Having had such a relaxing time during our first visit to Danat Jebel Dhanna earlier this year. We couldn’t resist a second visit for a quick pre-Christmas staycation and some much needed chill out time, especially seeing as we wouldn’t be flying home to the UK this holiday season.
The beauty of this beach resort is the sense of utter seclusion found on the sandy shores of the Arabian Gulf. Close to the border with Saudi Arabia and overlooking the fantastic Sir Bani Yas Island, Danat Jebel Dhanna offers guests the ultimate beach destination away from the crowds and artifice of Dubai. Located close to the town of Ruwais, this decade old five star property, is one of the Emirates best kept secrets. With only the bravest of drivers willing to navigate the near three hour drive from Abu Dhabi (add another hour if coming from Dubai). There’s little doubt that the drive down is an adventure in itself, as you cross the barren desert landscape for approximately 250km, having to weave between an excessively speedy right lane and a painfully slow left lane filled with trucks. Neither lane is enjoyable to be in and the sight of the Danat Jebel Dhanna looming out of the surrounding ocean, is a welcome relief after being on the road for so long.
Having visited previously just before Ramadan and in the harsh summer heat. The property takes on a completley different feel with the change of the seasons. The lobby continues to impress on this return visit. Offering guests an underwater vista of marine animals that wouldn’t feel out of place in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. The magical imagery seemingly comes to life with the sea urchin-like chandelier, the focal point of the lobby area. With the cool winter breeze engulfing the property, it’s an entirely different experience this time around. For one, the sand is no longer burning hot and despite the sea being a little to cold, the swimming pool maintains a warm temperature and sunbathing is a far more pleasurable experience than our visit six months ago.
The temperature may have changed but the consistency of the hotel and its hospitality have not. We’re greeted warmly by the front desk, who remember us from our previous visit and enquire as to how we’ve been these past few months. The check-in process is efficient and we’re upstairs, in our fifth floor room, within a number of minutes. The consistency continues into the rooms and despite no balcony on this occasion, the layout remains the same. Clean, homely and littered with fresh floral offerings which provide flashes of bright purple to an otherwise neutral space. We feel as though we never left and are easily able pick up from where we left off during our last visit.The impressive views over the Arabian Gulf remain unchanged and just as breathtaking as before, especially with the sun setting on the horizon and the swimming pool illuminations bringing the ebbing waters to life. The bonus of this property is the fact that all rooms face the Arabian Gulf, meaning guaranteed sea views not matter what.
With the arrival of evening, comes the arrival of Santa. The predominant reason for our return to the property on this specific weekend. As we gather around the large Christmas tree in the main lobby to await the illumination ceremony. It appears as though every resident of Ruwais (and perhaps the entire Western Region) have gathered to join in the festivities and get a glimpse of the man in red. The lobby comes alive with cheer and the sound of Christmas Carols, as hundreds of guests indulge is mulled wine, minced pies and other festive offerings. As the countdown progresses, there’s a minor mishap with the lights, before the familiar glow from the twinkling tree engulfs us all. The tree itself is topped with a star (fish), in keeping with the hotels underwater thematics. While gingerbread houses, snow men, daintily wrapped presents and reindeers with surrealist elongated legs, complete the wintry scene.
A visit from Santa in the United Arab Emirates is a bizarre thing and one that we still struggle to fathom. Each year it becomes more manic and despite the number of security guards increasing (yes in the UAE you’d think Santa was Beyonce or something), chaos always ensues. As children and parents alike, appear to be briefly overcome with hysteria, as they rush towards the unsuspecting Santa. We’ve never in the UAE experienced a visit to see Santa that’s been calm and as the prospect of maintaining a queuing system disintegrates before your very eyes. In the end, you have no choice but to join the human vice, in the hopes of squeezing through so your (slightly traumatized) child can receive their gift.
With a visit to Santa out of the way, we retreat to the all-day-dining restaurant ‘Tides’ for a spot of dinner. With it being the weekend (and more importantly a Thursday), we’re treated to Mexican night. Featuring the obligatory nachos, fajitas and burritos scattered amongst an altogether internal buffet.
During our two day stay, we find ourselves dining at Tides more than we would’ve liked. Due to the cancellation of the Friday BBQ brunch, thanks to a particularly windy day. In a 48 hour period we dine at Tides for one dinner, one lunch, one brunch and two breakfasts (we’re starting to sound like the very hungry caterpillar). The team at Tides do an admirable job of transforming the buffet with each meal, as new dishes are added and favourite items are re-jigged. Unfortunately there’s no escaping the trappings of Tides’ buffet concept, with as much variety as possible provided to the masses, without always reflecting in quality.
Much better is the hotels signature restaurant Zaitoun. An Italian eatery whose name translates as ‘olive’ in Arabic. One second visit the restaurant is just as impressive (if not more so) that the first. We only wish it wasn’t located so far from the capital as we’d love to visit far more often. With three set menus to choose from, each offers three courses of Italian specialties. Indulging in a fantastic beef carpaccio, the reinterpreted Caprese salad (that we enjoyed so much back in May), vegetarian pasta and grilled chicken breast. Dishes at Zaitoun are well prepared and beautifully plated, all the more impressive given our remote desert location and lack of access to the more complex ingredients of Italian cuisine. We finish the night with the glorious tiramisu, a creamy blend of coffee and mascarpone.
The next morning we’re up early to enjoy the beach. In the winter months there’s a certain vibrancy to the hotel. Manicured lawns are lush and green, punctuated by flower gardens of violet and fuchsia. The sweet aroma of frangipani drifts on the ocean breeze as the hues of the sea get steadily darker as they close in on Sir Bani Yas Island, with its dormant crater clearly visible on the horizon The weather’s a good thirty degrees cooler this time around, meaning ample time to explore the extensive gardens fringed with palm trees. While a rare smattering of clouds fill the sky, we walk for miles upon the shoreline, taking in the shells and other debris left behind by the tide. We pass yoga classes and families out for a morning stroll and contemplate this brief respite from out hectic lives in the city.
Returning to the comfort of the hotel, the children enjoy the outdoor playground with its climbing frames, see-saw and swing set. While us adults contemplate the shisha area on the adjacent lawn. The compromise transpires to be the inviting pool, complete with swim up bar and separate shallow area for younger guests. Dotted around poolside are a number of loungers, cabanas and day beds. Just ideal for catching some rays while sipping on a fresh coconut or signature cocktail. From the vantage point of the pool you can see the crystal clear waters of the ocean, with the hypnotic waves lapping at the beach and dragging the sand into it’s almost tropical clutches. Wooden umbrellas complete the look and feel more like a far off island that the desert shores of the Middle East.
The isolated location and warmth of the staff are the major draws of this beachfront hotel. Other than the expat population of nearby Ruwais (who may use the hotel for a day tip), it must be difficult to attract holiday makers due to its distance from both Abu Dhabi city and Dubai. It’s a shame though, as the beach alone is worth a visit and perhaps the nicest in the country.
We strongly suggest you consider Danat Jebel Dhanna the next time you’re looking for a UAE staycation. It’s close to the attractions of Sir Bani Yas Island and makes a welcome change from the usual trips to mountainous Fujairah or Ras Al Khaimah. With litttle to do other than relax, the beach and pool centric resort is the perfect spot for a family getaway and better still, all of the restaurants at the hotel can be found in the Entertainer.
Danat Jebel Dhanna are going all to make sure guests enjoy this very merry festive season and judging by the Christmas tree illuminations, it’s going to be a popular place to be in the Western Region. With a whole host of festive activities planned for the coming weeks, there’s still time to book that festive getaway:
15th, 22nd, 24th and 25th December 2016: Enjoy festive carol singers in the lobby. Plus a special visit from Santa.
24th December 2o16: A special Christmas Eve celebratory dinner at Tides. Featuring Yorkshire puddings, prime beef, mince pies, plum pudding and more. Prices start at 150 AED++ (inclusive of two house beverages) or 250 AED ++ (with unlimited house beverages).
25th December 2016: Visit the Cheerful Brunch at Tides. Featuring all of your favourite Christmas staples like stuffed roast turkey. Expect the man in the red suit to make a special appearance. Prices start at 150 AED++ (inclusive of two house beverages) or 250 AED ++ (with unlimited house beverages).
31st December 2016: New Years Eve Gala Dinner. A spectacular six course dinner offering a range of cuisines and a few surprises. Prices start at 150 AED++ (inclusive of two house beverages) or 250 AED ++ (with unlimited house beverages).
We were invited to stay at the Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort but all views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, with the exception of one image used courtesy of Holiday ME.