Al Bait Hotel brings Sharjah’s heritage into modern world

Step into Sharjah’s newly opened Al Bait hotel and you will leave the snaking traffic behind for a tranquil oasis of old worldly charm. (Supplied)
Updated 26 September 2019

Al Bait Hotel brings Sharjah’s heritage into modern world

DUBAI: Restored with the help of UNESCO experts, the resort consists of four heritage houses and a new section built along similar lines.

The five-star hotel stays true to its history: sand-colored walls, impressive carved doors and statement walls dotted with corals — a nod to traditional Emirati homes.

Step inside and you glide over polished cement floors, with custommade rugs. Far from being staid, the interiors pay homage to the past without falling into the dusty doldrums of museum showcases.

And speaking of museums, the hotel has a small-but-fascinating one on site, which even features a room that once housed the city’s first post office. (There’s no shisha lounge, due to the emirate’s strict laws, so you have to scale down your entertainment expectations.)

Step outside and you are greeted by a rare circular wind tower restored by the same team that worked on the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. A little further afield is the Heart of Sharjah, a culturalheritage project that aims to preserve and restore the old town, including the oldest souk in the UAE — Souk Al-Arsah — which backs directly onto the hotel.

After a day of wandering, it’s time to head to one of the hotel’s 53 rooms, all of which are decked out with modern amenities and four-poster beds fit for a princess.

The culturally sensitive hotel offers a female butler service, which we took advantage of in our Al Bait Grand Suite, featuring a kitchenette, dining area, majlis, a large bedroom and two bathrooms. Organic treats filled the fridge and a large copper bath stood sentry in the grand main bathroom.

The only real complaint was the relatively weak water pressure in the tiled shower — everybody needs a hot power shower after a tough day of tourism.

The hotel is home to four dining concepts: The Restaurant, The Arabic Restaurant, The Café and The Ice Cream Shop.

The Café’s specialty is a woodland-themed board filled to the brim with snackable treats — from shredded chicken buns and halloumi-filled mini croissants to delightful chocolate mousses and a soft, fleshy mango tart. It’s called the Afternoon Tray and it’s certainly worth it — and not just for the Instagram-worthiness.

The hotel is staunchly antibuffet — so no cold-around-theedges starters or gelatinous piles of pasta, instead guests can enjoy dinner at The Arabic Restaurant and breakfast in the lighter, airier The Restaurant.

Although I would have loved to see more Emirati fare on the dinner menu, since the hotel is a celebration of all things local, the options were varied and ranged from Levantine cuisine to North African treats.

Breakfast featured the usual suspects, with a few decadent additions including a steak-andeggs dish that delighted my dining partner, as well as a plate of unusual charcuterie including duck meat that was well worth a nibble.

After a leisurely breakfast it was time to head to The Spa. And the experience did not disappoint.

The compact, tastefully decorated space houses massage rooms with private bathtub, shower, changing room and toilet) and the spa includes a sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and cold plunge pool, all of which are located in a private area.

 I chose from an array of house-blended oils for The Spa’s signature Balinese massage with a therapist who paid careful attention to my specific needs and applied just the right amount of pressure for a relaxing experience.

Although Al Bait has to contend with Sharjah’s infamous traffic, inside, it’s a bubble of quiet comfort. Friendly staff and fascinating history make this hotel stand out.

Indian label Two Point Two makes catwalk debut at LFW

Founder of Two Point Two Anvita Sharma presented her first catwalk show outside of India this week. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2020

Indian label Two Point Two makes catwalk debut at LFW

LONDON: “Two Point Two is a genderless, anti-conformist, all-inclusive brand. We don’t cater to any particular gender or any particular size,” declared designer Anvita Sharma at London Fashion Week’s Fashion Scout.

Some might say packing all that into a dress is a pretty big challenge, but this is something she clearly believes in.

This is Two Point Two’s first runway show outside India. (Supplied)

“We believe in diversity, independence and confidence and we support individuals who want to be as loud or mellow as possible. So we have a huge variety of colors, silhouettes and details,” she said.

Sharma, who studied at Istituto Marangoni in Milan and Paris, is a rising talent. Last year she won the third edition of “Scouting for India,” a global project developed by Vogue Talents in collaboration with FAD International Academy and FAD Institute of Luxury Fashion & Style.

The collection used wool and wool felt, shot cotton and wool and some Giza cottons for the shirts and dresses. (Supplied)

Her win included the opportunity to showcase her Spring/Summer 2020 collection at the Palazzo Cusani within the exhibition celebrating Vogue Talent’s 10th anniversary during Milan Fashion Week.

This week, amid the hectic backstage preparations for her Fashion Scout showing, she found the time to talk to Arab News, running us through her color palette and fabrics.

“We have a mix of neutrals and pastels as well as vibrant reds. Some shades are often categorized as either feminine or masculine, so we want to amalgamate both of them to say that colors are not supposed to be associated with any particular gender, color or race,” she explained.

The color palette was a mix of neutrals and pastels as well as vibrant reds. (Supplied)

“For fabrics, we have mostly used wool and wool felt, shot cotton and wool and some Giza cottons for the shirts and dresses. We have also done a lot of hand embroidery. One coat took four weeks to hand embroider,” she said.

The production for Two Point Two is based in Delhi.

For her next collection, Sharma is going to work with craft clusters of Indian women weavers based in the mountain city of Kullu, capital of the Kullu district in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

She has a track record of being supportive of hand crafts — evident in her previous collections.

The production for Two Point Two is based in Delhi. (Supplied)

“Last season, we did handwoven fabrics of cotton and silk from another region in India. Now Two Point Two wants to bring different, dying crafts of India to an international audience,” she explained.

Commenting on her increasingly high profile, she said: “It’s very frantic and because I’m a perfectionist it really gets to me at times. I am happy to be here because it is London Fashion Week. This is our first runway show outside India — so we are very excited.”