Step back in time at Dubai’s Al Seef Heritage Hotel

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Tue, 2019-09-10 08:56

DUBAI: It’s a tricky task, creating a “true” experience
of Arabic heritage in Dubai — a city that’s obsessed with the
shiny and new, and in which any building dating back to the 1980s
qualifies as old. Often, “heritage” villages and similar areas
can seem shoehorned in among the glass skyscrapers, achieving the
very opposite of the authenticity they strive for.

The first time we visited Al Seef — a recent development of
restaurants, shops and plazas on the shores of Dubai Creek’s
south bank — we were less than convinced by much of its
faux-history. Tap some of those “stone” walls, and they sound
suspiciously hollow.

So expectations for our stay at the Al Seef Heritage Hotel
weren’t particularly high. Assumptions, however — as my
grandmother was fond of pointing out — are for fools.

The hotel is, in fact, a fine example of how a commercial
venture can honor the culture and traditions of the Gulf and
incorporate modernity without coming across as phony. From the
excellent hospitality, through the beautifully appointed rooms, to
the stripped-back-but-welcoming architecture, Al Seef Heritage
Hotel is a step back in time and away from the hustle of the city
streets, despite its central location.

There’s an understated elegance to everything in our “king
room.” Yes, we know the wooden door that leads to the balcony and
the shutters on the window probably aren’t decades-old, but they
look and — more importantly — feel like they could be. Its
subdued color palette (inspired, apparently, by “the UAE’s
natural environment”), woven fabrics, and rustic finish are all
designed to relax residents, and they really do.

The highlight is the view from the small wooden balcony out over
Dubai Creek. The sight of dhows making their way along the water,
as they have done for centuries, really does add to the sense of
escape. Only 34 of the hotel’s 190 rooms offer a creek view, and
we’d recommend requesting one when booking. The property is
spread over 22 traditionally designed Arabian homes (all in the
same creek-side villa style) in 10 clusters.

An estate agent would likely describe the room itself as
“snug” — doublespeak, of course, for “small.” Which it
is. But it is also cozy and welcoming. The bed and pillows are
superbly comfortable — and much-needed after an evening stroll
around the alleyways of the charming neighborhood, which offer some
respite even from the August heat, thanks to their waterfront
location. And if you don’t want to walk, then one of the
hotel’s several golf-cart-style buggies will take you anywhere in
Al Seef.

Because of the many dining options in the immediate vicinity, Al
Seef Heritage Hotel has just one restaurant, Saba’a, which offers
international cuisine, but also an “Emirati-inspired” breakfast
buffet. The staff (as they are throughout the hotel) are attentive
and happy to help. Alternative dining requirements (vegan,
gluten-free, et cetera) can be catered for, but it’s best to give
plenty of notice. Our breakfast is terrific. We would particularly
recommend the lightly buttered fish; not something I would commonly
eat for breakfast, but it is delicious — delicate, flaky and
flavorsome.

The hotel is a great base from which to explore the older side
of Dubai, close to the creek’s still-thriving trade in spices,
textiles and more, and just a short walk from the museums and art
galleries (and more cafés) of Al Fahidi Historical District.

Al Seef Heritage Hotel lacks the ostentatious glamor that
characterizes the UAE’s big-name hotels, and is all the richer
for it. If you’re looking for a truly relaxing break in the city
center, then this is the place for you.

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Source: FS – All-Travel destinations-News
Step back in time at Dubai’s Al Seef Heritage Hotel