Mafraq Hotel, Abu Dhabi
Feels like... Larnaca, Cyprus “That’s an Arabian fox cub, Dad,’’ shouted my eight-year-old excitedly.
“No, it can’t be,’’ piped up my 13-year-old. “Foxes? In Abu Dhabi, huh?’’ she sniggered.
I wouldn’t have believed it had I not seen a little animal sneak away from beyond the perimeter fence of the Mafraq Hotel.
“Your kid could be right. Some people have spotted foxes in this area,’’ a guest who overheard my daughter confirmed.
It was late evening and we were relaxing by the lovely pool at the Mafraq Hotel in Abu Dhabi, a five-star property situated about 30 minutes from the city centre in a quiet area of the capital. The colourful twinkling lights on some of the trees gave the pool area an ethereal feel. I looked up and, for the first time in many months, saw stars. Living in Dubai, a brightly lit city, one often misses these natural pleasures and now at Mafraq, nursing a cold drink, the weekend was turning out to be just perfect.
In many ways the Mafraq Hotel is an oasis in the midst of grey buildings. The atmosphere reminded me of Larnaca in Cyprus – lots of open spaces, few high-rises, and a quiet and calmness that was all pervading.
And there are foxes in Cyprus too. Though not Arabian ones.
An ideal place to spend a relaxing weekend, the Mafraq boasts 250 rooms and very helpful staff. Used as we are to seeing high-rises in Dubai, the fact that the hotel has just three levels was a welcome novelty. Solitude
and silence in small doses can be rejuvenating and the weekend we visited, the hotel was pleasantly tranquil. We were given a lovely deluxe room on the ground floor, which had a door that opened out to a patio with a splendid view of the turquoise pool and the sprinkling of date palms around it.
The next morning I woke up early and sat outside sipping a cup of tea. The air was cool, a soft breeze was blowing across the pool and the sun’s rays shimmered on the water. Listening to birds chirping and watching them flitting around the date palms was amazingly de-stressing – again something one misses when living an apartment life in the city.
Breakfast at The Olive Branch restaurant included continental and regional favourites, and the children couldn’t stop stuffing themselves silly with delectable sweet treats.
Next we explored the hotel. There was a small gym, an indoor badminton court, a squash court and a table tennis room. Inevitably we made our way to the pool where the kids had a whale of time.
The excellent chicken biryani prepared by executive chef Shibu Bhagadethan was the highlight at lunch. He took time out of his busy schedule to prepare some delicious grilled chicken for us and, when we could eat no more, he slipped off to return with a selection of pastries.
“You must try them,’’ he said. And he was right – they were iresistible.
Then we adjourned to the games area. After some table tennis with the resident champ, a Sudanese gentleman named Abdullah, it was time to catch an afternoon nap.
The evening began leisurely but soon picked up pace as the hotel started filling up with weekend guests. We enjoyed a candlelit dinner by the pool and the ambience was just perfect. The kids were out of our hair busy poking around the fence hoping to spot more animals. Soft music was playing while a three-course meal was served. Leaning back, I looked up at the twinkling sky. Ah, if only all weekends were like this.
DETAILS: Rooms from Dh255. Call 02 659 6666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.mafraq-hotel.com.