Last month DH and I took off for an impulse staycation in the Arabian Nights Village (ANV) with one other family.
We took the Al Ain truck road and armed with our trusty Google maps set off towards our middle-of-nowhere destination. We would soon learn why ANV offers complimentary pick up at certain fixed times from Khalifa Park.
The major part of the drive there was relatively smooth, barring the fear of being crushed by the behemoths on the truck route. It was the last 45 minutes of the drive that had us doubting our sanity at worst and the veracity of Google maps at best.
The smooth, polished roads that the UAE is famous for (and if we aren’t famous for our roads, we should be!) ended abruptly and we were unceremoniously launched onto what can best be described as a calcified sand track. You could tell some effort had been made to construct a road of sorts leading to the Village. The effort had failed miserably.
Even in our trusty 4WD inching along at 20 kmph we were bounced around like dice in a cup and rattled to the bone. Bear in mind that this spine-jarring journey was through bleak desert sands with no signage whatsoever and even a decaying camel carcass or two dotting the roadside. Pleasant. Really pleasant.
After a long, joint-dislodging ride just when we were contemplating turning back we saw a tiny signboard (I kid you not… one sandstorm and that forlorn little thing will be buried forever). We followed the sign and soon glimpsed some random earthen pots and miniature forts that led us to believe we were close. Just in time too because the sun had started to set and we did not fancy driving around aimlessly in the inky black desert. We rounded a large dune and lo and behold… there it was!
Tucked amidst sheltering dunes was the most welcome sight we had seen in 2 hours. We drove up to the large front doors, received a warm welcome and breezed through check-in.
The Village is laid out within a walled compound. Within the compound are dotted the ‘rooms’ – standalone cottages in themes like Bedouin Tent (Bayt Al Shaaer), Coastal Home (Bayt Al Bahr) , and Desert Home (Bayt Al Bar) sprinkled around the premises. The restaurant and recreation center are in yet another building and the pool is located at one corner of the compound.
We had booked one of the traditionally woven Tent rooms – a one bedroom suite, which in the online pictures looked comfortable enough for four adults and a baby. Although inspired by a typical bedouin tent, the construction was a lot sturdier than just woven fabric propped up on sticks and ropes.
The interior was also furnished in line with the theme. Traditional weaving on the walls, an ensuite bedroom and a living room where the seating could be converted into a bed if required. Each of the rooms had a separate entrance and its own bathroom. Although spacious enough, we had to ask for a room change as a sudden wind had blown a fine layer of sand into the room and the sliding doors would not seal properly to prevent more sand from blowing in. The room was also very dimly lit and the dark traditional embroidery on the walls did not help matters much.
Much to our surprise there was no TV in the rooms (yeah… let that atrocity sink in for a moment). We were even more flummoxed to hear there were no telephones in the rooms and that if we needed anything we would have to walk over to the Reception in one of the main towers. I do appreciate that they’ve got the whole back-to-basics, step-back-in-time vibe going. But at AED 1,400+ a night (and that is the reduced summer rate), the least I would expect is a phone in the rooms in case of an emergency. (P.S. There was strong cell phone reception so you’re not entirely cut off from civilization).
We were reminded that dinner service would be ending soon so after a brief rest, we made our way to the restaurant building.The dining hall was styled after a traditional palm fronds home and it felt like stepping into a large but cozy majlis.
The food was simple and filling and we enjoyed talking to the staff who were warm and friendly. They were so accommodating that they even let us parcel up some food to take back to our rooms for late night snacks! The Manager on duty was more than happy to offer us an upgrade and after dinner we were relocated to one of the Desert Home rooms.
While our stay had not got off to a glorious start, let me tell you things turned right around once we were upgraded to the new rooms. We each got individual Bayt Al Bar cottages which were beautifully furnished and cheerily lit (what dramatic impact lighting can have on your mood!). The rooms were tasteful with delicate touches that lifted our spirits.
For those on a longer stay, the Village also offers plenty of activities like camel riding and safaris, sand boarding, dune bashing, buggy rides, etc.
The next day after a simple breakfast and some lounge time by the pool, we checked out and headed back home.
We learnt from the staff that there is an easier route to and from the ANV which might have saved us quite a bit of back ache and we opted for this route on the way home. Herds of wild camels on the way made for a great photo op.
Overall, the Arabian Nights Village offers a great escape from the city but does have some kinks to work through. But the warmth of the staff and their genuine eagerness to please more than makes up for these shortcomings.
Have you ever been to the ANV? What was your experience like?