It’s a certain truth that being an expat in the UAE opens you up to experiences almost impossible to replicate elsewhere. Celebrating multiple religious holidays throughout the year, working on a Sunday, and being struck down yet again by a false route on Google Maps are some. Staycations are another.
When you’ve lived in the country for a little while, it’s easy to become complacent about this way of life and begin to think that you’ve experienced all the hotel scene has to offer. With more five-star hotels and resorts per capita than anywhere else in the world, and a constant stream of new properties to choose from, the 48-hour ‘getaway’ can start to feel a little overwhelming in itself.
Until you visit the Oberoi Beach Resort Al Zorah, that is. Hidden along a pristine stretch of white sand beach (no high rises or manmade islands in sight) and embedded within 247 acres of protected wetlands, this responsibly minded resort prides itself on blending into its surrounding environment, rather than sticking out. Designed by Italian architect Piero Lissoni, the resort is at once contemporary and modern while also subtle and understated. We wanted to spend as much time in the communal spaces as we did our private suite, and happily spent an idle morning exploring the many facilities. The library is an interior stylist’s dream, the art-lined shelves and mid-century finishes surpassed only by the expansive and well-curated selection of books. The spa is equally impressive, from the design and furnishings through to the treatments on offer.
For a property that offers such a sense of peace and isolation it is, ironically, extremely close to Dubai itself. In fact, the trip driving from Arabian Ranches to Al Zorah on a Thursday afternoon rivals the time it often takes to reach the Marina from Downtown. We arrive just as the sun goes down and, after a seamless check-in, head straight for Aquario, the resort’s renowned fish restaurant complete with ‘fish sommelier’. The resort’s ethos makes itself known across both of its in-house restaurants: they prioritise slow food; buy local and organic produce where possible; and work with like-minded suppliers. On the menu, the seafood options are extensive and where possible come from local fishermen in Ajman. We opt for the tuna tartare and scallop ceviche to start, which are both fresh and light, followed by the pan-fried seabass and perfectly cooked lamb cutlets. The food and its presentation is simple, wholesome and unpretentious, allowing the quality ingredients to speak for themselves – again, an appealing contrast to many hotel restaurants throughout the region.
Waking up on Friday morning, we open the blinds to expansive ocean views, and take a few minutes to work out what the mirage-like black mass on the horizon is. It is, in fact, hundreds of enormous birds settling on the glass-like water, just one species of more than 60 to be found throughout the resort. For those who want to explore the natural habitat of Al Zorah and all it has to offer, there are numerous tracks through the mangroves and around the lagoons to explore on foot or by bike, which are happily provided to us by the hotel. We are also told of the free yoga classes held at 8am in the fitness centre, though coffee and a leisurely a la carte breakfast on the terrace at Vinesse restaurant win us over on this particular day.
You could expect a hotel that prides itself so much on architecture, design and the finer details to come at a sacrifice for children and families, yet not so. While we left the small ones at home on this occasion, I was surprisingly pleased to peek into the kids’ club and realise that absolutely nothing in the property is an afterthought. With its own children’s pool, sandpit and outdoor playground, I have no doubt my two young trouble-makers would have had a marvellous time here without disrupting the Zen-like atmosphere of the public spaces. Our recommendation though? Do as we did and treat a weekend at Al Zorah as the ultimate adults-only escape. It’s only a matter of time before we’re back.
From Dhs1,035 per night, visit oberoihotels.com/hotels-in-ajman