“Welcome home!” a friendly voice greeted us as we stepped into The Chedi Al Bait Sharjah – we walked through timber doors into what seemed like a time portal to a time long gone by in the Middle East; smooth coral and gypsum walls, palm frond poles on the thatched barasti roof fitted with timber beams, traditional lanterns hanging from them, and octagonal coffee tables carved with designs that were impossibly intricate. The windows looked upon a sand-colored courtyard with shaded cushioned seating areas, a few trees, and a gurgling fountain.
“Where’s the hotel again?” I’d already wondered, when we’d handed over the car keys to the valet and followed a member of staff down narrow alleys for under a minute, turning left, or maybe it was right – who knows – in the restored heritage Heart of Sharjah district, in the emirate of Sharjah, just a 30-minute drive from Dubai.
If you’re visiting Sharjah or planning a staycation in the emirate, here are some cool things to do in Sharjah.
Al Bait translates to ‘the home’ in Arabic – hence the greeting – but one that’s also fitting as it’s not every day that a luxury hotel offers such a strong sense of home. Part of the GHM family, The Chedi Al Bait Sharjah is a truly unique heritage property housed in six restored buildings, nearly a century old, that were once the residence of the Al Midfa family. The family, originally from Oman, migrated to Sharjah and rose to prominence in pearl diving, business, and public administration, and became influential figures in the history and progress of Sharjah.
This isn’t your run-of-the-mill hotel of sprawling and crowded public spaces; there are only 53 rooms in this collection of historic heritage houses, making this a far more special experience.
The rooms, restaurants, spa, and wellness facilities are spread over 10,000 square meters, several of which you’ll cover on foot as you happily lose your way around the labyrinthine alleyways trying to get between them. While you’ll gladly be escorted by a member of staff who will magically appear every time this happens, it’s helpful to remember as they too will confirm with a smile, “It’s all part of the experience here.”
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind luxury hotel in Sharjah I hope this review of the Chedi Al Bait Sharjah helps you to plan your trip.
Check-In & Welcome
At The Chedi Al Bait, check-in was prompt and friendly, a form signed in the reception lounge, over a refreshingly cool and delicious lavender drink.
We were then shown to our room, led across the maze of buildings and courtyards and staircases, around terraced seating areas and indoor majlis (formal seating areas in local culture). We walked past the in-house restaurant, spa, cafe, and museum, while learning about the original architecture and the history of the house.
There are eight room categories at the 53-key Emirati-inspired The Chedi Al Bait Sharjah, including spacious rooms such as the Chedi Grand Room, Chedi Deluxe Patio Room, and Chedi suites.
We stayed in a Chedi Deluxe Room, a luxurious space where every design detail strongly drew from Emirati heritage, right from the palm frond poles on the thatched roof detail, antique wood furniture, and traditional carpets to the knotted rope wall hangings that felt like a nod to the country’s fishing and pearl-diving heritage.
A majlis-style low sofa at the foot of the bed was a good spot to sprawl out, read, and check emails. We were glad to see that the complimentary platter of nuts, dates, and apricots, all healthy snacks.
Other than its refreshingly traditional character, the room was equipped with every modern amenity required for a comfortable stay – flat-screen TV, Nespresso coffee machine, a pillow menu, fast free Wi-Fi, and a comfortable king bed that ensured we had a good nights’ sleep. As coffee lovers, we made good use of the complimentary Nespresso coffee, a must-have in every hotel room, in my opinion.
The bathroom was stocked with Acqua Di Parma toiletries and the walk-in rainshower, complete with a pebbled floor, offered a supremely relaxing hot shower after our respective spa treatments.
As always, I appreciated the dual vanity – so I could clearly mark my territory in the bathroom when on vacation or, like in this case, staycation, comfortably sprawling out my make-up pouches, hair mousse, and all, by the well-lit mirror.
“There are restaurants around in the Heart of Sharjah, but you will not want to eat out,” we were advised when we were shown to our room, “Our food is amazing,” we were told more than once. We liked hearing that, for lunch was going to be our first order of business at the Chedi Al Bait.
At The Restaurant, we chose an alfresco table in a shaded courtyard, a quiet sanctuary-like space. On a December afternoon, the sun was just the right amount of bright, and a pleasant breeze blowing meant that we’d rather be outside. Later that evening, we returned for dinner and chose to sit outside again, this time under the glow of twinkling fairy lights.
The indoor section of The Restaurant, which also serves breakfast and dinner, follows the same Emirati design sensibility, drawing heavily from Islamic heritage, with well spaced-out tables offering privacy, soft lighting, and private dining areas.
While on the lunch menu was international fare(with Asian, Mediterranean, and Indian influences), the dinner menu was mainly Middle Eastern cuisine. Both times, each of our meals was excellent, reaffirming what we’d been told about the food at the restaurant.
From the lunch menu, the saffron paneer was delicious, every bite a satisfying taste of the rich, creamy, sauce with just a hint of sweetness. My salmon en papillote was flavorful, its herbed flavor perfectly accompanied by tagliatelle. Ankit also enjoyed the seabass, served with scrambled egg, an unlikely pairing but one he chose in the interest of a low-carb protein-heavy meal.
The crowning glory of the meal, of course, was our dessert that warranted the unapologetic indulgence of our sweet tooth – the Mini Chocolate Garden, a decadent if sinful (oh, but we earned it) creation of chocolate mousse, caramel stones, coffee, and hazelnut pebbles, chocolate sponge, mini chocolate dome, pistachio powder, red and white mushroom, and chocolate soil.
There was chocolate in all its textures – creamy and gooey, melt-in-the-mouth, set like a mousse, crispy and rocky, powdery like soil, and chilled but soft as ice-cream, the chocolate offset by the nuttiness of pistachio and hazelnut. Will I ever forget this dessert? Absolutely not.
Dinner was equally enjoyable. We started off with hot, crispy spinach fatayer, refreshing kale wraps, and hummus. My main, Fish Sayadieh was fantastic – the fish and rice dish, fragrant with spices and full of flavors that kept me guessing (the best dishes do). We also shared a chicken tagine- the chicken tender and succulent, and the sauce pleasantly mild.
The service at The Restaurant was friendly and prompt. We were given recommendations when asked, the food was truly incredible, and the ambiance absolutely romantic.
Dining at The Restaurant is a worthwhile experience of its own – a real highlight of a stay at The Chedi Al Bait, making it perfect for couples celebrating a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary, or simply wanting to have a date staycation instead of date night. Of course, a large part of this is the food – dishes that are conceptualized and prepared to perfection and brought to the table with beautiful and classy (as opposed to excessively theatrical) presentations.
For breakfast (to be ordered off the menu a la carte), we returned to The Restaurant. The breakfast menu at the Chedi Al Bait is pretty extensive. From egg white omelets and Eggs Benedict to freshly baked croissants, pancakes, and waffles, or regional breakfast dishes like piping hot dosas and shakshouka, they’ve got it all, whether you like the idea of international cuisine, a heart American spread, or a delicious Arabic breakfast.
For healthy options, choose from Acai bowls and kale salad with cured egg, grapefruit, pomegranate seeds, and date syrup – highly recommend).
The best part is that it’s all very good.
Other than The Restaurant, there’s The Café, in the Bait Majlis Ibrahim Al Midfa, one of the restored houses at The Chedi Al Bait. Its courtyard, in the shadow of the only remaining circular wind tower in the UAE, is a lovely little space for a coffee and cake.
It’s good to know that no alcohol is served at any of the restaurants at The Chedi Al Bait but you’ve got plenty of options when it comes to a refreshing non-alcoholic cocktail.
At The Spa, there are separate sections for men and women; this includes reception areas, treatment rooms, relaxation lounges, and wet facilities such as hammam, steam, sauna, and in the women’s spa, hot and cold plunge pools. The menu features a wide range of facial and body treatments and therapeutic massages.
After filling out a standard form informing the massage therapist of problem areas as well as those that needed extra attention, I was led to the treatment room. Mellow lights and a relaxing soundtrack of mantras promised to gently lull me to sleep.
My Balinese masseuse then proceeded to give me an entirely relaxing 60-minute long Balinese massage, her powerful hands kneading away the tiredness and anxieties of months, maybe even years. Since it all changed in 2020, this was my first massage and it felt wonderful, relaxing, like being on the other side of it all. Grateful for how it slowed my mind down in addition to my body, I dozed off at the luxury spa.
The outdoor pool, shaded for respite from the afternoon sun, lies among the historic structures that make up the 53-room resort. The swimming pool is temperature-controlled, so the water is nice and warm throughout the year. You can order fresh juices and light refreshments poolside. It’s a quiet space – poolside at The Chedi Al Bait, perfect to read a book to the soundtrack of chirping birds.
The hotel’s spacious in-house fitness centre is decently equipped with strength training and cardio machines, and is open 24/7.
The Chedi Al Bait is the kind of hotel where you’d totally want to spend time in the hotel complex rather than all of it exploring outside. Mid-afternoon, when the sun is lower, is a lovely time to stroll around the entire hotel property with its maze-like alleys and stately timber doors, exploring the houses and venues within, such as the cafe, museum, and library.
You can also visit Souq Al Arsah, a traditional open-air marketplace right next door, that the hotel can provide convenient access to. Here browse for handmade wares and organic artisan products that would make for great souvenirs.
Alternatively, bring a book and settle down in one of the many nooks, indoor lounge areas, or cozy terrace sitting areas around the heritage houses – which you’re likely to have all to yourself (for there are that many of them). If you’re done exploring for the day, you might also want to cool off with a swim in the tranquil poolside area.
By evening, the heritage architecture is illuminated in the golden glow of warm lights and the majlis areas begin to feel magical with fairy lights twinkling under midnight blue skies. Perfect for a romantic stroll or quiet conversation.
No visit to the Chedi Al Bait is complete without a visit to The Museum, located within the Ibrahim Al Midfa heritage house. Through a unique collection of fascinating exhibits, such as a wooden elephant door brought back from travels in India, the museum showcases the life and achievements of the Al Midfa family who rose to power and held considerable sway in Sharjah, in pearl diving, business, public administration, literature and more.
This is interesting because the history of the family – that also set up the emirate’s first post office – is closely intertwined with that of the emirates, and the museum is like a window to Sharjah’s past.
Right next door to the museum, at The Library, you’ll find books on subjects of all manner – from UAE wildlife and public administration to cookbooks and self-help reads. Perfect for book-lovers like me.
Also in the same house are a Cigar Lounge (you’ll find Cuban, Nicaraguan and Dominican cigars here), as well as a courtyard majlis seating area.
The service at the Chedi Al Bait Sharjah hotel is exemplary; friendly, attentive, and helpful but never pushy or overbearing. The hotel staff is knowledgeable about the history of the property and the area. Masters in unparalleled hospitality, they are only happy to show you around, answer any questions, and make recommendations, whether it’s for the food at the restaurant or things to do around the area. In our experience, room service was just as prompt.
Who It’s For
Everyone knows that there is no lack of luxurious hotels or novelties-stocked properties when it comes to hotels in the UAE; in fact, newer art and design hotels are contributing heavily to the inspiring contemporary scene in the country. But The Chedi Al Bait is different, in the sense that it wasn’t hyped or designed for exhibitionism or Instagram – there are no in-your-face Insta spots or props that ask you to pose there and share photos of yourself. No installations screaming for your attention. Instead, it’s the type of hotel that asks you to be present and mindful, and oh perhaps, just disconnect and slow down a little?
The Chedi Al Bait, with its grand heritage buildings and Arabic influences, is just what it seems to be, and that is what makes it truly unique. Then there’s plenty of privacy here – which is perhaps why it is also popular with local families.
The Chedi Al Bait would be most appreciated by those with a taste for properties with character and soul – think more elegant, understated luxury than over-the-top glamour or in-your-face experiences. A good example of a part of an Emirati conservation project done right. One of the more enchanting luxury hotels that don’t compromise on the destination’s charm, this is exactly the type of place I seek out around the world, especially when I travel solo.
Whether staying as a couple, solo traveler, group, or family with older children, if you’re after some peace and quiet, a retreat that can at times feel a bit like traveling back in time even (but with all the luxuries, modern comforts, world-class gastronomy, and bespoke services you can think of), you will love The Chedi Al Bait. And if you love good food, you won’t need to set a foot outside when you get hungry – you’ll eat really well here.
This, being an easy drive from Dubai (just 30 minutes), means that it’s an excellent choice for travelers to Dubai, as well as residents who don’t want to drive too far for a staycation. It’s also a good base from which to explore the dynamic cultural life of Sharjah, best seen in its museums and art galleries, as well as the Heart of Sharjah district.
Looking for things to do in Sharjah? Here’s my 48-hour guide to Sharjah.
Disclosure: We stayed as guests of The Chedi Al Bait Sharjah. As always, all opinions and impressions are honest and independent.
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