Mafraq Ho­tel, Abu Dhabi

Friday - - Hot List -

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 mafraq@emi­rates.net.ae. See www.mafraq-ho­tel.com.

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