The Shangri-La

Friday - - Travel -

The weather was a pre­lude to what we were about to ex­pe­ri­ence at the Shangri-La, Abu Dhabi – it was cool and the wind was wet with im­pend­ing rain. The one-hour drive from Dubai was a breeze and the ho­tel ap­peared to live up to its name at first sight.

Set on the 8.5-hectare Qaryat Al Beri com­plex – which also ac­com­mo­dates Traders Ho­tel and The Souk – the Shangri-La was, in a sense, an ap­prox­i­ma­tion of the mys­ti­cal val­ley de­scribed by James Hil­ton in his 1933 novel, Lost Hori­zon.

Not far from the Abu DhabiAl Ain Road and its roar­ing traf­fic, the Shangri-La stood as an oa­sis of calm in the mid­dle of the mad­den­ing rush of daily life.

Our pre­mier room was large enough to com­fort­ably ac­com­mo­date an ex­tra bed for my son. There was a small ter­race that opened out to the land­scaped path­way run­ning around the property, and pro­vided di­rect ac­cess to the lap pool – we could just swim and laze around on the sun beds, be­fore walk­ing back to our ter­race for a cup of tea. Ah, this was get­ting to be ad­dic­tive!

The best part was the view – a small pri­vate beach, the sea be­yond and the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque in the dis­tance. It was a real post­card­per­fect im­age. Who needs a suite?

Idid take a peek into one of the suites though – and ex­cept for two bath­rooms and two sinks (al­ways wel­come) and more ex­pen­sive toi­letries, there wasn’t much of an im­prove­ment on our pre­mier room.

The ho­tel had five restaurants – the Chi­nese Shang Palace, Bord Eau (French fine-din­ing), a Viet­namese restau­rant, Hoi An, the all-day din­ing Sofra bld, and the seafood specialist, Pearls & Caviar, which is where we dined the first night – and loved it.

My wife, who’s veg­e­tar­ian, and my son, who hates seafood, had a limited choice from the menu. But what they or­dered – gnoc­chi for my wife, and fish and chips, with the em­pha­sis on the chips, for my son – was more than sat­is­fac­tory.

We were es­pe­cially im­pressed since they al­lowed my son in wear­ing shorts – which is against house rules! The buf­fet at Sofra bld, the only other restau­rant we ate in, was hu­mon­gous, and cov­ered al­most all cuisines – In­dian, Chi­nese, English, Mex­i­can, Ja­panese…

There was al­ways a va­ri­ety of seafood, the sal­ads were de­li­cious – es­pe­cially the roasted aubergine, hum­mus, tab­bouleh and cous­cous – and dishes were grilled to or­der.

The sheer amount of food would be enough to amaze any­one. The three choco­late foun­tains were, of course, very pop­u­lar with chil­dren.

My wife in­ves­ti­gated the Chi spa, opt­ing for the Ara­bian date body wrap, then the ham­mam with its steam room and jacuzzi. In her words: “The spa opens into a world com­pletely un­like the one you have just left be­hind, and my masseur al­most lulled me into a blessed sleep.”

While my wife was chill­ing out in the spa, my son and I ex­plored the property, walk­ing along the paved path­ways, across the beach, and over the wooden bridges of the canal that runs right through the property into The Souk next door.

When it was all over and we had to re­turn to Dubai, we found our­selves yearn­ing to go back. Now, that was a new one for me!

A canal runs right through the Qaryat Al Beri com­plex

The ho­tel has stun­ning views of the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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