Having lived in Dubai for the past 25 years, I have had my fair share of visiting Sharjah or at least driving through it, but I have never had a staycation in the city - after all why would I, seeing as I live only 25 kilometers down the road in Dubai.
Well, that all changed the minute I drove up to and was introduced to Al Bait, a property under GHM - Leading Hotels of the World and managed by the wonderful Chedi Group. I immediately had a feeling that my children and I were in for an experience that we wouldn’t soon forget.
Whilst pulling up to the hotel, the outside looks like the old Emirati home - cream walls, single story with those distinctive ‘wind towers’. With a “leading hotels of the world’ sign on the wall and a beautiful, vintage limousine sitting in the driveway, my interest was even more sparked.
Welcome Home (Al Bait’s literal English translation) is how we were greeted as we walked through the alleyway to a beautiful courtyard and in through classic Arabic doors. In a quaint check-in area refreshments were served alongside small, sweet treats that exploded in your mouth.
After the seamless check-in we were led towards our room, at which point we realized the true uniqueness of this hotel. If you have ever been to old Dubai and walked through the streets, especially the Bastikiya area or wandered the souks of Marrakech then you can begin to visualize the architecture and the design. What was marvelous was that behind the doors and the walls was a touch of Chedi and ‘Leading Hotels of the World’ type of luxury waiting to be explored.
Al Bait the hotel is actually made up of 10 Arabic heritage homes that have been carefully renovated. They originally belonged to the Al Midfa family, a prominent Sharjah family but then were used as the headquarters for the first postal services during the British Presence. Another of the homes was used as the customs office and another was the Sharjah maritime museum. What is so unique about this hotel is that they’ve fully embraced the rich history and heritage of the place and made it an integral part of the experience. One of the homes is a fully functioning museum showcasing the history of the building, the family and even one of the magnificent ‘Elephant’ doors that one of the Midfa brothers brought back from India in the early 1900’s!
This process has preserved the architectural heritage of the hotel premises, reflecting the unique lifestyle heritage and the timeless architectural elements of Sharjah’s past. These homes were originally built from coral stones, gypsum and limestone while the doors and windows were made off teak wood and the ceilings were made of palm fronds. Attached to the museum is a lovely library where the children enjoyed reading and playing board games.
This luxury 53-room property offers interconnecting rooms for families of all sizes with most of them having small courtyards. Throughout the hotels labyrinth of alleyways you will find many quiet nooks to relax and enjoy the peace and tranquility be it under a tree or one of the many courtyards. While exploring the grounds the hotel staff were very attentive providing knowledge of the property and refreshments.
Getting a little hot, the children needed a cool down - the swimming pool is hidden in one of the courtyards and a great size. The pool attendant kindly played games with the children while we relaxed – this is certainly rare, the kids were happy and so were we!
This is where the hotel turns it up a notch. Foodies should go to this hotel period. They have an incredible Chef who isn’t afraid to experiment. Breakfast and lunch menus have many options including an extensive gluten free menu – a true gastronomy of flavors presented like beautiful art. Quality food craftsmanship is at work here and one can tell the hotel is looking to differentiate itself from its peers with the quality of its kitchens.
I also have to acknowledge the pasty chef – as a person with an admittedly addictive sweet tooth, the offerings on hand were simply thrilling. They had a special button on the phone that you could press for your ‘Sweet of the Day’ – that day’s special concoction would then be delivered – from gold covered éclairs to chocolate balls that erupted into a crackling sensation in your mouth.
For dinner we ate at ‘The Arabic Restaurant’, which is also open to outside guests. Personally I don’t think the name does the restaurant justice, as this was truly an amazing dinner with my husband saying wow to everything he ate. Saffron, cardamom, turmeric, thyme and combination of local spices characterized the dining experience. Internationally trained chefs, under the watchful eye of the Master Chef prepared their lighter and fresher takes on traditional dishes making it a truly unique dining experience. Typically my kids only wanted pasta (boring!) but the chef was happy to cook up a dish in a yummy sauce for them.
We didnt look at a menu as everything was brought over to us to taste from wonderful pumpkin soup, aubergine dishes, meat platters and one of their signatures dishes which was so creatively designed and served and I believe tasted amazing (I don’t eat fish!) was a pan seared sea scallop on a bed of couscous with biryani and tzatziki sauce with edible cling film served in a sea urchin shell and sprayed with liquid nitrogen! Yes, see the video to truly understand this fantastic creation.
It was really refreshing to witness such attention to customer service (something that is getting lost with so much on offer now in the hospitality industry) and I can only assume that this is a reflection of management and the hotels ethos. Nothing was too much to ask and every one spoke with knowledge and love for where they work. It’s not everyday you receive this type of service.
So would I go again to Al Bait Sharjah? I certainly would - I would go for a little me time, a little R&R. If you have never been to Sharjah this is the hotel for you, perfectly located in the heart of the city with a lot of exploring to do around the property. UAE heritage, Islamic history infused with top of the line luxury and incredible food. Al Bait Sharjah ticks a lot of boxes for travelers looking for something unique.