A view of Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort.
PHOTO BY DANAT
I LOVE LONG DRIVES, which was why a five-hour road trip from Dubai to this weekend getaway in Al Ruwais didn’t faze me.
The object of my adventure? The five-star Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort, this palatial hotel resort quite literally in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of the UAE.
The drive could have been shorter, I’m sure, if my travel buddy and I were familiar with the place. Our first stop was at a gasoline station in Jebel Ali for a bite to eat, then we were back on the E11 highway. We made a few more quick stops along the way to ask motorists if we were on the right track along what felt like an endless stretch of highway. There were hardly any roadsigns to the hotel until we were about 30 minutes closer to our target.
But that was just part of the adventure of getting there.
The sun was still shining quite fiercely as we pulled up on the driveway at around 3 p.m.; the concierge guy squinting from behind a counter before coming over to offer to unload our luggage and park our car.
A gigantic wooden door at the entrance provided a dramatic effect, but the real entrance was really through sliding glass doors on the left, which leads to the reception manned by a very friendly and helpful guest service officer. As we waited to check in, we were offered a shot of cold lime and mint juice and wet towels, both a welcome refreshment after that long drive.
I was instantly swept by the laidback vibe in the hotel. The interiors were classy and modern, with tasteful décor like the concave ceiling with blue fishscales that provided a dramatic, under the sea effect to the entire reception area.
As we sipped our drinks, I remembered I was miles away from home yet I didn’t exactly feel homesick. In fact, I couldn’t wait to begin my weekend retreat!
We stayed in a deluxe room with a great view of the ocean and a big window that you could open a little to let the fresh seabreeze in. Don’t worry, it’s completely child proof and environmentally safe as well—if you crack open the window, the airconditioning unit in the room will switch off.
There was a tray of fruits and a glass of grape waiting at a table, with a note from the room reservations manager telling us to enjoy our stay. How very thoughtful.
I really liked the overall feel of the room—from the rich wooden panels and furnitures to the tones of beige and white in the linens, cushions and carpet. Everything felt clean, comfortable and homey.
The hotel has six food and beverage outlets to fit your mood and budget. First stop is the all-day dining Tides restaurant that surprisingly had a good buffet spread, including a sushi counter and a live cooking station for eggs, grills and pasta. I liked the laidback vibe here.
For breakfast, my travel buddy and I preferred outdoor seating because the weather was nice (except for the occasional giant flies). On Fridays, Tides opens with a big brunch outdoors with a live cooking station for seafood. I couldn’t get enough of the grilled king prawns, mussels and extra juicy lobsters!
For fine dining, we headed to Zaitoun, which offers Italian cuisine and specialty beverages. The décor here is classy and intimate but not intimidating. The food? Stellar and beautifully plated. I highly recommend the set menu for Dh165 per person. For starters, we had insalata caprese or mozarella marinated in beet with walnut, tomato, basil leaves, croutons drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar. For mains, we went for perfectly grilled lamb chops that came with sauteed green beans, cherry tomatoes, extra creamy mashed potatoes and mushroom sauce. We finished with delicious tiramisu for dessert. The set menu also came with coffee and tea.
C-View, the lobby café, offers a more casual dining experience. The food is affordable, too. When we visited they had a buy one get one offer on all beverages during sundown, while the prices of their cakes and pastries ranged from Dh10 to Dh20. It’s nice to just sit here and enjoy the view of the garden, have a conversation, or listen to the live acoustics.
Our last stop was at the L’Attitude Restaurant and Bar where we had dinner while being entertained by the hotel’s resident band that belted out hits on request of the crowd. Surprisingly, the food was as good as the entertainment. The delicious t-bone steak was the right kind of medium done that I wanted, although I don’t know why it sat on a bed of vegetables.
There’s a lot of water activities you can do here. There’s a family-friendly temperature controlled pool where, early on Friday mornings, guest can jump in the water and join the fitness session for free.
We’re not much of early risers so we skipped that part, although we couldn’t miss a massage session at Body & Soul recreation club. The massage service was exceptionally good, although strangely I could hear the faint sound of some construction work going on somewhere in the building.
In the afternoon, we also tried the hotel’s watersports, hopping on the speedboat for a 30-minute boatride. We had hoped to snorkel out at sea but unfortunately the winds had made the sea too choppy for that. Nevertheless, the very friendly boatman gave us quite a tour—showing us a view of the sheikh’s palace on top of a mountain and the refineries in the area. “When you come back during finer weather, I’ll show you how to fish out here,” he promised, as if knowing that we’ve already made up our minds to return to this hidden gem soon.
FACILITIES AND SERVICES
• 6 food and beverage outlets
• villas and chalets
• private dining room
• meeting rooms
• 1 ballroom
• Fitness centre
• Sauna rooms
• Outdoor swimming pool with sun deck
• Gift shop
• Salon for men and women
• Business centre
• Outdoor carpark with valet parking
• Wifi in guestrooms and public areas
• 24-hour in-room dining
• Concierge service
• Tour booking assistance
• Car or limousine service
• Laundry service
• Currency exchange
DANAT JEBEL DHANNA RESORT
Category: 5 star
Address: Al Ruwais, Abu Dhabi, PO Box 12333
Telephone: 02 8012222
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