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Wed 23 Jul 2014 07:37 PM

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Home from home: Ajman Saray

Beatrice Thomas takes a trip to Ajman Saray to check out one of the UAE’s latest hotels and staycation venues

Home from home: Ajman Saray

It’s the little details that can make a good hotel great, and Ajman Saray, the latest addition to hotel group Starwood’s UAE portfolio and third under its Luxury Collection brand, has these in abundance.

Upon arrival at the palatial, Arabian-styled property, about an hour north of Dubai in the emirate of Ajman, the staff are warm, friendly and efficient, with the room made available almost immediately despite the official 3pm check-in still two hours away.

The Deluxe Seaview King room, one of 205 rooms and suites at the resort, is spacious and elegant but with the right amount of beachside resort-chic. The balcony is big, and provides a world-class view of a spectacular orange sunset later that day.

The room also has plenty of those little details, such as automatic power, meaning no room key needed to turn on the lights, as well as a Roman bathtub, rainforest shower and a separate toilet/powder room for extra privacy.

A fresh fruit platter on arrival is also a lovely touch, along with a welcoming note personally signed by general manager Michele Frignani.

Once settled in and downstairs an expansive lobby and lounge area leads to an elegant, good-sized pool and private beach. Again, there are more little details, with the sun lounges all featuring built-in pillows, making a post-lunch nap extra inviting. As a relatively new resort, and with the low summer season approaching, there are also plenty of lounges available. The towel area also has a variety of sunscreens and pool noodle toys, while a kids’ zone has a shallow pool and indoor/outdoor playground.

For lunch, a tuna steak and quinoa and papaya salad hits the spot at the Bab Al Bahar beach bar before some serious sun-baking time. However, for the more active, the resort offers aqua aerobics as well as a variety of watersports from kayaking, paddle boarding, wind surfing and jet skiing to submersible scooters — but all at a cost, starting from AED75 for a 15-minute banana or donut ride right up to AED2,500 for  a two-hour fishing trip.

As is to be expected at a five-star resort, Ajman Saray has a fully equipped gym, with fitness classes on offer such as stretching and sunset yoga. The entire day’s programme is provided in a daily activities sheet dropped to your room.

However, if, like me, your daily holiday ritual is planned around food, then the hotel has plenty of options in this space. Russian high tea is served daily from 2-5pm at Escape lobby bar, one of five restaurants and lounges overseen by executive chef Christophe Gavois.

There is also Vista, the resort’s all-day dining venue serving Mediterranean cuisine for lunch and dinner and where a buffet breakfast that is not the biggest by UAE five-star resort standards but that will satisfy both western and Arabic palates with all the essentials is served.

For dinner, Ajman Saray’s seafood restaurant, Safi, was superb and is highly recommended. Set as a seafood market style venue, guests are encouraged to peruse the display of freshly caught fish, crustaceans and shellfish before selecting their catch, followed by their preferred cooking method (wok, grilled, pan fried, steamed) and sauce. For a starter, the gulf shrimps wrapped in crispy kataifi dough with Vietnamese plum sauce were delicious, as was the pan seared tuna topped with lemongrass, cashew nut and spicy chilli paste dressing. The sea bass, baked, and served with baked baby potatoes and steamed greens was an excellent mains choice. Save room, though, as the desert menu is divine — the lemon meringue with banana and blueberry edible flowers and berry compote and the hazelnut gianduja chocolate bar with minted rich dark chocolate, citrus segment and passion fruit gazpacho were both winners for us. The entire meal was served promptly by knowledgeable, attentive and efficient wait staff in a warm and inviting space.

For other dining options, Mejhana also offers authentic Lebanese cuisine, while après-meal, guests have the Al Shorfa lobby lounge and equestrian-themed Escape lounge. Though my stay was pleasure rather than business, the hotel also has a ballroom and six event venues for meetings, conferences or social gatherings.

However, as a relaxing getaway, the GOCO Spa, the first in the UAE for the Thai-based company, has 17 treatment rooms across 1,250sq m. As a last treat prior to check-out, an 80-minute aromatherapy massage using essential oils for a desired result — be it to relax, rejuvenate or energise — is divine. Starting with a pressure point massage on the face, and ending in a deep, relaxing massage it is just as the brochure describes.

The only downside to an otherwise perfect stay was the nighttime music at Bab Al Bahar. Blaring until the early hours of the morning, which probably kept a lot of guests awake, it was way too loud, especially when still pumping at full volume at 1.30am. To the hotel’s credit it was immediately turned off following a call to reception, but it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the resort’s “relax and unwind” vibe.

Ajman Saray is otherwise a polished and impressive addition to what is a competitive UAE hotels and resorts market and will provide a relaxing and luxurious venue for those who choose it for their stay.

** The reporter stayed at Ajman Saray as a guest of the resort.

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