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06 December, 2005

Mountainous disappointment

Jebel Hafeet, visited on a recent trip, is currently the subject of criticism in Gulf News:

Al Ain: People expecting to see a well-developed tourist point at Jebel Hafeet, the country's highest mountain, feel frustrated as they find nothing but desolate ground on top.

Many tourists described going up the mountain as a waste of time as there is nothing to see or enjoy.

So what is at the top of this admittedly spectacular crag of rock, jutting up from the flat red sands of Al Ain, magnificent and solitary? Three things: a new Mercure hotel, a palace, and a public cafeteria.

1. The Mercure is a staggering disappointment. Despite its position it has no panoramic views except from a small shisha cafe which was closed. 2/10

2. The palace is inaccessible to the general public. However, from a photography point of view, and fantasy point of view: "woah, imagine living there!" it has some merit. 3/10

3. The cafeteria is utterly execrable. It features nasty, white plastic chairs, serves deep fried anti-food, and has garish coke posters. It has nothing of beauty to recommend it, and nothing remotely traditional or Arabic. 0/10

So while the city it overlooks is a fantasy oasis of date palms, landscaping and civic beautification, poor Jebel Hafeet has been given an immensely raw deal.

"The typical Gulf environment, with its reddish brown dusty and foggy features, is a major hindrance to get a clear view from the top."

This however is not true: the view is spectacular, especially on a clear winter's day.

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Blogger Al Ain Taxi said...

Just wait til they open the dry taboggan run. Did you see it in the hotel gardens? It's a kiddie's ride and its very scary.

I'm going to stick a photo of it on my blog.

06 December, 2005 09:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I quite like the Mercure. I also like the fact that they haven't stuck a bunch of 'tourist attractions' (crap) up there. My only complaint is that the mountain is not climbable due to its slippery rock/sand surface. Not a waste of time at all in my opinion. What we you hoping for? Neon lights and spas?

06 December, 2005 12:37  
Blogger secretdubai said...

What we you hoping for? Neon lights and spas?

God no - quite the opposite - it's already got those. I can't understand why the lobby has zero windows when it could so easily have been designed to look out over that fabulous view.

It is really bizarre, really poor architectural planning.

06 December, 2005 12:54  
Blogger nzm said...

There is an awesome viewing deck in the Mercure on the 2nd floor. It has a wonderful map on the railing ledge that shows what you're seeing, as well as listing the flora and fauna of the area and it points out the directions of major world cities.

It used to be open to the public, but now the management have installed security in the elevators which means that only hotel guests with key cards can access any of the floors above the lobby level.

We had 2 great stays here over Ramadan - once with J's kids and the 2nd with my parents. Their package stays are quite reasonable and the kids (and the adults!) love the water slides and swimming pool area.

I love Jebel Hafeet because it's not developed. They can take away the cafeteria at the top and just leave it as a place to drive up to enjoy the view. We marvel at the engineering of the road everytime we go up there - it's awesome.

We've also experienced some great clear days for viewing up there - and it's stunning to look over Al Ain in one direction and the sand dunes to the southwest are magnificent. If you can, take a pair of binoculars - it makes the whole experience just that more pleasurable.


06 December, 2005 14:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anyone knows where An Emirati's Thoughts gone?

06 December, 2005 15:11  
Blogger snow white said...

Heights make me sick, so I stopped halfway up and tried to back out of the rest. At the top, I was seriously disappointed - the view from halfway up (unhindered by kids playing cricket in the summit car park) is much better.

06 December, 2005 19:25  
Blogger snow white said...

Forgot to mention the scary-looking kids' rides at the Mercure that hang over the edge of the rock (untethered?) - a real death slide.

06 December, 2005 19:27  
Blogger The TEFL Tradesman said...

So what do people expect to find at the top of a small mountain (well, a large rock, actually) - a theme park? Maybe they should go like Gibraltar, and get some goonish monkeys to (literally) hang around the place and drop poo all over people.

We loved it there - the bracing air, the water chutes ... the mini golf. Well, it's great for the kids, not much fun for posers - which is a great reason to go there, anyway.

And you can always get a taxi into Al Ain...

06 December, 2005 21:02  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

So while the city it overlooks is a fantasy oasis of date palms, landscaping and civic beautification...

You must have taken a different route from me. All I saw was a fantasy oasis of two thousand roundabouts.

07 December, 2005 04:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cafeteria may be execrable, but has anyone tried the "pizza fatayers" made by the guy who sits just outside the cafeteria? Incredibly light and delicious stuff, though he bungs in a can of cream and a bottle of cream cheese into EACH one...they are really amazing. If that's anti-food then so be it...but what a way to go!

09 December, 2005 10:18  

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