Aloft hotels have a reputation for opening their properties in unexpected places, but who would’ve thought that Al Ain would be the choice for their second UAE location? The brash younger sibling to the W Hotel brand, Aloft opts for a vibrant and funky design aimed at the budget conscious traveller with ease and comfort in mind.
As residents of the Garden City some years ago, our return to Al Ain was met with unexpected results. Located a 90-minute drive from either Abu Dhabi or Dubai and within convenient reach of Al Ain International Airport, the Aloft Al Ain is neatly tucked away in the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium Development, overshadowed by the architecturally impressive football stadium (home to Al Ain FC) and reminiscent of London’s Olympic Village.
The 175 room property is not necessarily in keeping with the traditionalism of Al Ain (a place where buildings are never built more than six storeyes high), boldly injecting a shot of modernity into the otherwise non-descript desert town, known for its roundabouts, wildlife park and convenient access into neighbouring Oman. Escaping the 40 degree heat, we seek refuge in the air-conditioned comfort of the lobby and find a space that is unlike anywhere else in Al Ain.
Aloft Al Ain is a small contemporary property and this is evident from the moment you enter. The reception desk is a round kiosk manned by a team of smiling staff who substitute the (expected) formal approach to hospitality, with something far more friendly. A ticker tape screen runs the length of the lobby displaying news and vital information in a multitude of colours, as we check in on iPads to a soundtrack of chart hits. Off to one side is Re:Fuel, a self-service pantry/coffee shop ideal for grabbing a quick bite to go, or as an alternative to eating in one of the restaurants.
Our second-floor room showcases an identical design to the Aloft in Abu Dhabi. Upon entering the room, the bathroom is found off to the left, while the main living space unfolds in front of you. A large double bed sits proudly in the centre of the room, with a small writing desk and 49″ LED television located on the far wall. The views from our window offered little of note and there were a couple of expected things missing from the room – no slippers or robes, no shaving mirror in the bathroom and unfortunately no bath tub.
The rooms themselves are generously sized and feature modern furnishings in the form of a free-standing lamp that hangs over a chair, cubic in design. Vibrant splashes of bold colours can be found upon the upholstery, textiles and blinds, breathing life into the neutrality of the room. You can tell it’s a new property as extra blankets and pillows are still wrapped in plastic and our luggage arrives quickly.
Aloft Al Ain is ideal for the business traveller, with ease, comfort and technology in mind. An app downloadable to your phone allows you to open the door without the need for a key and there are plenty of USB outlets in close proximity to the bed – a feature lacking from so many hotels in the UAE. Worldwide, Aloft has introduced the first Emoji room service menu and robots (Botlrs) that can deliver items to the rooms, though not currently available in the GCC properties, we expect it’s only a matter of time until these features are available.
The usual safety deposit box, mini bar, tea and coffee making facilities (with handy takeaway cups) can be found in all rooms.
Al Ain was in need of a good shake-up and like it’s counterpart in the capital, the pool is Aloft Al Ain’s best feature. Not only is it the only rooftop infinity pool in entire city, but it offers unparalleled views of Jebel Hafeet, the second tallest mountain in the UAE and Al Ain’s main tourist attraction.
For those looking to soak up the sun, you’ll find plenty of shaded cabanas and a raised area of day beds overlooking the water. The sleek curvature of Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium is a pleasing addition to the city skyline and a fitting backdrop to the pool area. The pool deck was our favourite feature of the property and despite the opressive heat, was where we spent most of the time during our short stay.
Guests can also find a business centre, computer access in the main lobby and a fully equipped fitness centre available for complimentary use.
Like it’s counterpart in the capital, the Aloft Al Ain is likely to struggle in positioning itself as a dining destination. It’s a real shame, as dining options (especially those found within hotels) are extremely limited in this desert oasis, and with little competition, the Aloft Al Ain could really knock it out of the park. Though not bad, the food is nothing to shout about and we see the lack of fine dining as a real missed opportunity.
Olive Tree is the all day dining restaurant, which likes the rooms, represents a space awash with colour. A rainbow of hanging lamps, thick olive coloured curtains and colourful place mats work to complement a modern design of light wood that carries through from the reception. The food is a mix of Arabic, Asian and international cuisines and we especially appreciated the breakfast that featured honeycomb in the porridge and a zaatar hollandaise sauce BUT it’s imperative that restaurants let customers know if elements of a dish are missing. Rather than substituting or emitting, in the hope that no one will notice.
Rooftop (the pool bar) acts as a feeder for the pool, serving cocktails, mocktails and bar bites. It represents a good space of low-slung couches but the problems come from an overly ambitious menu of salmon churros and chicken liver popcorn, neither of which we’d recommend. Rooftop is clearly the preferred dining location in the hotel, but in all honesty the food in the all-day-dining (Olive Tree) is far superior.
Finally, there’s WXyz. A cocktail bar adjacent to the lobby, which has already become a popular haunt with local residents. We only wish this place had existed when we lived in the Garden City.
The Aloft Al Ain represents something entirely fresh and new for this otherwise sleepy city and is ideal for exploring Jebel Hafeet, the hot springs at Green Mubuzzarah, or white water rafting at Wadi Adventure. As a sibling to the more luxurious W Hotels, the Aloft boasts similar characteristics but lies midways between that and the newly opened Rove brand.
Staff are overly efficient, though there are perhaps too many of them for a property of this size and there is little sense of urgency. Their helpful nature is enhanced by the previously mentioned strive for modernity and this is one of the few properties we’ve seen in the UAE offering full access for those with mobility issues.
Having stayed a month in the Aloft Abu Dhabi when we first arrived in the UAE, the Al Ain property brings back nostalgic memories of our first days in the UAE and marks a sensible expansion for this lively hotel brand, in which every property features a pool table in the lobby. This is exactly what Al Ain needed.
“Designed for global travellers, Aloft Hotels offers comfortable loft-inspired rooms and a vibrant social scene, all in a modern tech-savvy environment.” – Aloft.