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During Christmas I always try to visit a sunny destination, and the UAE is pretty much guaranteed to have sun all day long, as well as a nice temperature. During previous visits, I had always opted for Dubai or Ras al Khaimah, however due to the developments in Abu Dhabi with new sights to see, I booked a trip to the capital.
Compared to Dubai, Abu Dhabi is generally also cheaper – both accommodation and flights. There are various areas in Abu Dhabi where hotels are concentrated. Yas Island and Saadiyat Island are located further from the city. In the area around the Corniche, in the city centre, there are, for example, the Intercontinental, St. Regis and Sheraton.
To stay in a relatively tranquil area but still be close to the city, the Shangri-La Qaryat al Beri caught my eye. This hotel is located between the airport and the city centre, right next to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The view of the Mosque is also one of the hotel’s USPs.
Luxury Circle Rate
Normally I try to book a hotel which is part of a loyalty programme I have elite status with. This way you can get more value out of your stay. Nevertheless, there is a way to receive special benefits at Shangri-La hotels without having elite status – namely by booking the Luxury Circle Rate. This is only possible through certain travel agents. As part of this rate you will receive:
- Upgrade to the next room type category, confirmed at the time of booking
- Hotel credit of $100 USD (50 at some hotels), per stay
- Complimentary full breakfast for two, including in-room dining
- Welcome amenity
- Early check-in and late check-out, subject to availability
Additionally, there was a promotion with a 4th night free. Together with the breakfast, upgrade and 100 USD dining credit this was a great deal for Christmas and better than what you would be able to book online!
I booked this rate for two standard rooms through Ford of The Travel Society (known from OneMileAtATime). A day after the booking, both rooms were upgraded to a Premier Room measuring 67 square meters (compared with 45m2 in the standard Deluxe room). Do note that the Premier Rooms only come with a King bed.
Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri
The Shangri-La is located between the airport and the city, in the Al Maqta area opposite the Grand Mosque. From the Sofitel on the Corniche, we took a taxi to the hotel. The reception of the hotel is not located on the ground floor, so the driveway went up to the third floor. While the bellman took our bags, we proceeded to reception where we were immediately assisted.
Upon entry we were offered a cup of Arabic coffee and, during the check-in formalities, also got a cold towel and refreshing welcome drink. After receiving some more explanation on the hotel’s facilities, we went to our room on the 4th floor.
The hotel is a bit dated, but I liked the local, authentic design in both the public spaces and rooms.
Upon entry I was impressed by the large room. After a small entry way, the sleeping area with a King bed was on the left. Opposite was a dresser with TV, minibar, kettle etc. However there was no Nespresso or similar coffee machine. Powdered coffee in a non-base room in a five-star hotel is nowadays not acceptable in my opinion.
There was also a seating area with two chairs and a table. The welcome amenity was already waiting – a fruit platter for being a Golden Circle member and a plate of sweets as part of the Luxury Circle rate. Shortly after arriving, a pot of tea was delivered as part of a tea ceremony, related to the Chinese characteristics of the brand.
Double sliding doors led to the, also very spacious, bathroom with separate tub, walk-in shower and separate toilet. The amenities were Shangri-La branded.
The bathroom had two entries. On the other side was a dressing room with closet space and safe.
In-between this dressing room and the main area there was a small working space with a desk.
So, there was certainly plenty of space. There was also a balcony with a table and chairs, which overlooked one of the pools and the mosque.
The view, especially during sunset, was gorgeous! Unfortunately there is construction going on on the other side of the waterway which may block the view in the near future. That would be a shame!
Housekeeping was excellent. Every night a turndown service was provided, complete with a date on the pillow. Almost every time we left the room, it was refreshed when we came back. Housekeeping was also generous with amenities, bottled water etc. and on Christmas Eve a box of chocolates was provided as well.
Pool and beach
As is visible in one of the photos above, there was a small pool in one of the hotel wings. As this pool was in the shade the majority of the day, it was quite cold there.
The main, heated, infinity pool is located in the extension of the main restaurant and the lobby. The sunbeds were placed quite tightly together as the poolbar and part of the outdoors restaurant is also next to the pool area.
There are two beach areas. The service on the beach was excellent – when you arrive the staff makes up the sunbeds and provide a box with cold water. During the day the staff also come by with cold towels, fruit and even to clean your sunglasses!
Restaurants and facilities
The main restaurant is Sofra Bld on the first floor. Here, breakfast and dinner are served in buffet form. There is both seating inside and outside. In December the temperature in the morning was nice enough to sit outside. The service in general was good, though the coffee was a let down.
The food selection during breakfast was enormous. Next to the standard continental items, there was a made-to-order noodle station, an area with Arabic and Emirati dishes, Indian items and various hot Western items. Waffles, pancakes, crêpes, egg dishes and fresh Arabic bread could be made on request. There was even an ice cream counter and chocolate fountain during breakfast.
A downside of the humongous variety was the quality. Many items were laying out for a long time which degraded the taste.
Next to Sofra Bld the hotel’s signature restaurants are Shang Palace for Chinese cuisine and Hoi An for Vietnamese. In the hotel there was also Bord Eau for French fine dining. The lobby also boasted a bar and cafe. If you stay here, definitely sign up for the loyalty programme of Shangri-La called Golden Circle because this rewards you with a 25% discount at the hotel’s food and beverage outlets!
Our hotel credit was spent on the seafood night at Sofra. Again, the selection was huge but the quality not really excellent.
Of course there is a spa, fitness and business center. In the latter one has to pay for use of the printer, which I find odd in a five-star hotel.
Qaryat al Beri complex
Around the hotel there is not much to do as it is surrounded by residential buildings and embassies. As well as the Shangri-La hotel, the Qaryat al Beri complex encompasses the Shangri-La Residences (apartments for a longer stay), the Souk Qaryat al Beri and sister hotel Traders. These are all located along the beach so offer a nice opportunity for a stroll. In the Souk there are a couple of restaurants and cafes, including Starbucks, a supermarket and some shops. As a guest of the Shangri-La you can also make use of the facilities of the Traders hotel. If you choose to eat or drink there, the bill can be added to your room.
The facilities are also connected through a man-made canal which is inspired by Venice. You can take a boat, based on the traditional abra – to get to the other side.
Next to the Qaryat al beri complex is the Fairmont hotel, which offers a couple of restaurants as well. Otherwise, you will have to take a taxi if you want to dine somewhere else.