If you’ve been following my Insta Stories, you already know where we were last weekend 😊 We were in Al Ain, the ‘garden city’ of the UAE. We had a room booked at Al Ain Rotana, one of the oldest properties in the Emirate which also happens to be the only 5-star property of Al Ain as of now.
We drove into Al Ain a little past 12 noon on a Friday afternoon. Loved cruising through the near-empty roads! We were there in a little over an hour.
The beauty of the Al Ain Rotana property is its flat, spread-out structure. Not your typical towering hotel building here, but rather a collection of mid-heighted structures with a spread of exclusive villa properties, spacious greens and wide, inviting pool areas.
The hotel has a self-parking area right at the front, or you can use their valet service. We walked into the lobby to check in, and were warmly greeted by the team. After a shot of welcome kahwa and dates, we were lead to our room along with our luggage by the very interesting Mr. Liakat Hossain Chapaul.
A concierge by day, Mr. Liakat’s real passion lies in music. He heard about my blog from his reception team, and asked me to help him get some exposure to his talent online. He even sang a Bollywood number for us, and a romantic tune in his native Bengali. Watch out for my Insta Stories!
Here’s a look at our room… it was love at first sight. Loved the earthy color scheme of the interiors, so welcoming and soothing to the senses.
The room is complete with all the amenities including a 32 inch television screen, a very comfortable luxe Queen-sized bed, toiletries and a mini bar. But what I loved most was the large, spacious balcony that gave us a stunning vantage point of the hotel’s pool and the mighty Jebel Hafeet.
I was ready to curl into bed right away, but we had a lunch booking at Al Ain Rotana’s all-day dining restaurant, Zest.
Zest at Al Ain Rotana
Located on the ground floor near the main lobby of Al Ain Rotana, Zest offers an international buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The interiors are all deep mahogany wood, glass floors and modern architectural accents. The staff are courteous and helpful, and a tour of the food stations is offered shortly after you’ve been seated.
At the lunch buffet, there was an entire section dedicated to sushi and sashimi! A chef is on duty, rolling to your requirements.
The salad counter features fresh mixes from around the world including Arabic favorites like tabbouleh, hummus and feta salad, Russian-inspired potato salads and even a few ‘chatpatta’ Indian salads with sprouted gram.
The main-course section has a wide variety of curries, rice pilafs and pastas. My favorite was a thick Thai Green Curry that went exceptionally well with the Arabic Vermicelli Rice. Only in buffets like this can you experiment with your own kind of fusion!
Beef lovers have an entire section to enjoy traditional English cuts of steak, complete with your choice of steamed vegetables, gravy and other condiments.
Ending on a sweet note, the dessert aisle here is loaded with naughty treats from around the world. Loved the Indian rice pudding, the Italian tiramisu slice and the Arabic baklava. However, my favorite was the icy-cold grape slush that you need to self-serve out of the slush machine. I made quite a mess out of this, but it was well worth the sticky fingers.
My little girl Farasha enjoyed making more of a mess than I did at the kid’s counter. Little chefs get to dress up in Zest chef uniforms and create their own dessert. She had so much fun playing with the icing tubes decorating a pile of macaroons and cookies #SugarHigh
Farasha with the beautiful Marwa Al Dehneh, Marketing Director – Al Ain Rotana
Zest Opening Hours:
Breakfast: 6:30 am to 10:30 am
Lunch: 12:30 pm to 3:30 pm
Dinner: 6:30 pm to 11:00 pm
A Walk Around Al Ain Rotana
In an attempt to burn off a wee bit of the indulgent lunch, we decided to walk around the property to discover it s nooks and crannies. Al Ain Rotana is a resort-style hotel and is the only 5-star awarded property in Al Ain at present.
The hotel has a very relaxed, chilled out vibe about it. Perhaps it’s the lush green gardens or the low-rise structure of the buildings that make up the property. Such a stark contrast from the urban jungle of Dubai.
Al Ain Rotana has over 17 types of rooms available ranging from standard to luxury villas, each decorated in their own individual style.
Rumor has it Bollywood hunk Salman Khan booked an entire floor here for over a month during his shooting for ‘Ek Tha Tiger’. Confirming the rumors, my concierge friend Mr. Liakat proudly showed me a selfie he took with Sallu Bhai 😊
My little one was throwing tantrums to get into the pool, so we ended up spending most of the afternoon here. I was pleased to see not one but 4 lifeguards on duty, and they have two wide shallow pools for the little ones so mazy mummies like me who would rather lounge on the pool deck coated in sunscreen with a pile of magazines get to do so without going insane.
My little girl Farasha went into the kid’s pool alone but came out with giggles and an entire troupe of brand-new friends! Why can’t adults be this friendly?
As we were walking back to our room from the pool, we were greeted with loud, festive Emirati music. A large band of people were gathered by the majestic ballroom. The staff tell me many weddings take place here.
Blue Line Salon
In a small corridor near the main reception of the hotel, you will find a store selling everyday amenities should you need it, a travel agency and a salon where I met a number of the beautiful ladies from the wedding troupe.
Blue Line Salon offers a wide number of beauty services including hair cuts, coloring and styling, mani and pedis and eye-brow tinting. I got my nails done, and absolutely loved the eye-brow tinting service here. I have only ever tried eye-brow tinting once before this experience.
When the technician handed over the mirror to me to showcase my eyebrows marinating in dye, I nearly flipped out with how scary it looked. But once the dye is wiped clean, tinted brows really frame the face beautifully well. And not having to fill them with brow powder when doing makeup for an entire week is a plus.
By the time we finished with the salon services, it was past 11. Perfect timing for getting seated at Min Zaman for their live belly-dancing performance by the beautiful Mariana!
‘Min Zaman’ translates to ‘a bygone era’ or yesteryears. Keeping with this theme, a pair of live musicians play out old, well-loved Arabic tunes that have the diners tapping their feet and singing along.
We went for the Min Zaman ‘Formula’ dinner, which is a set 4-course traditional Lebanese dinner. It starts with an elaborate spread of cold mezze, followed by hot. Then a main dish of your choice is served, followed by dessert.
Some of my favorites from the spread included the Raw Kebbe (a traditional Mediterranean specialty made of raw minced beef, bulghar and traditional spices), liver in pomegranate sauce, artichoke in a garlic and lemon dressing, Kebbe (the kebbe here had a decadently crunchy outer layer, and was generously filled with deliciously spiced minced beef), and our main dish, the Lamb Kofta served in a grilled tomato gravy.
Through this delicious feast, I blew out shisha puffs and we sipped on very fresh, healthful juices.
We were too full for dessert and settled on a platter of fruit instead.
Breakfast at Zest
We had a very restful sleep in our cozy, welcoming room and nearly missed breakfast with all this over-sleeping. Breakfast at Zest runs from 8 am to 11 am on weekends, and we got there a little past 10.
The entire buffet transforms for breakfast. There’s an island of fresh juices, cereals and yogurt. A live station dishes out hot pancakes and waffles, and you can get your eggs scrambled or poached the way you like at the eggs counter.
They also have a buffet of hot food including meat cuts, hot porridge, sausages and foul medammes. They had a bowl of my favorite Asian congee but sadly the condiments were missing here, so I gave it a miss.
Energized with a healthful breakfast, we headed to the pool once more for a last round of splashes.
Pool time is a great way to get a hyper-bunny like my daughter tired. She had a warm bath and settled under the sheets to take over the television remote.
I took it as a queue to sneak out and try out Al Ain Rotana’s award-winning Zen Spa. Zen Spa is located on the newest wing of the property and has consistently won accolades at the World Luxury Spa Awards since 2014. Will save the details on my spa experience for my next post!
Overall, we loved our time at Al Ain Rotana. This resort-style property is the perfect getaway from the humdrum of city life. The service here lives up to their 5-star badge, and the F&B mix has something for everyone.
Al Ain Rotana turns 20 this April! Enjoy 20% off all bookings throughout the month of April 2019. Visit their website for more details.