Located just 25 km from Dubai International Airport and 45 km from downtown Dubai, I heard about Kempinski Hotel Ajman whilst attempting to perfect the tango at Dance For You. They had competed in The Crown Cup Dubai 2016 Ballroom Dance Championship, which has been held at the hotel for the past several years, and they absolutely raved about it.
Never one to turn a deaf ear to a rave review, Ajman was plugged into Google Maps and we headed off for a visit. A short drive later, we had gone from rat race to reverie, with the busy-ness of Dubai left behind in the dust. Welcome to Ajman.
BRAND PRESENCE AND IDENTITY
Kempinski Ajman is NOT like any of its brothers and sisters or, in fact, any of the other sparkling high-end hotels in Dubai. It’s still the same luxury Kempinski brand but is unabashedly laid-back to match its reputation as a leisure-driven destination. Built about 18 years ago, this hotel doesn’t have the glossiness of the new hotels that are popping up in Dubai every day but the reason you come to Ajman isn’t to wear your designer duds and shades.
It’s the very opposite.
It’s because you’ve had enough of the big city lights and trying to outdo (or even keep up with) everyone’s sharp fashion sense. Kempinski Ajman is your haven, where you can just throw on your swimwear and caftan, trade in heels for thongs, and go super casual as you shoot off for 36 or 48 hours of blissful tranquility.
The vibe here is rooted in simplicity. We met people who explained that they didn’t want the hustle and bustle or over-indulgence that Dubai always has on offer. They weren’t looking for the glitzy zsa zsa zsu; they wanted to hear the waves crashing at night and see the morning sun rising over the white sands.
I ran into some Ozzie oil and gas guys at the bar who said it just right. They said Kempinski Ajman was cool because it allows you to be yourself and relax and you can troubleshoot your day over an ice cold beer or cocktail with the sound of the beach and your feet in the sand.
When I chatted with the staff, the very idea of working in Dubai sent an alarming look over their faces as they explained that Dubai wasn’t for them. Ajman is where they’re happy to be.
GETTING THERE & FIRST IMPRESSIONS
You can’t deny that the location of Kempinski Ajman is incredibly convenient. If you’re coming from Dubai International Airport, you can catch a taxi and be at the hotel in about 35 minutes. Coming from downtown Dubai? All you need is about 45 minutes. The hotel is a well-established local landmark with taxi drivers and if you’re driving on your own, it’s just as easy to find.
The lobby, with its palm trees and 15-metre high dome, is open and airy and sets the tone for a relaxed stay. Rid your mind of the thought that you’ll be walking into the Kempinski Palm Jumeirah; it’s as different as Ajman is from Dubai. Remember, you’re here to escape the metropolitan life and kick up your feet, and nothing more!
It was a bit of a rocky start when we had to wait 50 minutes for our luggage but a sincere and graceful apology counteracted the hitch. Mistakes happen to the best of places; it’s how the situation is handled that really distinguishes the top brands from the mediocre.
WHERE YOU’LL SLEEP:
Our accommodation for the evening was the sprawling and well-decorated Deluxe Suite. It also had the most gigantic balcony that started from the bedroom and extended around through the lounge with enough space for 4 sun loungers.
Although the evening was stonkingly warm, I chose to leave the balcony doors wide open throughout the night. Hearing the sound of the waves as they washed over the sand and rocks lulled me into a peaceful sleep and I awoke to the idyllic chirping of birds. Yep, that’s right. I could hear the birds. Ajman is pure, simple, and peaceful, and exactly what you might expect from a low-key beachside retreat.
WHERE TO UNWIND & ENJOY SUNDOWNERS
One of the best ways to ease yourself into relaxation mode is to visit Zanzi Bar. Set along the private shoreline with a 500-metre stretch of white fluffy sand just steps away, it’s an ideal place to grab a drink and let your mind wander. We spent the afternoon gazing out to the beach, lapping up the rays, and listening to the gentle crashing of the waves as we filled up on the most delicious lunch (I recommend the bento box!).
We were so into the relaxed, beach-y vibe that was reminiscent of actual Zanzibar (it’s completely understandable why they named the bar what they did!) that we stayed here until the early hours of the evening. There was no inclination to get dressed up and we weren’t in the mood to make any of the efforts that are usually involved when going out in Dubai.
WHERE TO HAVE SUPPER
Dinner was at the hotel’s organic Italian restaurant, Sabella’s. The restaurant has an open layout and was surprisingly quiet when we dined there, which is a shame because there’s so much potential. The tiled floor and widely spaced out tables, coupled with the lack of embellishments, made the restaurant in general feel very bare. Perhaps they were going for minimalism but instead, it just left me wanting for some foliage or yucca plants to fill things out and make it feel a bit more “alive”.
If the Kempinski Ajman team were to revamp the space to make it feel a bit more welcoming and a bit less bare, especially the outdoor space, it would really do the restaurant justice. Hey, guys, we’ll even come help you with the design! Give this place just a tiny bit of TLC, add some music, and I promise that you’ll see a great ROI!
The food, though, was what really made Sabella’s memorable.
The Gnocchi Pomodoro Basilico e Ricotta was lip-smackingly out of this world, as was the enthusiasm of Chef Andrea Giannini (loved him!).
In total, there are 12 different restaurants, cafés, and bars at the hotel, so you’re certainly not lacking for choice or cuisine. Executive Chef Michael Kreiling, a German national who has over 25 years of experience in hospitality, oversees all of the F&B operations. He’s worked all over the world in Michelin and 3AA Rosette restaurants and with major hotel brands including Andaz, Relais & Châteaux, and Hyatt. Chef Kreiling joined the Kempinski Ajman team in 2013 and his international experience is perfectly suited to the wide variety of eateries at the hotel.
Hai Tao serves authentic Chinese cuisine and if you’re in the mood for Indian food, you can head to Bukhara. Café on First offers lighter fare, like afternoon tea and late-night snacks if you’re feeling peckish, and for a nightcap and a cigar, 1897 Bar is where you’ll want to go!
THE MORNING AFTER
They have a brunch (or more like a boozy lunch) on Fridays which we didn’t make but if they promoted it in the right way, it would be so much fun! They’d have the perfect weekend package – brunch and bed, rolled into one. I’d be game for it, as would many of my UAE buddies!
TREAT YO’ SELF…AT THE SPA
Their spa is cosy and welcoming and a perfect way to unwind. Plus it touts one of the most acclaimed spa treatments— the HydraFacial MD. This treatment gives you that Hollywood-star glow with quick results (a blessing for the impatient!). Ladies, if you can, add this to your monthly beauty regimen checklist because although it’s a multistep procedure, it takes care of so many things.
Special treatments include a Couples Massage on the beach at sunset and Seasonal Massages, which can either rejuvenate your body after winter or prepare your mind and body for the summer heat.
Of course, I’d love to see a Girls’ Spa Weekend package of some sort because this hotel would be perfect for it!
The rooms come with all of your standard amenities like a flat-screen TV and coffee and tea, plus fabulous views (if you opt for the Sea View instead of the Laguna Poolside room). For guests staying in the suites, you can expect perks such as a complimentary mini bar and garment pressing, as well as early check-ins and late check-outs.
THINGS TO DO
If you’re in Ajman, then you’re most likely here to indulge in escapism. But if you do want do something other than lounge around whilst staring off into the sunset, hit up Cosmic Bowling. Located in the hotel, it’s the only licensed bowling alley in the UAE with 6 lanes, a karaoke room, and a dance floor! We went there around 11pm and it was PACKED. What a change of mood and tone from the lazy beach vibe we’d experienced earlier!
Nearby is the Al Zorah Golf Club, the highlight of Ajman with its 18-hole championship course by Nicklaus Design. You’ll see people from around the world coming to play on this course and, of course, the close proximity to the hotel (about a 10-minute drive) makes it super convenient.
EVENTS, EXTRAS, GOOD-TO-KNOWS
Keep your eyes open for various specials. Currently, they have a few packages, including the “Stay 3, Pay 2” which is valid until 26 December.
Also, UAE residents can receive a 15% discount on room rates (with a valid UAE ID card) and this special offer is on until 31 December.
All in all, a stay at Kempinski Ajman is about refined simplicity. No glitz, no glamour. Just pure, unadulterated seaside bliss where you can leave your city worries behind, even if only for the weekend.
Sheikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi Street, 3025 Ajman, UAE