Experience Old And New Dubai At The Freshy 

Buried among the spectacular Hajar Mountains is one of the UAE’s best-loved hotels. And with an extensive renovation recently completed, the JA Hatta Fort Hotel has brought its traditional charm into sleek, 21st century splendour fit for any city-weary traveller

Dubai can be a manic place: sometimes you just need to escape. Fortunately one of the UAE’s hotel treasures is just a two-hour drive from the city, nestled among some of the country’s most breathtaking scenery.

JA Hatta Fort Hotel was first opened in 1981 by HH Sheikh R JA Hatta Fort Hotelashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum. Its 48 deluxe chalet-style rooms, two suites and two villas have retained their early charm, providing a welcome getaway surrounded by nature.

This year the hotel received a makeover, which has transformed its amenities to suit any visitor. Each room matches a soothing pastel palette with traditional fretwork and sleek, modern furniture. Every room includes a soaking tub, shower and climate control which, combined with the sun-filled balconies and terraces, adds to the hotel’s relaxing ambience.

“JA Hatta Fort Hotel is one of the first hotels to be developed by JA Resorts & Hotels and has a special sentimental value for the group,” says David Thomson, COO at JA Resorts & Hotels. “The modernization will ensure guests enjoy a contemporary and comfortable experience without us having altered the unique charm of this venue.

“We wanted to remain true to our Arabian roots and at the same time enchant our guests with a refreshed look and the heartfelt hospitality that we are known for.” The blend of old and new design is no mistake: Hatta, an exclave of Dubai just 10 minutes from the Oman border, is a weekender’s dream, filled with ancient wonders.

Millions of years ago the entire region was under the sea – and it shows at sites like Camel Rock and Fossil Rock, curiously shaped rock formations accessible by 4×4 or, for the more adventurous, quad bike.

Nearby Hatta Dam may have been forged by man, but its draws are natural, from the striking, jagged landscape to a variety of rare birds including ospreys and fish eagles. Elsewhere peacocks roam the hotel grounds, and there’s even a mini zoo featuring ducks, goats, camel rides and a kids’ play area.

Among them all, the hotel is an oasis, and visitors can enjoy an enviable roster of facilities including a fully-equipped gymnasium, field and target archery range, mini-golf course and tennis courts.

It is set among 80 acres of rolling, lovingly-tended gardens and two temperature-controlled swimming pools to ensure more than enough space for guests and their families.

For ultimate relaxation, the hotel has an on-site spa offering treatments such as massages and facials. And the hotel staff, who have been used to serving Dubai’s rich and famous for decades, are as much a draw as any on site.

Family friendliness has long been a raison d’être of the Hatta Fort Hotel. Each room has enough space to accommodate two adults and two children up to the age of six. It also comes with complementary WiFi and a desk in case the office calls.

Kids have their own pool and there’s even a babysitting service available for mums and dads who’d prefer a night out alone.

For them, and for couples and single travellers, the hotel offers a selection of restaurants and bars. Jeema has been its flagship eatery for years, and has lost none of its renowned cosiness post-renovation.

An updated dinner menu includes dishes such as prawns and scallop salad, snail sizzler, basque-style chicken, lobster thermidor and seared cod fillet. Jeema’s curries are reckoned to be among Dubai’s best, and include favourites like butter

chicken and Ajwain tandoori king fish. Each night diners are serenaded by Perfect Rhythm, whose soulful tunes are enough to heighten any special meal.

Afterwards drinks are available at the hotel’s cocktail bar, which harks back to the hotel’s early days – when Dubai was barely beginning to become the modern metropolis it is today. Its Sunset Terrace is a fantastic place to take in the surrounding wildlife and landscape, whose lunar skyline pokes up at a star-filled Arabian sky.

Breakfasts and lunches are served at the Café Gazebo, which overlooks the main swimming pool. Not far away is Hatta Hill Park, just 1.5km from the hotel, which includes walking and jogging tracks, recreational facilities, BBQ huts and a watch tower.

The hotel’s renovation comes at a big moment for the region, which was recently awarded AED1.3bn in development plans to boost its credentials as an eco-tourism destination. The Hatta Master Development Plan also includes the building of an AED54m road linking Dubai and Hatta, whose history stretches far back beyond Dubai’s current boomtown status.

Heritage Village is a reconstruction of a traditional mountain village. Its 30 buildings, including mosques and homes, are furnished in a way reminiscent of the UAE before its period of rapid expansion in the 1960s.

It’s a fascinating chance to see what Dubai, and the UAE, was like before it became one of the world’s super-modern destinations. The old town of Hatta also includes two military towers from the 18th century and the area’s oldest building, the 1780-built Juma mosque.

The JA Hatta Fort Hotel has become as much a fixture of the local circuit as anywhere else in Hatta – and it’s a great chance to catch some much-needed R&R without the effort of a long trip. Whether you’re a thrill seaker in search of the next adventure or a family in need of downtime, there’s something for everyone.