Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort Hotel, Fujairah

The reason we Paynes moved to Al Ain was because we discovered this hotel a few years ago and then came twice a year ever since, then finally decided to move to this country as we like it so much!

We’ve stayed at this hotel 11 times so far, ranging from 2 to 15 nights at a time.

We come because the service is beyond anything we’ve experienced anywhere else: way better than the likes of the Peninsula in Hong Kong, or the Atlantis and Jumeriah Beach Hotel in Dubai.

The hotel looks fabulous…

Le-Meridien-Al-Aqah-Beach-Resort-Hotel-Fujairah

…and it has a terrific range of facilities which surpass those of other hotels we’ve tried.

Here’s part of one pool…

Le-Meridien-Al-Aqah-Beach-Resort-Hotel-Fujairah-pool

Kid’s Club inside area…

Kids-club

The outside area of the Kid’s Club…

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Kids-club3

And here’s a 1-minute video I took on a cloudy day one July when it was 50 degrees, and 110 per cent humidity – though still quite bearable to sunbathe in, surprisingly (we had got used to the heat after nearly a year in Al Ain)…

The manager, Patrick Antaki, is a stickler for detail, and comes across as obsessed with giving superb customer service.

Here’s me with Patrick at a fair they held a while back with Bucking Bronco and tug of war…

Patrick-Antaki.jpg

I have been so amazed by the service that I’ve grilled the staff as to their philosophy, and also talked to Patrick about it.

Here are a few bits of information which may give you an idea that this is a hotel worth visiting…

If you are on the beach and you want, to take this to an extreme, a glass on beetroot and spinach juice, then the staff are trained to say “Yes, I can get that for you. It will just take a little time.” (Of course, this drink is not on any menu.)

The lifeguard staff by the pools are rotated every 30 minutes or so to ensure that their concentration is 100%. (In other hotels, lifeguards can be at one post for hours at a time.)

If you see a member of staff walking by, and you ask for something, they make it happen. There is no “please go to reception and ask” etc attitude. They really go the extra mile.

They make it a priority to learn guests’ names and greet them accordingly.

The staff are well paid, have their own gym, have a 24-hour lounge, get involved in inter-hotel tournaments, take part in events like a vertical marathon: running up the stairs of the hotel from the bottom to the top.

If a member of staff gets married in their home country, management make an effort to find employment for that partner in the hotel.

When a member of staff had kidney failure at the age of 29, all the staff chipped in to pay 70,000 dirhams for his hospital treatment.

When the tsunami destroyed homes in Sri Lanka, the hotel helped pay for the rebuilding of 7 of the homes of the families of some of the staff members.

Patrick reads most of the comment cards that people leave behind. The bad ones are displayed on a noticeboard for all staff to see. The person who made the complaint is rung up and invited to visit again.

Patrick told me, “If you treat people like kings and queens, they come again and tell their friends.”

Patrick relates a whole series of stories which show his philosophy. “One man, who had stayed with us a few times, decided to try one of our competitors, who offered him a lower price to stay there. Within several hours the man rang Patrick up and said, “I don’t care how much you charge me, just get me a room in your hotel because my wife is giving me hell here.”

I spoke with one of the other guests at the hotel who told me this story: “We got stuck in this hotel when the volcano in Iceland erupted and so many flights were cancelled back to the UK. We had friends who were staying at hotels in Dubai, and some of those hotels put the room rates up much higher, which made their prolonged stay that much more expensive. This hotel, the Al Aqah, offered us special deals, free meals and free drinks. That’s the way to treat guests.”

Although, on average, this hotel is 150AED or more per night than the other hotels in the area, their occupancy level is far higher: a testament to the power of supreme customer service.

We Paynes have stayed in many hotels including the Atlantis and the Jumeriah Beach Hotel, and the service at these hotels is way behind that which we experience at Al Aqah.

Al Aqah offers some very special deals at times. The best rates we got were last July when we came for 3 nights and got free breakfast and evening meal included. We had such a wonderful time that we stayed an extra night before we drove back to Al Ain then caught a flight back to the UK for several weeks.

If you have a Garmin satellite navigation device, or the Tom-Tom app on your iPhone, enter N 25°30′ E56°21′ to be directed to Al Aqah Beach Resort, which is metres away from the other hotels on this short strip of beach.

Go to this article for photos taken from 2 balconies of the pool area, nearby hotels etc.

This article shows images from our 10th anniversary celebration at this hotel.

This article shows photos of the journey from Al Ain to Fujairah.

Etisalat junction, Sanaiya, Al Ain

Here is a video I filmed at the junction in Sanaiya with the impressive Etisalat building on one corner, in which I slowly turn 360 degrees, pointing out different landmarks.

You may find it helpful to download the maps I’ve created so you can orient yourself as you watch the video…

There’s a companion video to this here which does a 360-degree spin at the Clock Tower ’roundabout’ which you may wish to check out.

Clock Tower ‘Roundabout’, Al Ain

For me, the Clock Tower junction, which used to be a roundabout until 2-3 years ago (I hear), represents the centre of Al Ain.

Here’s a short video I created which shows the landmarks at each corner of this junction….

I say in the video that the Etisalat building is 200 yards/metres south of this junction: it’s more like half a mile!

Also, if you go west from this junction, I mention the Deer Roundabout, but you’ll also see Al Jahli Park on your left and after that the Thai Massage for ladies building on the left. On the other side of the roundabout is the Rotana Hotel.

There is a companion video here which does a 360-degree spin at the Sanaiya junction which you may wish to check out.

Burj Khalifa / Khalifa Tower, Dubai

The Khalifa Tower, the tallest building in the world, was renamed the Burj Khalifa before it opened.

You’ll need to book your trip up the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world at least 48 hours before you plan to go. If you just turn up on the day, you may not get a free slot until 9pm at night or later.

We booked for a Friday at 11.30am, having left Al Ain at 9.15am to ensure we got there on time.

We handed over our tickets at 11.20 which gave us time to look at the very impressive interactive displays before we went the security queue to enter the Burj Khalifa itself.

We came out again at 12.45pm – nearly an hour and a half later. You may take a little less time than this.

Here is a video which is spread over 3 large screens you’ll see as you queue for the lift to ascend to the 130th floor – which takes all of 60 seconds. I swallowed hard about 10 times to ease the pressure on my ears as we flew up at somewhere approaching the speed of sound. Okay, maybe not quite that fast.

The video lasts about 3 minutes, so this film I captured shows about half of it to give you a flavour. I thought it was beautifully put together…

This is a movie of the digital telescopes you can use at the top: they are free to play with, though it says on a ground floor sign that you have to pay…

Here are some photos.

An inspiring message on the wall as you wait to enter the Burj Khalifa…

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The 4 video screens as you queue for the elevator…

video-screens

The digital telescopes you can use for free…

digital-telescopes

The Dubai Mall from above…

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The amazing Dubai Fountain…

Dubai-Fountain-from-above

Looking south east (I think!)…

Looking-south-east

We pointed out to the boys that slightly to the right of centre in this next photo is where we love to go swimming when we come to Dubai, on the public beach at Jumeirah…

Beach

This one shows 2 of the most famous hotels in Dubai: the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Burj Al Arab Hotel. The Atlantis Hotel is behind these, but hidden by the haze…

Burj Al Arab

As you enter the building you and your family will be photographed against a green screen. At the top, you’ll be asked if you want photos taken of you with the landscape behind. At the end of the tour you’ll be offered these photos for a price higher than we were willing to pay! You can also get the images on a memory stick too (ideal if you want to email them to friends and family back home). I sneaked a snap of the framed ‘green screen’ shot with evening panorama added behind, in a leather-effect frame/folder. The image is a bit distorted as I took it at a slight angle…

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What I didn’t photograph are some of the excellent mulitmedia displays, miniature models used for the wind tunnels, and the short but excellent video interviews with people who worked on this once-in-a-lifetime project for the architects and builders.

All in all, a fab trip, worth the money.

Dubai Aquarium, Dubai Mall

This is a quick post I’ll add to one day!…

In the Dubai Mall, not only is there the enormous aquarium, but you can go behind it to see sea creatures and penguins, and have some great close encounters!

Your children will probably be as amazed by these archer fish as we were… 

And we could pick up the horse shoe crabs and feel their wiggly ‘feet’!

This is a very short video of the garden eels in one tank…

Al Ain Wildlife Park Bird Show

At 7.30pm at the Al Ain Wildlife Park most evenings, you can watch a 25-minute bird show which is in Arabic and English. The female presenters are terrific, using just the right language to engage and inform children.

I shot the following video to give you a little idea what the show is like. It’s pretty poor footage, and the battery ran out on my camera as I filmed this show, so I missed some of the best bits. But I have included this video anyway…

By the way, the birds in the background at the end of the video are ibis.

 

Dubai Fountain

Dubai Fountain

The Dubai Fountain is a magnificent fountain display which lasts for about 3 minutes and takes place every half hour from about 4pm at weekends (Thursday to Saturday) and from 6pm during the week (Sunday to Wednesday), continuing until late at night: 10 or 11pm. It is best enjoyed after nightfall.

On the right you can see the sign in the Dubai Mall with the schedule, a photo of the display, and my reflection!

I bumped into Rob, the general manager at the Lulu Hypermarket in Al Ain, a couple of weeks ago, while I was shopping there and we had a great chat. He told me that recently one of his sons and his girlfriend had been over from the UK to visit. So one night Rob booked a table for the 3 of them at a Lebanese restaurant next to the large manmade lake where the fountain is situated. But he didn’t tell them about the upcoming display! So at 8pm the fountain came to life, giving them a delightful surprise as they sat with their drinks, ready to order their food. And they were treated to further displays during the rest of their time there.

Next to the lake is the Khalifa Tower, the largest structure in the world. Here’s a photo I took at 7.30pm one evening…

Khalifa Tower

…and the Lebanese restaurant must be on the left in this photo…

Dubai Mall promenade

This is what the fountains look like from the 140th floor of the Burj Khalifa when we went up there on a different trip to Dubai…

Dubai-Fountain-from-above

…and you can get an idea of just how many hundreds of jets there must be in the fountain. By the way, the outdoor restaurants we have sat at are on the left side, just outside the Mall. See another article for more on the Mall, and the one on the Burj Khalifa At The Top tour for more photos from up high.

Every half hour features a different song, each with its own unique fountain dance. Some music is Arabic, and some is Western music.

This video I took features music by Sarah Brightman…

This one features Western music, starts slowly, then explodes into life after one minute…

This video I took a different night has Arabic music…

 

This final video was taken during the day in October. My family and I were sitting outside at 1pm, about to order lunch at a lovely Italian restaurant, when the fountain bursts into life. Our waiter told us that he has worked at the restaurant for 18 months and this was the first time he had ever seen the fountains go off during the day. They went off again half an hour later with an Arabic song, but I didn’t bother filming that. So here’s a video of that first daytime show, featuring the theme music by Elmer Bernstein from the film The Magnificent Seven…

I hope you and your family get as much enjoyment from these displays when you see them live as we have!

Hilton Hotel in Al Ain

We spend one afternoon most weekends at the Hilton Hotel in the south east of the town…

Hilton-Hotel-Al-Ain

…because of its excellent facilities.

There are 3 pools: a laps pool for adults…

laps pool

a paddling pool for infants…

paddling pool

 

…and a large family pool with water features and a water slide.

Hilton pool

Hilton pool 2

Hilton pool 3

Here’s a video lasting a few minutes, showing the hotel and main pools…

There are some swings and a climbing frame too…

climbing frame

Inside you’ll find two table tennis tables, squash court…

table tennis

…a fully equipped gym…

Hilton gym

…sauna, Jacuzzis, steam room etc.

When children want a break from the heat, or if they just want to slow down after a couple of hours in the pool, they can watch a DVD in a special play room (there are 12-15 DVDs to choose from, ranging from Shawn The Sheep to The Aristocats)…

DVD room

DVD room 2

The lunchtime menu in the restaurant next to the pool…

Hilton restaurant

…is excellent, and the staff are a delight: here are 3 of the 5-strong team: from left to right: Joy, Rameez and Diago…

Hiltonia team

Our children have tennis lessons there every week and they also have fun on the swings and climbing frame. There is also a small putting green for golf enthusiasts. My wife and I have enjoyed massages there from Elizabeta, a skilled masseuse from Romania.

At the entrance to the Hiltonia Club is a busy noticeboard offering cars, apartments, discount furniture and white goods (often at a half to one third of the original purchase price for goods which maybe be only 8-12 months old).

noticeboard

You can use these facilities by paying the day rate, but it’s much more cost-effective to pay for a full year. Often there is a discount depending on which company the main breadwinner works for. And it’s worth knowing that sometimes at the weekend the Hotel facilities are closed to non-members and non-guests.