Sometimes it is really nice to have to use one’s imagination, says the gal. What is this fascinating shape swimming in a decorative pool at the rear of the lobby of Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi? It is not a Botero, that is for sure (she thinks back to the lobby of Four Seasons Hotel Miami, where she was first introduced to the Colombian sculptor’s anthropomorphic works).
It is, equally surely, not a Calder – think of the red beauty, one of 4,200 amazing artworks at Ritz-Carlton Millenia, Singapore. Whatever, it occupies its pool at the rear of the substantial and business-like lobby of the stylish Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi.
This lobby is not one you sit around in, looking at the scene and being seen. There are other lobbies in Abu Dhabi for that, especially the breathtaking arena that is the lobby of Jumeirah Etihad Towers (though I do have a quick look, off this lobby, here at Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, at the adjacent Hermès-look, orange library, which even has a working fire). Just what one needs when the temperature is just under 40 degrees C and rising daily …
It is so hot that what one wants is water, and fortunately at this fabulous resort, which plenty of discerning Germans have already discovered, there is lots of it. From the fascinating lobby sculpture you take 28 stone steps down to ground level, and out into a vista of sand-and-water and palm trees.
Pools stretch ahead of you, some 300 yards in all. There are play pools for kids, deeper pools for swimmers. Neatly set in lines, as guards of honour, are pale sand-coloured loungers, Dedon-style. In between are matching stands with drawers to hold your bits and pieces. Overhead are matching canvas shades, to hold off the glaring sun. Lifeguards sensibly wear scarlet, including big-brim hats, so you can easily see them.
The 306-room luxury resort is set as an open-C, its arms gently folding around, as if protecting the pools and beach (behind the C is the Gary Player golf course). There are no unnecessary turrets or gargoyles on the exterior of the building. Looking out towards the sea, as all rooms do, to the far left you can see the Beach House.
This is similarly minimalist, no extraneous decoration, just the sand-coloured shape of the building and its rooftop, with wood-outline canopy. Inside, this is day-long gelato through to tapas and simple eating and dining. Rooftop, this is sundowner place. One year ago exactly we trudged through construction activity to head up to this rooftop to toast the forthcoming luxury hotel, with suitable bubbles.
The beach runs for some five miles, and some do indeed run along it. Its dunes are highly protected. This is sea-turtle area, and during the April to June hatching any nest is cordoned off and guarded. I hear tales of baby turtles becoming covered with barnacles, in which case they are individually couriered to Dubai, 90 minutes’ drive away, to be cleaned off, and released back into the sea.
Every day at the moment people see dolphins out in the Gulf, and occasionally young oryx wander around the sand as if they owned it. Wildlife haven, here. This is why the Beach Villas are so desirable. Villa 718 looks quite forbidding outside, with merely a closed door and two security cameras.
Inside, Villa 718’s 2,000 sq ft space goes on and on. The big living area, and the two adjacent master bedrooms, look out at the private deck, with 25-foot pool, and a trellis screen around to give privacy from the dunes and beach beyond. Bedrooms have sizeable bathrooms with freestanding tubs in the open-sided wet area.
Of course there is a small kitchen – I am told Emiratis actually like fixing a few of their own edibles. There is also a small ‘extra bedroom’, for one’s extra kid, essential maid or therapist, or even one’s personal spa miracle worker. There is, you see, also an outdoor spa room, and this is where Agnes came, on a blazing hot morning, for our ten o’clock session. I lay under what seemed like a silk and cashmere blanket for a back massage that pummelled away the knots, and the time.
It was tempting to dine, breakfast and lunch in the coolness of Villa 718. Occasional dips in that irresistible pool would be essential. But dinner in The Park Bar and Grill, back in the main building, was memorable. You are greeted by displays of Laguiole steak knives and beautiful bottles of wine, and there are scarlet lights overhead.
You can choose Zwyer caviar from the Caspian through to Australian wagyu (I had a Gulf mackerel). The beach volleyball teams – apparently one of the many incentive groups that love this hotel – were dining privately in a function room. Others were snacking in the Beach Club, or dining in the all-day, all-evening Café, another airy shape that spills out on to the surrounding terrace.
That, in the Café, was where we breakfasted (after, of course, a workout in the gym, 27 steps down from the main spa that is thoughtfully attached to the main block so when it is REALLY hot you do not have to walk outside to get to be treated).
Here at the Café at eight o’clock business types in suits mingled around the serving stations – buffet is not a luxury word –dodging the tourists, and the locals and their mostly-adorable children. He, my friend, started with deep red watermelon juice. I went for orange. The colour combination contrasted simply with the blue of the water outside.