- Or…How I Learned To Accept I Have Two Toddlers and Love 5am Wake Up Calls
So, we packed the car up and set off early on day 1. We wanted to get to Jebel Dhanna by 2pm. The road from Al Khobar to the Saudi-UAE border was amazing. Such an interesting landscape to drive through. Al Khobar/Dammam is not the prettiest city in the world but it’s harsh architecture and power lines soon gave way to desert, surprisingly green for this time of year due to the amount of rain we have had this winter. The sand dunes grew larger and more impressive as we neared Hofuf and the number of camel herds we spotted increased. Arthur and Eirlys loved spotting the babies amongst the groups.
After Hofuf the land became starker and was more frequently dotted with building sites, but the sand also turned a fantastic white with salt as we neared the sea. Driving was fairly smooth for this first part and Arthur and Eirlys were happy with their snacks (Arthur made the most of our desperation to keep them amused in the back by eating an impressive four pain au chocolat).
The Saudi-UAE border was smooth and quick, thankfully and we headed towards Ruwais. A good two hours+ into our journey now and we were regretting teaching the children to chant “road trip!”
We finally pulled in to the Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort and were given a fantastic welcome. Cold towels, watermelon juice and we were whisked into a beautiful little chalet opening out onto the beachfront. Ruwais is an oil town so the majority of guests work there, are on business, or are travelling through and you can see the oil refinery off in the distance. However, the resort is lovely; less glitzy than similar resorts in Dubai, but peaceful, well maintained and the staff were absolutely fantastic. Lunch and breakfast at Tides (their buffet option) was also surprisingly delicious. These all you can eat options can often merge into one in the Middle East, but this one was well thought out, fresh and yummy! We enjoyed the pool, the beach, Tom and I had an amazing massage…well and truly on holiday.
The night time was a bit less idyllic. Arthur and Eirlys are used to a fairly strict routine and 6pm bedtime, in their own room. So, an 8pm bedtime in the same bed, in the same room as us was a bit chaotic to say the least. Then, after the restless night, they woke up at 5am! Bleurgh!
Luckily, some more pool time and an amazing boat cruise over to Sir Baniyas Island made up for it. The children enjoyed the ride and our captain stopped to point out various birds and even showed us Rock Hyrax leaping across the rocks on the island’s coast.
Then it was time to get back in the car. The E11 is horrendously boring and was made slower by roadworks, so not exactly a fun drive. Snacks, Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig (the holy trinity of keeping your kids quiet) and we made it to Emirates Park Zoo in Abu Dhabi. This was a stop for the kids really although sitting out on our terrace right next to the giraffes and zebras was pretty cool. Only downside to this was that it was a pretty pricey stay and even though there is the benefit of a sitting room (with sofa bed) the rooms really could do with a remodel. You are definitely paying for proximity to the animals. It turned out to be a great time to visit the zoo as there were plenty of baby animals around, upping the cute factor considerably! Arthur just wanted to look at monkeys bums though and compare size and redness…
So, day 3 and back in the car for the trek to Hatta. We decided to pull in and stop in Dubai for a quick memory lane run round Dubai Mall (Aquarium, Dubai Dino, Cheesecake Factory) which resulted in the standard: I need to take that exit – no that exit – not that one – shit it was that one – I fucking know it was now it’s too late…
Anyway…kids enjoyed the fish and fossils, tempers were thawed by disgustingly calorific food and we hit the road again.
Watching the countryside change on the road from Dubai to Hatta was brilliant. Sand dunes changed from yellow to red, then rocky hills appeared, slowly growing in size and dotted with oasis. Finally the google maps lady (she can be in charge now) informed us we had arrived and we pulled in to the JA Hatta Fort Hotel. Which is pretty stunning. The fairly recent remodel has left the rooms looking fantastic. The hotel itself blends in beautifully with the surrounding greenery and mountain landscape and the facilities are fabulous. We were also welcomed wonderfully by the staff who quickly brought refreshments for us and toys for the kids.
That’s the first three days done then! Arthur and Eirlys are asleep on the sofa bed and Tom and I are enjoying a gin and tonic and cheesecake on the balcony, while I type this and he looks up a plan for tomorrow. The blackout curtains look good, the children are knackered out so, fingers crossed, here’s to a good night’s sleep.