If you’d rather watch a video of the review, skip straight to the end of this post to see my 2-minute review of Al Ain Rotana.
Luxurious. Relaxing. And unapologetically self-indulgent.
These words best describe my weekend in Al Ain staying with the impressive five-star Al Ain Rotana. We’d taken the opportunity to get out of Dubai for the weekend and as you’ve probably noticed around the blog, I’ve been working on taking you along more and more around the U.A.E. After all, I do get many questions from you about places to explore in the country besides Dubai and so, that weekend I decided to go check out Al Ain (so I could write an updated post about cool things to do there).
I came away feeling seriously rejuvenated and impressed by Al Ain Rotana. And it wasn’t just because I had the chance to catch up on some quality relaxation, which doesn’t come by very often when you’re furiously tapping at that keyboard for crazy hours seven days a week, (not complaining, I swear), but the service really swept me off my feet. The staff is incredibly good-natured and warm and there’s just this really positive vibe there. And who wouldn’t appreciate that, right?
After a 90-minute drive from Dubai, we arrived at Al Ain Rotana, right in the center of town. We knew we wanted to visit the Al Ain Palace Museum, Jahili Fort, Al Ain Camel Market, Al Ain National Museum, Al Ain Oasis and Al Ain Souk. I know that sounds like a lot over two days but we were okay with seeing as much as we felt like and leaving the rest for another visit.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that most of these places of interest to first time visitors in Al Ain were barely a few minutes’ drive from the hotel. It’s even possible to walk to the Al Ain Souk and Jahili Fort. In the end, we didn’t manage to go to the National Museum and Al Ain Souk but that’s because it was far too hot to explore the city in the afternoon and we chose to cool off in the lovely hotel swimming pool instead.
Rooms & Suites
We stayed in the Falaj Suite and I have two words for my experience: Simply fantastic!
The elegantly designed suite is very spacious with a master bedroom, a living area with a separate dining area, fully equipped kitchenette (hot plate, microwave and fridge), and a balcony overlooking the Falaj swimming pool. The 40 inch LCD TV in the living area made Ankit really happy and we did end up spending a lot of time indoors watching movies because one, the suite was so amazing you didn’t want to leave and two, ‘hot’ seems like an inadequate word to describe what the weather was like.
The living room décor is modern with a cool color palette of violets and grays, a super comfortable sofa, an art deco light installation and some unexpected details like the striking design on the inside of this lamp over the dining table.
Fresh yellows and greens brighten up the bedroom and a beautiful design mirror on the wall above the headboard reflects the natural light coming through the large window making the space airy and open, just how I like it. The plush chair by the window that looks over the pool area was a great spot to catch up on emails. The king-size bed is super-comfortable and we fell asleep for an hour in the evening after promising each other we were taking only a 20-minute power nap.
Guests of the Falaj wing have exclusive access to the large Falaj swimming pool, and we spent our late afternoons in the pool sipping on refreshing Margaritas from the pool bar to escape the summer heat. The shade of the palm trees around the pool area had a much-needed cooling effect and the separate pool for Falaj guests meant that the pool was neither crowded nor noisy.
Dining & Entertainment
Al Ain Rotana has a wide choice when it comes to dining ranging from Lebanese and Polynesian to Italian. There’s also an extensive in-room dining menu for when you feel like being lazy.
Trader Vic’s is a well-known brand that does lovely Polynesian style cocktails (the best, in my opinion) and the Mai Tai Bar at Al Ain Rotana has to be one of the best places to go on a weekend in the city.
Our dinner at their restaurant was a leisurely affair of delicious food, indulgent desserts, great cocktails and of course Latino music that I absolutely love! My favorite among the appetizers was the succulent Kashmiri-spiced Lamb Slider, its spiciness balanced with the tomato chutney and cucumber raita. My main dish, the Spicy Chili Hammour with snow peas, beans sprouts and oyster sauce served with steamed rice was just what I needed to satisfy my craving for a spicy meal and Ankit quite enjoyed his milder curry flavored Singapore Noodles with chicken.
Zest is an all day dining restaurant that serves international cuisine with a buffet spread, live cooking stations and live music. Our first meal there was breakfast and we were pleased to see that apart from the usual breakfast spread (of cereal, eggs, beans, pancakes etc.), they also had an Arabic section as well as an Asian section with dim sums.
Both lunch and dinner featured a huge selection of international dishes (Arabic, Italian, Indian, Asian and International) and plenty of choices for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. There was a good selection of salads, appetizers and sushi, and I particularly liked the watermelon and feta salad.
My favorite mains were the juicy Chicken kebabs, Arabic style vermicelli rice, the well-flavored Fish Tikka and roasted pumpkin.
Dessert lovers should be warned to save plenty of space. Because:
We enjoyed the live music and the lively ambience during lunch but dinner was a quieter affair. Zest hosts various theme nights through the week from Tex-Mex to Italian and a Jazzy Brunch on Fridays.
MOODZ Lounge Bar
We popped into this lounge bar for a couple of drinks after dinner. The lounge is spacious and atmospheric with striking blue psychedelic lights along one wall and a circular bar seating.
Other dining venues at the Al Ain Rotana are Min Zaman for Lebanese cuisine, Atrium Café and the Aquarius Pool Bar.
Zen -The Spa
The first time I walked into the in-house Zen Spa (with a little curiosity about what was so special about this award-winning spa) I was impressed by the mellow, soothing décor of the space. The space is clearly designed as a haven from the world outside- tranquil, quiet, aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. The corridors and relaxation rooms have lighting that’s not too bright – perfect for dozing off for a few minutes after your massage.
Spread over two levels, the spa has 8 treatment rooms, a couple suite, separate relaxation rooms for men and women, saunas, steam room, plunge pool, Jacuzzi and hammam. The spa menu is extensive with a wide range of facial and body treatments. Both Ankit and I decided to go with the couples’ Hot Stone Massage.
As my masseuse’s expertly skilled hands massaged my back with the hot stones, I felt my persistent backaches from the past week slowly disappear. At some point during the hour, relaxed by the massage, my body fell into a light sleep. Afterwards, we relaxed with a cup of tea, wondering if it was a good idea to leave the comfort of the spa and brave the harsh temperatures outside to explore Al Ain.
The impeccable service isn’t what impressed me the most. It’s the fact that it was very friendly and personal. Of course, it’s nice to meet staff that’s courteous and prim and proper but it’s even better to meet smiling faces around a hotel; by the pool, at the buffet, in the elevator or at the reception. People who’re genuine and ask how your day’s going, share their favorite things to do in the area as if they’re talking to a friend and have enough positivity to pass around. And it wasn’t just me, I saw this happen with other guests too.
Not only is the staff very attentive, but they’re also incredibly quick to respond to requests. Our bathroom door got jammed at 2.00am (we must’ve turned the lock the wrong way or something) and our call for assistance was answered promptly by a member of staff who showed up at our door in less than five minutes.
Bodylines Fitness and Wellness Club
Who’s it for?
Al Ain Rotana is extremely family-friendly with a children’s pool, plenty of activities, and a Tennis court which means that it’s a great choice for families who want a relaxed getaway and may also want to explore the city, which is easy from the central location.
The hotel is also perfect for couples and solo travelers who’re looking for a rejuvenating stay in a quiet environment with a pace that’s slower than that of Dubai or Abu Dhabi. The oasis of Al Ain is worth a visit if you’re visiting either city, especially if it’s during the cooler months between October and March as there are some interesting sights to visit in Al Ain such as the Al Ain Palace Museum, Al Jahili Fort and the Jebel Hafeet mountains.
Here’s my video review of Al Ain Rotana:
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For general information to help you plan your trip to the UAE or Dubai in particular, including money-saving advice and recommendations for off-the-beaten-path day trips from Dubai, culture in Abu Dhabi, cool hotels, or popular places of interest such as the Dubai Miracle Garden and At The Top Burj Khalifa, check out my UAE Travel Blog.
Disclosure: We stayed as guests of Al Ain Rotana. All opinions, as always, are honest and independent.