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Ten run away to the mountains... - By Rebecca Wicks

The Hatta Fort Hotel never saw it coming last weekend, when ten of us rocked up for a precious two day escape from the city. Of course, the temperature an hour up the road from Dubai wasn’t much different, but at least we got to look at mountains instead of cranes for a while.

Before we left, my friend ‘S’ told me I should order the cheeseburger from the pool-side caf�. Apparently, ‘S’ used to go to the Hatta Fort Hotel as a kid with her family some 12 years ago, and they always ordered the cheeseburger: thus building fond and fanciful memories of bonding over beef patties in a beautiful, mountain resort. When we sat down in the caf�, I saw the beefburger on someone else’s table and it didn’t look that special. I opted for the salmon salad instead, which wasn’t all that memorable either really. Still, the scenery was undoubtedly delightful, and we didn’t need the food to enforce a bond between ten previous strangers. (They had Corona on the menu too).

Becoming friends with friends of friends in random encounters and locations is simply the Dubai way... perhaps the UAE way, for those who don’t live here. It’s not the first time I’ve signed up for a road-trip, or even holiday with people I don’t even know. I guess it’s got something to do with the fact that we’re away from home, and still making the most of the many opportunities that come our way. One of those opportunities, having scoffed our mediocre salads, was to lounge by the pool in the company of a few bottles of chilled white wine. Too hot to sit for very long, we interlaced our sippings with dippings in the water, and made friends with a fellow group of Dubai-escapees as we floated in the pool. At 4pm, I was called inside for my pre-booked manicure/pedicure. She did an excellent job, in spite of the fact that my sarong and bikini were dripping all over the treatment room floor. Note to self for next visit: Remember any bookings made in advance. And bring a change of clothes to the pool.

Dinner was a spectacular occasion, and a total contradiction to the standard of offerings in the caf� at lunchtime. Served in the restaurant above the main reception, we were treated to a vast and delicious buffet, including a carvery, Indian curries, Arabic salads, a hefty stinking cheese board and some thigh-expanding desserts I can’t even think about without gaining a pound. There was live music in the other room, too. I think they put us far away from it on purpose. Ten ladies gossiping loudly over even more wine would rival a hundred guitars, never mind one.

Trundling back after dinner, we all crammed into one of the rooms and had a little nightcap over a game of charades. The oldies are always best. We chatted till late in the night, agreed to meet for breakfast (in about four hours) and went our separate ways. I shared a room with a friend and it was a great size, complete with fancy roof beams, a flat-screen TV� even a delicate Arabian printed sofa and soft furnishings I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have in my flat. What a difference to the usual motel-inspired hotels of afar you usually find when you stay out of the city.

Breakfast was another delightful, and well-deserved spread. Salmon, yogurts, fresh fruit, toast and eggs made to order, baked beans, bacon, sausages, you name it. Too stuffed to even sit by the pool, and beaten by the heat, we lounged in our rooms, read the papers, made the most of being somewhere other than our own apartments (ie, stuffed the mini shampoos into our bags for later) and set out on the road again.

Set in 80 acres of manicured gardens, surrounded by the majestic Hajar Mountain range and wild nature, there was a lot we didn’t get to explore at the Hatta Fort Hotel. But I guess, for just over 500 dhs each for the summer rates package, including everything except alcohol and spa treatments, there will definitely be another chance. My one gripe would be that there’s only one treatment room at the hotel, and one member of staff to perform these treatments, so most of us didn’t manage to get an appointment. Still, can’t complain. We had a fabulous weekend and Dubai felt a million miles away - even though it was pretty much a straight road back again, into the haze.

Posted: 30 July 2008

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