Why oh why did we do this? We thought to ourselves as we sat in Sharjah traffic for two hours on a Thursday evening. It was inevitable that this would happen, but we were so keen to get away on our planned staycation, that we thought it was worth the risk (who wants to wait until Friday to start a mini holiday when you only have two days off?)
We eventually arrived in Ajman, three and half hours after leaving Abu Dhabi and way behind schedule. As we pulled into the driveway of the five star Ajman Saray hotel, we could already feel all of our cares washing away. The sun was beginning to set, as our car was parked and our bags whisked away to the room.
This small beachside resort has an instantly likeable feel and we gawped at the Islamic architecture as we listened to trickling fountains and drank fresh tropical fruit juice. The hotel lobby is a lovely space, full of dark wooden furniture, freshly cut flowers and accentuated with glimmers of gold from chunky picture frames and beautifully ornate mirrors. Billed as a ‘luxury collection resort’ it was immediately evident as to why the hotel had been branded in such a way.
Unfortunately the illusion was soon shattered, as we began the check-in process. The gentleman who checked us in, just happened to be one of the rudest and most sarcastic people that we have yet encountered in any hotel (and trust us when we say that we have been to a lot), his attitude and general unpleasantness really gave us a bad impression and was not a great start to our stay.
With that out of the way, we ventured to our room which was located on the second floor of the building and on one of the corners. The room itself was lovely, decorated in hues of turquoise and silver that really complemented one another and punctuated with distinctly Arabic touches – such as the beautiful hanging lamps.
We were disappointed to find that our room faced the creek-side rather than the sea (as we had stayed at the adjacent Fairmont previously and been rewarded with fantastic views of the Arabian Gulf). A quick trip down to reception (and the same member of check-in staff) we were told in no uncertain terms “you’re not the only guests you know.” Not really the five star service we were expecting!
Intent on not letting this ruin our stay, we returned to the room and quickly got the kids bathed and ready for bed. The bathroom was lovely, continuing the turquoise theme with beautiful tiled mosaics, a free standing bath and a fantastic rain shower and the toilet located in a separate room.
Feeling too tired to go out for dinner (plus the kids has already crashed out) we decided to order room service from the in room dining menu. After much deliberation we settled on the burger and were pleased to find a courteous and helpful voice answer the phone. Within a few short minutes the food had arrived, complete with a complementary portion of macaroons served upon a cool slate.
It wasn’t until we began to eat, that we realised how ravenous we were and thankfully the portion was large, as many in-room dining options give the tiniest of portions. Our burger was plump and covered in beautifully caramelised onions, a portobello mushroom, layers of melted cheese and a sweet bun – it was delicious. The macaroons came in two varieties – strawberry and mint choc chip – and lets just say that they didn’t last long.
After a fantastic nights sleep (the bed was super comfortable) we were up early the next day. Having visited Ajman before (see our post Spotlight On Ajman), we were able to leave the sightseeing behind and concentrate on pure relaxation.
Heading down to the pool area we found two large pools surrounded by sun loungers, cabanas and a nice bar area. The best thing was that the pools were heated, which was just perfect in this still-winter climate, plus the water is shallow throughout and ideal for families with children. The larger of the two pools also has a separate section with a jacuzzi – a great place to while away an hour or so. The water in the pool is fed by four large urns and you could be mistaken for thinking that you were in a Roman bathhouse if it wasn’t for the date palms and sweet smell of shisha on the air.
After a little bit of exploration we found that there was also a third pool specifically for the little ones. Located down a narrow stairway made to resemble a cave, we descended past thundering waterfalls into a small shaded area with a playground, sand box and small pool.
As afternoon approached, we decided that we would lunch in the hotel at the all day dining restaurant Vista. Though not the largest selection of dishes, what was on offer was done very well. Focusing on a Mediterranean selection of dishes – fresh salads and breads were in abundance. Just perfect as we didn’t want anything too heavy before we returned to the beach. The standout items served at the lunch were the fugs with cheese and honey, the vegetable lasagne and Oreo cheesecake (oh my word) – we normally find desserts at buffets generally look good, but inevitably lack in taste, thankfully this was not the case at Vista.
The longer we stayed at the Ajman Saray, the realisation kicked in, that the front desk incident was just one isolated member of staff,. Every other person that we encountered were friendly, polite and attentive – with special thanks going out to those working at the Vista Restaurant, who really looked after our little family during our short stay.
After lunch it was time for the beach! A wide stretch of soft golden sand is kept secluded by two small rocky breakwaters. Lounging on the pristine sand as small waves lapped at the shore, really made us feel as though we were in an exclusive location, well that and the fact that we were the only guests making use of the beach. The sea water was very shallow, and if you stood still for long enough, small fish and even a stingray would come swimming past – we guess the suns heat on the shallow water makes the perfect habitat for these ocean dwellers.
Returning to the room after a long day at the beach, we were met with a nice little surprise – a decadent selection of small chocolates. It is small touches like this that really add something to any hotel stay and set establishments like the Ajman Saray above some of their competitors. The staff would also randomly drop by the room a couple of times a day, just to touch base and see if we required anything, which was just lovely.
As the afternoon wore on we decided to head to the pool bar for some ‘sundowners’ and the fact that 25 AED margaritas were available, was reason enough for us! Every day between 4pm and 7pm its happy hour at the pool, so not only do you get some fanatic drinks (the passion fruit margarita was hands down the best margarita we have ever had!) but you are also rewarded with sublime views, as the sun slowly sets over the Arabian Gulf – a truly unforgettable experience.
Ajman still retains much of its local charm and is a great sport for a weekend getaway, though still close enough to Dubai if you need to venture out for a bit of action! The Ajman Saray is described as a ‘luxury resort’ and it certainly has that feel, though it is not as grand and decadent as some of the other places that we have had the pleasure of staying at. As big fans of Ajman and its quaint fishing-town vibe, we are likely to return again in the future.
The Good: rooms are beautifully furnished and the balconies have lovely day beds (just perfect for relaxing). The beach and pool experience is perfect for a weekend getaway and is highly recommended.
The Not So Good: check-in was an atrocious experience for us and really gave a poor first-impression of the hotel. We also sampled some cakes from the small cafe in the main lobby, which were unfortunately dry and somewhat stale.
Location: Ajman Saray, Corniche, Ajman
Phone: 06 714 2222
Book this hotel: http://www.hotelscombined.ae
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.