Al Bait (meaning “the home” in Arabic) is an exquisite and unique luxury hotel built across four heritage houses. It’s located in the city of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, on the Arabian Gulf.
A member of the Leading Hotels of the World, Al Bait’s style is intricate and elegant. It’s that kind of ridiculously over the top (in a good way) experience.
The hotel’s almost 100 year old roots were carefully restored and enhanced with modern architecture, and fused ancient Arabian style with minimalist, in vogue Asian touches. And it houses an onsite museum and a well-curated library, which gives an insight into the UAE’s pearl-trading days, long before the oil boom transformed the region.
The stylish 53-room hotel interiors are comprised of hand-carved wooden furniture, beautiful, woven Moroccan rugs and various objects and artwork sourced from throughout the Middle East and India. Part of Al Bait’s appeal comes from Sharjah’s traditional influences leading to a more laid back, toned down location in comparison to the glitz of Dubai.
The experience of staying at this magnificent hotel envelops your senses. I know that sounds cliched, but it’s just true: the air is tinted with a sweet, woody aroma of frankincense. A nearby mosque emits the goosebump-raising call to prayer that punctuates the air from sunrise to sunset. The melodic song is accentuated as it reverberates around the property’s sandstone structures.
The abundance of maze-like narrow alleyways on the hotel grounds are fun to explore and lead you to discover secluded courtyards or the adjoining traditional Arabic market, Souq Al Arsah, by passing through grand wooden doors. Come evening, the property is awash with the warm glow of lanterns throughout.
An ancient wind tower sits above a generous open-air section of the Arabic restaurant where you dine under the stars on superb Levant and Arabian fare. Despite being a conservative, dry destination (no alcohol served) there’s so much on offer that you don’t miss it.
You can visit the ice-cream shop and try their hand-blended camel or cow-milk creations comprising Arabic ingredients and spices such as mastic, pistachios, cardamom or saffron. A popular — and intriguing — choice is black activated charcoal with gold leaf. Dairy Queen hasn’t picked that one up yet.
After a day of desert safari or exploring the nearby archaeological site, sink into a bath, in an exquisite, oversized handmade Indian copper tub, perhaps whilst spinning some vinyl on your room’s phonograph. Then collapse into a raised four-poster bed boasting one of the world’s most high-tech mattresses, (because, nowadays, what’s the point of a mattress if it doesn’t have the computing power of Apollo 11?)
The exceptional spa, called, simply enough, The Spa at Al Bait, offers Middle East treatments and Far East healing techniques. In the therapy rooms, dim light shades project pretty, shadowed patterns across the walls. There’s a hammam, plunge pools and tropical shower to add to the experience. The state-of-the-art gym is open 24/7 and there is a glorious outdoor pool.
Within a stone’s throw from the resort you’ll discover an art institute, fort, galleries, museums and, a bit further along, the famed Rain Room permanent installation (created by Random International, a London-based art collective, it’s an immersive experience where guests walk through a continuous downpour of rain without getting wet).
The city has also held an art biennial since 1993.
Sharjah has been ruled by the Al Qasimi Empire since the 18th century, and preservation of this Emirati history is hugely important. The multi-million dollar investment that created Al Bait as the first luxury hotel built there, is a part of that, as well as the ongoing preservation of the old city.
Al Bait has a way of making you feel wholly present and inspired. The authentic, magical Arabian experience and impeccable guest services create a bond and makes you never want to leave. When you do, it’s like bidding farewell to exotic relatives — the ones you like!