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.


Veteran singer Majida El-Roumi’s first magazine cover sends ‘a love letter to Lebanon’

The renowned soprano’s Vogue Arabia cover her first magazine shoot in her 45-year-long career. (Getty)
Updated 04 June 2020

Veteran singer Majida El-Roumi’s first magazine cover sends ‘a love letter to Lebanon’

DUBAI: Life in Lebanon is tough, with economic struggles, political protests and a pandemic, no one can be in any doubt that anyone living there faces daily challenges.

But that hasn’t stopped legendary Lebanese singer Majida El-Roumi pushing a message of hope.

The renowned soprano, famous for her hits “Kalimat,” “Ana Am Behlam” and “Sahrit Eid,” is featured on this month’s Vogue Arabia cover – her first magazine shoot in her 45-year-long career.

“The artist’s role is more important than a politician,” the music sensation told the publication. “An artist should call for unity, independence, and freedom of his country. This is their true duty.”

“What I care about is to stand by my human brothers, live their pain, and wipe their tears. This is my true joy,” El-Roumi explained.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

@voguearabia ・・・ Majida El Roumi is one of the most prolific icons of the Arab world, but prefers to focus on her mission rather than on awards and ovations. With her voice, she chants for the people. “The role of an artist is more important than a politician,” she tells us. “Artists should call for unity, independence, and freedom for their countrymen. This is their true duty.” Don’t miss our Love Letter to Lebanon issue, which focuses on supporting the creative and humanitarian communities affected during these post-revolution and Covid-19 times. Cover 2 of 2 #VogueArabia #VogueLovesLebanon #Lebanon لا يختلف اثنان على أن النجمة ماجدة الرومي تعدّ من ألمع أيقونات الفن العربي، وإلى جانب مكانتها الفنيّة، تركز أسطورة الغناء على نشر رسالتها الإنسانية أكثر من سعيها وراء نيل الجوائز والتكريمات. وبصوتها الشجي وأغانيها العذبة، تعبّر النجمة الكبيرة عن الناس بصدق. وترى ماجدة الرومي أن "دور الفنان أهم من دور السياسي، فالفنان يجب أن ينادي بوحدة وطنه واستقلاليته وحريته وهذا واجبه الحقيقي". احرصوا على اقتناء عددنا الجديد الذي نبعث من خلاله بـ"رسالة حبّ إلى لبنان"، كما ندعم المجتمعات الإبداعية والإنسانية التي تضررت بعد الثورة وكذلك بفعل جائحة فيروس كورونا المستجد "كوفيد-19". #ڤوغ_العربية #ڤوغ_تحتفي_بلبنان #لبنان @awadelroumi ‎ #magidaelroumi #magida #MajidaElRoumi #magida_el_roumi #vogue #lebanon #voguemagazine #ڤوغ_العربية #لبنان #ماجدة_الرومي #ڤوغ_تحتفي_بلبنان Editor in Chief: @mrarnaut | Photography: @sandra.chidiac | Style : @aminejreissaty | Makeup: @bassamfattouh | Hair: @joeraad @joeraadhc | Production: @marianawehbepr assisted by @marwadarazi (Lebanon), @beats.love.lipstick (Dubai) | Words: @nadineelchaer | Shot on location at La Residence des Pins

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When addressing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the singer said: “I advocate for Lebanon to exercise sovereignty, dignity, and prestige on its land, and I call for confederation. Why shouldn’t there be a United States of Lebanon?”

El-Roumi shared a video on Wednesday on Instagram to tease her 120,000 followers with the issue. In the clip, she was seen – in her glamorous dresses – walking down the aisles of Lebanon’s Résidence Des Pins, saying: “It is difficult to summarise Lebanon in a few words. I wondered: ‘What should I say to gather all my thoughts.’”

In an interview with Lebanon’s TV channel El-Jadeed, El-Roumi said: “This is the one of the best things I’ve done in my life.”

“Today Lebanon is going through a tough period, but that will not be the case tomorrow,” she added. “Life does not go in a straight line. There are ups and downs. We are in a ‘down’ now, but tomorrow we will be stand stand back up.”    

The star, who has been a UN FAO Goodwill Ambassador since 2001, wore royal-like dresses by international celebrity-loved Lebanese designers Goerges Hobeika and Zuhair Murad.

El-Roumi’s Hobeika dress was a coral-colored cascading chiffon gown and her Zuhair Murad dress was a white lace caftan with the country’s flag loosely attached at the shoulder.

Both designers took to their social media accounts to share pictures of the magazine cover, noting they were proud to be part of a project that honored their country.