This may sound ridiculous but I went for my first staycation in the UAE in 26 years.
After an exhausting two weeks at work, we decided to go somewhere in the country to unplug instead of traveling abroad because a) much cheaper and b) much faster.
Having seen Hatta Fort Hotel once on our drive to Hatta, we decided to check it out. The photos looked promising so we booked two rooms for 2 nights over the phone and easily found rooms with a mountain view (surprising no seeing it’s the season?).
The hotel also offers private huts and villas btw that are a bit more pricey (byebye). Our experience with the hotel staff while booking was better than expected i.e. the staff was concise and friendly – a rare combination in this country.
It cost us about AED1000 per night per room because of end of year holidays but was it totally worth it? Yessss.
Sooo, there were a few things about the hotel that really stood out. Thought I’d share them with you all in case you are planning a staycation soon.
WHAT I LOVED
Throughout the hotel, I noticed subtle hints of Emirati culture that added uniqueness and set Hatta Fort Hotel apart from other hotels in the country. Built in 1981, the hotel is anything but grand. Definitely had some of its oldness in manual doors, lack of elevators but the Emirati design and tradition were evident in the smallest of things.
Few hotels manage to pull off the comfortable, homey vibes. Hatta Fort Hotel was one of those. The two rooms that we got were interconnected with a small door, which gave our family the privacy we needed but also the ease to move to each other’s rooms without walking out of our room. The white and grey furniture along with multiple mirrors and several lighting options were probably the reason why the rooms felt cosy yet spacious.
Crowded but you can’t tell
This was probably the best thing about Hatta Fort. Despite being a smaller than usual hotel, we didn’t bump into other guests that often. Everyone had their fair share of privacy. The activities that we did were mostly for us to use in the three days. The swimming pool, the recreation center, the big chessboard, the Hatta point, the gym, the tennis court and even the front yard park.
Good choice of location for a hotel – the views from all elevated points in the hotel were magnificent! In my 26 years in the country, this is the first time I’ve seen such a sight in the UAE. There was lots of green and the brown was tolerable, even beautiful sometimes. With cold foggy mornings, the mountains looked like they were covered in snow (which they weren’t but the illusion was enough).
They had special bins for recyclable materials. How cool is that?
WHAT I LIKED
Personal handwritten welcome from the manager
Activities in the hotel
I don’t think the activities were anything special but the fact that they were mostly unoccupied made them more fun. We are a family that prefers solitary entertainment to crowded places. We were by ourselves at the tennis courts, the pools, and the park. Regardless of that, the variety of activities was up to a 4 star hotel’s standard and perfect for a two-day stay.
I’m a sucker for good breakfasts. They make or break a hotel experience for me. Even if the room sucks, if I know I’m waking up to a killer breakfast, I will let go of anything.
Breakfast at Hatta Fort was just right. It didn’t taste amazing like the food at Islamabad Marriott Hotel but I was happy with the variety. We usually swam before breakfast so I hogged every morning.
But the omelette didn’t have salt 🙁
Hatta Fort had two pools – an adults-only pool and a family pool. Surprisingly, the family pool was much more private, more beautiful (with the waterfall and the sundeck attached) and had a larger view of the hotel. The adults-only pool was right outside the glass windows of the hotel’s cafe (weird) – I cannot become an object of viewing in front of breakfasting people.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER
Hatta Fort has only two restaurants – Cafe Gazebo and Jeema Restaurant. Cafe Gazebo was more average than its name – in terms of atmosphere, pricing and menu. Jeema restaurant had a more romantic interior but the menu was so bad we got up and left despite being the only customers. And it was eye-popping expensive.
We didn’t eat at the hotel at all (apart from the breakfast). We drove outside to find something familiar but nope.
Luckily, we stumbled upon two hidden gems there – Bab Al Sham (right across Hatta Fort at the Emirates Co-op building) and Afghan Bukhari on the road that runs across our hotel. Both of their food was delicious and both gave us an experience you would otherwise have in a developing country.
Spa closed in peak season
One of our biggest motivations to go to Hatta Fort was their spa offering. However, surprise surprise, their therapist was away on emergency leave this weekend. How can a one-of-its-kind hotel in the outskirts of a city that claims to have a spa not have a backup therapist? And even if they don’t, why wouldn’t they inform us while we were booking?
Not being able to go to a spa on our weekend getaway was a big disappointment.
Passageways to get around
I don’t know if that was intentional or just poor architecture. Getting to places within the hotel was a task in itself with the maze-like passageways. We had to go through the tiny lobby to get to the cafe, around the conference hall to get to the parking lot and around the parking lot to our rooms.
Nobody wants to use that much brain when on holiday.
Tiny and mediocre for a 4-star hotel, the lobby at Hatta Fort Hotel simply lacked life. There was no music, no clear name of the hotel anywhere, not enough seating arrangement if more than 4 guests arrive at the same time and the receptionists were sitting adjacent to the main entrance instead of facing the guests. These little things matter when designing a retail space as they impact the mood and overall experience of the customers walking in.
JA Hatta Fort Hotel has a lovely green park in the front yard bordered with palm trees. I would love to see hammocks on those palm trees the next time I visit. In December weather, the hammocks will be a haven for readers like me to spend hours on.
I would rate Hatta Fort Hotel 4 out of 5 stars because of the overall quality of service, things to do and the food options in and around the hotel. However, my stay was still unforgettable because of my intentional disconnect from technology, the people I went with and my desperation to give my racing mind a rest.
Staycations are great affordable vacations with the convenience of your car, your mobile network and language. I’m surprised I never went on one before. What are other recommended places on the outskirts of the main cities where I can stay next?