In the quieter Emirate of Ajman, Oberoi Al Zorah is a staggered sea-facing resort where vast villas line the shore, every bathroom has a huge walk-in shower and enormous bath tub, and ceiling heights are of the lofty variety. The million-plus mangroves that surround the hotel are frequented by flamingoes (don’t forget those binoculars). The Italian architect did away with the country’s traditional bling, making it the perfect choice for sunseekers who Dubai doesn’t do it for. That said, the most famous of the seven Emirates, and all its shopping opportunities and world-class restaurants, is a short drive away.
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A 15-minute head and shoulder massage and a 45-minute yoga session. GoldSmiths will also receive a bottle of wine
Double rooms from $392.06 (AED1,440), excluding tax at 15 per cent.
Rates include breakfast.
The hotel is surrounded by over a million mangroves.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, 24-hour gym, butler service, valet parking, library, 400-metre beach, watersports, table tennis, shuttle to Dubai Mall. In rooms: free bottled water, tea- and coffee-making facilities, Forest Essential bath products.
Our favourite rooms
We loved the two-bedroom villas that line the shore at the lowest level of the property – they’re perfect for families, huge and the bathrooms have alfresco ablution opportunities courtesy of the outdoor showers. The hotel has an 80-metre pool, but if you’re concerned that’s not enough water, book a room with a private pool.
There’s a heated, family-friendly, 80-metre infinity pool overlooking the beach, with a lifeguard on duty between 8am and 7pm.
The spa has a steam room, sauna and treatment rooms with open-air showers and their own hammam. The therapists use Alqvimia products. There’s a yoga and meditation room next to the herb garden – free 45-minute sessions take place daily.
Sensible shoes for navigating this staggered resort and modesty-preserving pashminas and T-shirts.
Two of the bedrooms are suitable for wheelchair access and there are ramps throughout the resort, as well as buggies on request.
All ages welcome. Extra beds can be added to rooms, but the spacious villas are the best bet for families. The kids’ club is free and there are baby and toddler pools near the main pool. Babysitting can be arranged with a day’s notice.
Babies and up.
The two-bedroom villas line the beach and have plenty of space for families.
The kids’ club is free and includes a sandpit and gardens.
Table tennis, bicycle riding, beach, swimming.
There are two additional pools by the main pool, one for babies and one for toddlers. Arm bands, inflatables and floats can be borrowed, and a lifeguard is on duty all day.
Highchairs are available on request. Children are welcome in all dining venues at all times; there are no special menus, but dishes can be adapted and baby food and milk can be heated up.
Can be arranged with a day’s notice for 50 dirhams an hour (two-hour minimum), plus a surcharge and taxi fare after 11pm.
Enlist the help of the concierge in getting a better-than-average table – intimate dinners can be held in the olive-tree garden for a start. You can also eat poolside or on the beach.
Both restaurants are relaxed affairs, but you might want to avoid causing offence (and sunburnt skin) by keeping it covered up.
There are two: Vinesse and Aquario, both of which have bars attached. Vinesse is where you need to be at breakfast, where a spread of doughnuts, pastries, fruit and typical Arabic items are on offer. Vinesse is at the top of the resort and surrounded by enough water features to make it look like it’s floating. Aquario is down on the beach level and has a suitably seafood-heavy menu – there’s even a ‘fish sommelier’ on hand to help you choose from the catch-of-the-day counter. We especially rate the tuna tartare, soft-shell crab and scallops.
Two: named for and attached to each restaurant. Vinesse is near reception and surrounding by water and glass, making it especially sparkly after nightfall. The cocktail list references pre-prohibition classics and this bar also has an impressive range of single malts and Cuban cigars. Like its parent restaurant, Aquario is down by the beach. The star beverages here have to be the selection of gins mixed with house-made flavoured tonic waters. The Aquario bar is open all day between 11am and 11.30pm (1am on Friday and Saturday nights). Vinesse’s bar calls time at 11pm.
Breakfast is served at Vinesse from 7am to 10.30am; lunch and dinner here merge into one, with food served between 12.30pm and 11pm. Aquario serves lunch from 12.30pm until 3pm and dinner between 7pm and 11.30pm.
The full menu of both restaurants can be served in-room if you prefer.
The Oberoi Al Zorah is in the lesser-known Emirate of Ajman, close to Dubai but blissfully behind in the development stakes.
It’s 20 kilometres from Dubai’s international airport; allow around half an hour for the drive. Hotel transfers in an Audi or Mercedes cost 500 dirhams each way. Sharjah’s airport, which has flights from all over the region as well as further afield, is a 20-minute drive away; transfers are 450 dirhams.
The hotel is 10 minutes by car out of the centre of Ajman. There’s a car park onsite and valet parking.
Seaplane arrivals can be arranged on request.
Worth getting out of bed for
There is a golf club and watersport-facilitating marina nearby. Ajman has a mall, but for serious shopping, head into Dubai – the hotel puts on a shuttle at certain times, otherwise it’s a 40-minute drive. The hotel’s private beach is at the bottom of the resort and has cabanas and sunloungers for guests. And if you want to get away from the skyscrapers and into the desert, seek the help of Magic Arabia, who will take you on a sandy safari.
Ajman and its neighbouring emirate Sharjah don’t have a huge amount of restaurants (yet), so for buzzy brasseries head into Dubai. Hashi, part of the Armani hotel at the bottom of the Burj Khalifa, serves up some of the best Japanese food in town. Over at the Bulgari outpost, Il Caféoffers artful Italian food and views out across the marina. And for Thai classics and spicy seafood, try Thiptara in the Palace Downtown.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this hotel in Ajman and unpacked their dishdashas, a full account of their desert break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Oberoi Al Zorah in the UAE…
Ajman is the smallest of the seven emirates and, in this land of blingy excess, less really is more. The UAE may currently be trying to make rain and build new mountains (reach for the moon, guys), but in Ajman development is in its early stages. Make no mistake, government dreams are big, but for now this is a peaceful enclave of flamingo-frequented mangroves, comparatively short skyscrapers and sandy shores. At the Oberoi Al Zorah, the resort is staggered down to the sea, with rooms, one of the restaurants and the water-surrounded lobby at the top, the main pool and kids’ club in the middle and a row of villas, another restaurant and the private stretch of beach right on the water. There’s a vast golf course and a marina for watersports nearby. And the best bit (for those who want it all)? Dubai and all its fabulous skyscrapers and restaurants are a short drive north
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah’s Guestbook below.
We had a fantastic time at the Al Zorah and would definitely return. The hotel, rooms, villa, staff and food were all amazing - we didn't want to leave. Highlights were our stay in the pool villa and dining on the beach in Aquario.
Amazing food on a consistent basis.
Stayed on 12 Apr 2019
First and foremost, the service, which was excellent from everyone at the hotel who we came across. Everyone was just so pleasant and helpful. Secondly, the food, which was of a very high standard at all meals. They couldn't do enough for my wife who had certain dietary requirements and even made special dishes for her. Thirdly, the design of the hotel is architecturally beautiful. Fourthly, the rooms are very large - yes, almost minimalist but very comfortable with a lovely big bathroom.
Nightlife, entertainment or other such activities.
Stayed on 9 Mar 2019
We stayed in Premier Room with Private Terrace. The space was very generous and the interior design atypical of regional hotels - modern, yet warm. Huge bath and separate walk-in rain shower added to the sense of modern luxury, Great views to the sea and the rest of the complex. Staff were fantastic – so helpful. Monika at Front Office was a delight! The architecture and grounds are quite stunning, particularly at night with jasmine wafting in the air! My better-half loved the complimentary, early-morning yoga.
Stayed on 30 Nov 2018
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