Beach buoyed: A short stay on Saadiyat Island

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Sun, 2019-05-12 10:27

DUBAI: There is nothing unassuming about the Arabian fortress
that is Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas, but its exterior is
the only imposing thing about it.

Step inside, and you will see what you’re really here for: The
vast expanse of white sands and aquamarine water of Saadiyat Beach,
viewed through floor-to-ceiling glass windows that run the length
of the lobby. Underfoot, through glass display panels in the floor,
are sands from the seven emirates that make up the UAE, the most
telling sign that this hotel takes pride in its place. 

Another feature it clearly takes pride in is its staff, who are
friendly and attentive throughout, and recognize me when I return.
It’s unusual to stay in a hotel where the staff are clearly
enjoying themselves, but here, it’s on display. In the off-hours,
when I pass by one of the restaurants, they are laughing and
singing together. 

My room is more Cape Cod than Arabian Nights: light-wood floors,
exposed ceiling beams, boat lamps near the bed, all in keeping with
the beach resort vibe. A narrow wooden desk and coffee bar (with a
Lavazza espresso machine), run the length of one wall, and
there’s a daybed near sliding glass doors to a small balcony.
Automatic curtains open when I touch them, and a control panel
allows me to choose different lighting options, including
“movie” and “relaxing.”

The bathroom opens through two wooden sliding doors. If you’re
not concerned about privacy, you can sit in the angular modern tub
and gaze out through the room to the view. Fresh flowers in the
main room and the bathroom are a nice touch. Waking up in the
morning, I can hear some traffic on the road outside and
children’s voices in the hall, but this is quickly forgotten as I
sit on the terrace at Sim Sim, the all-day dining restaurant,
drinking grapefruit and celery juice in the morning sun.

The buffet has a good selection of Arabic, Indonesian, Indian
and Western breakfast food, including an omelet station, an Emirati
food corner and a fresh juice bar.

On the way to the beach, I walk over a footbridge past the pool
— which gets direct sun most of the day — to the Nasma
Beachfront Bar, under a tent-like canopy with roomy swing chairs.
Facing the beach are 13 villas, which have their own pools behind
mashrabiya fences for privacy.

And then there’s the UAE’s best beach — a long strip of
natural white sand running from Louvre Abu Dhabi on one end to the
Saadiyat Beach Club on the other, with nothing but water and blue
sky beyond. That strip is getting busier, mind you, with the
opening of this resort last year along with two others, from
Jumeirah and Rixos. But I was relieved to find the beach just as
pristine as I remembered it back when I lived on the island,
watching these hotels rise from the sands. 

In the morning, you can find tracks in the sand from the
gazelles who still roam the island, and you may even see evidence
of the hawksbill turtles, who use it as their nesting place. Do not
deny yourself at least a day on the beach here; it’s better
relaxation than a spa (although the resort has one of those,
too). 

Lunch is served at the beach bar or poolside, but for something
more formal, Si Ristorante Italiano & Bar serves
better-than-average Italian food. The menu had me at mozzarella di
bufala bar, but that didn’t leave me much room for the main
course, a rich dish of gnudi (Italian dumplings) with sheep ricotta
and lamb ragu.

Once the evening rolls around, Hamilton’s Gastropub offers
live music and a more casual menu, drawing residents with weeknight
promotions (it’s also open for lunch on weekends). But for dinner
I prefer the Turtle Bay Bar & Grill, where you can dine on
the dimly lit terrace near the pool, once the resort has grown
still. This restaurant is classic surf and turf, with steak
(including Wagyu) and seafood prepared to your liking. My rib-eye
is worthy of a repeat visit. 

As, indeed, is the hotel. With complimentary wifi throughout and
the Sama bakery café in the lobby making it an inviting place to
stop even for day visitors, I just might make it my Abu Dhabi
base.

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Source: FS – All-Travel destinations-News
Beach buoyed: A short stay on Saadiyat Island