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Visiting the Mercure Resort at Jebel Hafeet in Abu Dhabi
The UAE and Abu Dhabi is one of the unique places in the world, where the indigenous population is just about 15% and the rest of the population are expatriates mostly from the sub-continent. This 15% enjoys the highest per capita income and living standards in the world. The expatriate populace is also well looked after and all around one can say that this nation is a land of milk and honey. This has been made possible by the oil boom, which has transformed this arid desert into one of the most affluent places on this planet.
At many places the ruling elite, which is pragmatic and progressive have built resorts and towns that are the envy of the world. One such resort situated high in the Jebel Hafeet Mountains, is an absolute delight. It mirrors the progressive attitude of the Abu Dhabi government, which is completely shorn of Islamic rhetoric.
The Jebel Hafeet Mountains are the highest range in the UAE and have been built by time ordeal geological movements. The mountains at one time were inaccessible, but now one of the finest mountain roads has been built, that winds up from the green plains of Al Ain to the resort. As one drives up in the car up, the view below is breathtaking and the resort looks down on the plains below.
The Mercure resort is about 100 miles from Abu Dhabi and reaching it is easy, either in taxi or a bus. The road system in Abu Dhabi is exceptional and reaching the resort is easy enough. As one climbs up, there are numerous spots where you can park your car and take a rest. These resting stops overlook the plains below.
The road and all the paraphernalia associated with it are built on the sweat of workers from India and Pakistan, who toiled day and night. I had a feeling a small placard or stone slab commemorating these workers would have been a good idea.
The road leads straight to the resort which is located at a height of almost 5000 ft.
The Resort is an opulent five star luxury abode. It has a lovely bar, swimming pool and indoor gymnasium. The food is superb and caters to all tastes. The place is frequented by westerners and Americans who seem to like the place a lot.
I drove in to the resort with my American girl friend and she was taken in first by the breathtaking drive up the mountains and then by the grandeur of the resort itself. We went in January and this is the winter month and chilly winds sweep the resort. This however adds to its allure as with a chilly wind blowing one can still enjoy a dip in the heated swimming pool.
The swimming pool unlike pools in India and Europe allow women in Burkha to dive in. They have a separate enclosure for them and one can see them splashing in the pool. But the laws of gravity have their own master and in the water many a time a Burkha will float up, revealing a pair of the loveliest legs of the Arab women. Wonder, why they keep them covered.
The bar is the place and we doused scotch whiskey together and then we were in for a surprise as at 930 pm sharp the lights were dimmed and we were treated to an Arab specialty, the belly dance. It's great fun to sit with your girl along with a peg of Chivas and savor the belly dance.
The rooms in the resort are luxurious and the staff mostly expatriates from India and Egypt look after you very well. The best place is to sit by the pool with the icy wind blowing and look down and see the bright lights of Al Ain town. This is the green belt of Abu Dhabi and once was part of the Great Arabian desert.
The resort has 124 suites and about 5 eating outlets. The best place is the Eden Rock View or Terrace Restaurant by the side of the pool. It gives a lovely view of the plains below and the shimmering lights of al-Ain.
Then there is Le Belvedere. This is a restaurant serving French and Mediterranean food along with authentic Italian and Moroccan food. This is a favorite of Americans and Europeans. For others, there is the Orient cafe. This serves Indian and Chinese food along with local Arab cuisine.
Not forgetting the bar which has a sumptuous array of snacks to go along with drinks. There is no Night Club in the accepted sense and no strip joint as these things detract from the fun of a resort. It is a place for good and healthy entertainment and a wonderful place for a tryst with a beloved or a plain holiday with family and friends.
At midnight if the mood seizes you one can drive a further 1000 ft. above the resort to a small man-made plateau overlooking the plains. Here there are some small eating joints and with the icy wind blowing it is a great place to have a cup of hot coffee huddled with a friend or a girl in your arms.
This place is like the Garden of Eden and one hopes it stays this way. The situation in other parts of the Middle East is volatile and the UAE is itself involved in a battle against militants in Yemen. It is an ally of Saudi Arabia against the Shia Houthi rebels. I hope there is no spillover and this idyllic resort remains an oaisis of peace.