We left Dubai at 9.30am (having dropped off Charlotte to school with a box of birthday cupcakes for her class mates and Emily to nursery resplendent in Tinkerbell costume for her end-of-term Easter party) and headed down the E11 (the very road that was the subject of yesterday’s blog) towards and 250km BEYOND Abu Dhabi.
Sir Bani Yas Island was today’s destination in Abu Dhabi’s Al Ghurbia region, bordering Saudi Arabia. All in all we travelled 350km in three and a half hours along the same road the whole way to the Jebel Dhanna – the port from which the ferry departs to the island....
In all honesty it was a god-forsaken drive. The lunar landscape was far from pretty. It didn’t help that the wind was wiping up the sand so that visibility was no more than 100m all round. All we saw was what appeared to be flat, grey, industrial wasteland both sides of the road, particularly when we drove passed the massive oil refinery at Al Ruwais – so unlike the rolling orange dunes that we drove within on our journey to Qasr al Sarab. The road was pencil straight and we shared it with trucks and lorries motoring toward Saudi Arabia.
We saw few signs to Sir Bani Yas to reassure us and we just had to hope that we were reading the directions and map correctly as the mileage count continued to rise and we headed further through the desert.
Some 250km after Abu Dhabi we arrived at the port. The departure lounge for the ferry to the island was very plush and all the checking -in process for our stay on the island’s only hotel was done here. Desert Island Resort and Spa by Anantara opened in 2007 and guests of this exclusive property are the only visitors allowed on Sir Bani Yas island. This exclusivity seems only appropriate considering the island was once the private haven for the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan himself.
It was him, the founder of the UAE, who developed Sir Bani Yas Island as a conservation and Arabian Wildlife Park. Today it is a nature lovers’ paradise – hence all the staff are donning Crocodile Dundee-style khaki colours to put us in a safari mood.
I was surprised (and for a split second guilt-ridden) to see so many children in the lounge – pre-schoolers to teens. In fact, we were the only couple there ‘sans’ kids.
The ferry was very utilitarian and the journey to the island – which is surprisingly large at 87 sq km – took about 20 minutes. Stepping on land for just a few strides we boarded a (very plush leather seated) bus and drove to the hotel proper. This gave us the chance to have a brief glimpse at the island spotting numerous Oryx, giraffes and flamingos en route.
We arrived at the hotel and within minutes we were shown to our goooorrrrgeous room and our case delivered – 10 out of 10 for ultra-slick service.
By now it was three o’clock so we made a beeline for the poolside gardens, had a delicious club sandwich in the bar beside the pool and gazed out onto the beach and the Arabian Gulf. The view was somewhat marred by the massive, sausage-like concrete structures that lay berthed on the sand. They look so strange but I soon discovered that they were in fact sand bags – not concrete at all. They are placed there to help protect and develop the marine environment. All is forgiven.
Dinner in the Palm restaurant was the only let down of the day. What a disappointment. The food displayed at the buffet looked so unappetizing, as if it had been there for days. Everything looked well passed its best. The salads looked sapped of all moisture, the fish was caked in a solidified sauce and the meat looked positively incinerated. Reluctantly we sent back a bottle of wine – which even the waiter agreed with us was too acidic to drink. I had a salad and glass of water – on the plus side, good for the diet. This was so out of step with the impeccable service and unique setting.
About this blog...
I set up this blog to reveal what real life is like here in the UAE - the good and the bad. I'll chat about what I've been up to, Dubai news and developments, my thoughts about expat life here (and in general) and reports about my holidays and adventures in the region (travel is my bag after all).