the grounds which boasted tropical greenery with date palms planted at strategic intervals.
The children have their own pool with water slides and an adventure playground.
Huge complimentary bath towels were available by the pool.
That night, after a quick look at what was on offer, we tried the buffet in the Flavours Restaurant,at around $100 for the two of us. And that had to be the bargain of the year. The food stretchedthe length of the room and back – with even more dishes on a lower level.
There was sushi and sashimi, many Asian dishes, and spicy Arabian specialties, vegetarian, salads, soups, seafood, dozens of different styles of bread and pastry and tables full of mouth-watering, creamy and chocolate deserts.
On top of all that, over at the open kitchen fresh red meat, chicken and fish was sitting in a refrigerated display unit. Diners took their pick and then handed it over to Chef Franco who would cook it to their own taste with a choice of a dozen different flavoured cooking sauces to choose from – often with artistic flash of flame. After that meal I could hardly walk and needless to say, booked a table for our last night there. We could have chosen top visit the up-market seafood restaurant, the El Paradiso, the Italian La Mamma, the Spanish Bravo Tapas Bar and Restaurant or the El Sombrero Mexican restaurant. If you like the old fashioned smoke-filled pub you could try The Tavern, an English style hostelry. The Zenith night club with disco lights, DJs and live music rocks on from 9 pm to around 3 am most nights – cigar smokers might enjoy the Cloud Nine cigar bar.
The next morning we decided to try the gym for a half an hour on a walking machine. What a surprise the gym was; it was bigger than some professional outfits I’ve seen in Australian with every conceivable piece of apparatus from rowing to running. The day spent by the pool with the complimentary English language newspaper and a book left us both revitalised and ready for the next relax break, two days in Singapore after a seven hour afternoon flight in the luxury of Emirates business class.
Of course if you are there in the cooler months there is plenty do from golf at the 18-hole championship golf course built in the desert to water sports, sightseeing cruises, island trips, desert safaris, fishing trips, sand boarding, and city tours of Dubai, Sharjah, and Al Ain. All the tours and trips and can be reserved at the concierge desk.
Emirate and Etihad fly to the Emirates several times a week from Brisbane and at the hotel a classic king bed room costs around $500 a night, but check the web for deals. Meals in the restaurants cost approximately $50 a head for a main course or the buffet.