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The Escape Route

The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah, catapults Ajman to the top of the pecking order when it comes to locations for blissful escapes from the UAE’s big cities.

With its Al Zorah project, Ajman has become the latest emirate in the UAE to try to woo travellers away from the traditional tourist hotspots in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Following the lead set by hoteliers in Ras Al Khaimah, the lush greenery of the 247-acre Al Zorah development seeks to offer tourists (and locals) an opportunity to escape the congested roads and beaches of the country’s larger cities, and relax among peaceful, azure lagoons. That the protected mangrove forests lie just a 30-minute drive away from Dubai is the icing on the cake.

A multi-functional development, Al Zorah is already home to a couple of villa districts, a championship golf course, and, since earlier this year, the first five-star hotel resort in Ajman. The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah, is the second Oberoi property to launch in the UAE, but its remit couldn’t be more different from the central city hotel that Oberoi opened in Dubai in 2013.

The Oberoi Dubai, located in Business Bay, is a high-energy high-rise designed to attract well-to-do business travellers and city slickers. Its 30 floors contain a vast array of restaurants and bars, with patrons indulging in their exuberant delights well into the small hours of the morning. The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah, meanwhile, is far more focused on relaxation and well-being. Its pristine water features and clean architectural lines, designed to blend in with the Arabian greenery around it, lull visitors into a state of cathartic passivity. You don’t live the fast life at the Oberoi Beach Resort; you leave it behind.

That much is obvious from the accommodation options on offer. Guests can choose from ‘standard’ rooms – all of which offer sea views, walk-in closets, and bathrooms bigger than most basic five-star rooms in London – or private villas hidden amongst the shrub gardens found between the pure white sands of the beach and the main hotel. Whether you opt for a one-, two-, or three-bedroom villa, you’ll have your own private pool, and an expansive outdoor space from which to enjoy the orange-tinted vistas of the Arabian Gulf at sunset.

Still, the standard rooms couldn’t be accused of being basic. Before the Oberoi Group took control of the property, this resort was originally planned to accommodate 600 guests. The Oberoi Group did away with those plans and, without decreasing the size of the property, created a space for 200 or so. As a result, whether you’re staying in a villa or the main part of the hotel, you’re bound to feel some relief from the sense that you’re constantly on top of and around other human beings that the big city inflicts on its residents.

Even the journey from the hotel lobby to the standard rooms provides solace. Arrow-straight stone paths, lined with fragrant shrubberies, cut through an expanse of perfectly still pools that serve no purpose other than architectural indulgence. They surround a large, single-storey building housing the main restaurant (a second seafood restaurant is located near the beach). Built from white-washed stone and outrageous amounts of glass, clad in wooden lattices, their design language speaks in worship of the right-angle. The immaculate squares and rectangles mirror beautifully in the pristine waters below. And while the larger buildings containing the rooms are a short walk away from the pools, their architecture carries on in the same vein. Approaching these structures, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of satisfaction at the fact that every line and every surface fits together exactly as it should.

Inside, the corridors are bright and expansive, with floor-to-ceiling windows providing expansive views over the championship golf course, a round on which is easily available to Oberoi guests. From this spot, it’s also possible to gaze over the main lagoon of the area, which will, later this year, be home to the Oberoi’s water sports centre, meaning a little excitement is available, should you need it.

But it’s hard to imagine such a desire once you step into the room. Again, clean lines and edges play their part in the design, but flourishes of wood panelling, metallic fixtures, and purple-coloured fabrics bring life to the marble-dominated interior. It’s a refreshing change from the gaudy and gold-based opulence found in most five-star resorts in the Middle East, with the Oberoi designers instead going for a cleaner, more minimalist feel that puts light, space and airiness front and centre.

What’s most impressive about the rooms, though, is that this design doesn’t come at the expense of homely comfort. Indeed, the Oberoi Al Zorah’s rooms are arguably better thought out for daily living than those found at many of Dubai’s top hotels. A lounge area with sofa and coffee table provides an ideal place in which to kick back, while a small dining table and chairs is an all-too-often overlooked home comfort that means room service can be eaten at proper seating, far away from the supremely comfortable king-sized bed.

Technology plays a part in the accommodation, but rather than being gimmicky, it simply adds to the sense of home that the space exudes. There’s a collection of input ports hidden behind a discreet panel on the wall, allowing you to charge your devices, or else plug them into the system for media playback on the TV. Wi-Fi is complimentary, of course. Coffee is available through the in-room Nespresso machine, with capsules restocked daily. And the curtains and blinds can be controlled via a simple switch on the wall.

The bathroom is, as noted earlier, enormous, and separated from the rest of the room by a wall on the corridor side, and a giant window on the other. This means it’s possible to take in views of the ocean from the free-standing bathtub situated in the middle of the room. The design carries through to the free-standing sinks sat atop a long, marble sideboard. To add a little individuality to the space, each bathroom wall features original, hand-painted tiles surrounding a large main mirror – no two rooms feature tiles with the same designs. Further towards the back of the room, there’s an infinity shower space that’s arguably big enough to be deemed a wet room. And naturally, fixtures and fittings, from the stone tiles on the floor to the silver knobs on the taps, are of the highest standard.

The one black mark that can be lodged against the Oberoi Beach Resort’s standard rooms comes through what has been done with the private terrace that each one features. The outside space is so large that the few bits of furniture kept on them – just a couple of chairs and a small side table – seem lost on them. In all other respects, you could live in one of these rooms for days and not feel a pang of cabin fever, but the balconies could do with their own sun-loungers. Not just to provide extra comfort for guests, but also to fill the enormous, wood-floored space a little.

Still, sun-loungers are no short supply at the main pool, one of the longest in the country. Even in the sweltering months of summer, sitting by it is a joy, with shade provided by cabanas and palm trees, and last-ditch respite from the heat provided by the perfectly chilled water and the light breeze rolling in off the sea.

The hotel spa, meanwhile, is still under construction. In the meantime, spa services are offered via a converted space on the ground floor of one the two main hotel buildings, with guest rooms playing the part of private treatment rooms. Given the quality of the initial room design, the space easily manages the change, while the treatments on offer create stunning experiences of pampered bliss. Opt for the Oberoi Signature Massage for 90 minutes of serene euphoria.

All things considered, if Ajman continues to launch resorts of this quality, Ras Al Khaimah has some serious competition on its hands as the ideal escape from the UAE’s big cities.  

“Flourishes of wood panelling, metallic fixtures, and purple-coloured fabrics bring life to the marble-dominated interior.”

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