KarryOn Founder Matt Leedham checks in to one of Abu Dhabi’s urban sanctuaries for some Emirati spoiling in the heart of the capital

If you’re looking for an excellent stopover sanctuary, just minutes from everything in Abu Dhabi – The Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara could be your welcome oasis.

Thanks to the continued success and popularity of Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi has today become a trusted, efficient hub for Aussie travellers spring-boarding their way to Europe, the Middle East and beyond.

The rapidly expanding airport is also undergoing an exciting transformation with the golden city of Abu Dhabi and its growing list of experiences seemingly getting better and better.

The Louvre, Abu Dhabi

The Louvre, Abu Dhabi

From the recently opened Louvre Abu Dhabi to Ferrari World, the phenomenal Grand Mosque, Saadiyat Island, Emirates Palace, adventures in the desert, and incredible food, there’s so much to explore here and the list is building as a viable and more accessible cultural alternative to Dubai’s mega-sized everything.

Catching a flight back from Manchester, England to Australia recently, I stopped over for 18 hours in the palm city to warm up after the harsh extremities of Northern England (Yes winter had come and was well and truly staying) and enjoy a nanobreak before my onward flight home to Sydney.


One of the hotels many relaxing, public spaces

The elegant 222 room and suite Anantara East Mangroves is a very easy 15-minute zip down the highway from the airport and sits on the banks of a tranquil waterway and Mangrove plantation, looking towards the city which is only a 12-minute drive away. The stunning Grand Mosque is also just a 12-minute drive away.

It’s a peaceful, relaxing spot with all of the usual refined style and elegance of you’d expect from an Anantara property, thoughtfully blended with Emirati warmth and staff hospitality that will make you feel like a billionaire, even when (clearly in my case) you’re not.


Stunning design with Arabic influence

Arriving blurry eyed and slightly away with the fairies after an overnight flight, my check-in at 6 am was surprisingly one of the best ever.

A warm “Good morning Mr Leedham” whilst the formalities were taken care of from the comfort of a sleep-inducing, plush sofa, a cool face towel, a plate of sweet, sticky dates and an ice cold, sugary juice. And best of all – my room was ready.

Ten minutes later I was in my boardies and floating in the large, deliciously warm outdoor infinity pool and feeling alive once more, before heaving myself out onto a plush, towel-covered sun lounger where I promptly fell asleep.


Waking a little while later and feeling hungry, I hit the breakfast buffet which was huge and impressive with all cuisines covered. I chomped on all manner of goodies including heavenly hummus and Babaganoush with freshly baked, warm fresh pittas, crunchy cucumbers, pain aux raisins, coffee and a spicy six-egg omelette with Middle Eastern spices.

Then it was back to the sun lounger for another dreamy snooze before some kind soul woke me to tell me it was time for my Anantara signature Hamman massage in the beautiful spa.

Ah yes.


The Hammam Treatment Room

If you’ve never experienced a traditional Turkish Hammam massage all I will say is – make sure you do at least once in your life.

This is an orgasmic six step ritual that lasts for 100 minutes, includes 53 traditional Turkish elements and incorporates an array of organic, detoxifying body treatments that leave you feeling cleansed, nourished and essentially re-born.


A Couple Suite in the spa

You can also choose from an array of indigenous treatments, from Middle Eastern traditions to Thailand’s exotic remedies. There are 15 treatment rooms in total including 3 couple’s suites, 2 Vichy shower rooms as well as 2 private Hammam rooms and separate sauna and steam rooms in the spa.

I’d go as far to say that my Hammam treatment was an out of body experience of which once I was in the ‘relaxation’ room post massage, robed up and sipping mint tea on yet another coma-inducing chair, I felt like I was literally in another world.


Kasara Executive Mangroves Balcony Room

I stayed on the Club Floor in a Kasara Executive Mangroves Balcony Room, but all of the designer styled rooms are huge in size and impeccably fitted out. Large bathrooms, the comfiest, massive beds and all the mod cons you need.

And most of all – true peace and quiet.

The Club Lounge floor also gives you access to the Kasara Executive Lounge where you can enjoy complimentary food and drinks from 6.30am – 11 pm daily as well as a range of VIP concierge and business benefits, late checkouts and even daily goodnight surprises that staff will put in your room.

Whilst the hotel is close to the airport, you wouldn’t know it and don’t hear a thing aircraft wise. All of the rooms look out over the waterway and lush Mangroves below and the glittering city in the distance.


Take time out to sip tea…

Later in the evening after a couple of sundowners in the Club Lounge, it was time for me to head out back to the airport. Another bonus of this hotel – it’s so close and you’ll be there in fifteen minutes.

My parting view was that of locals and tourists sitting out by the pool area, socialising and eating dinner with some smoking shisha pipes with the sound of the Oud playing on what was a balmy Abu Dhabi evening.

TIP: This is a great hotel option for anyone but especially families en-route to Europe as check-in is 24 hours and it’s a quiet property that has everything you need.

DEAL: Etihad Airways offer a 2 for 1 accommodation stopover deal, so you can stay for two nights for the price of one. The price per person for 2 nights plus breakfast is from US$171 / approximately $220 AUD.

For more information click here.

Have you stayed at the Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara, Abu Dhabi before? Share your thoughts below.