The UAE is rich in culture and heritage.
But, while luxury suites, opulent lobbies and stunning infinity pools are found in abundance, I feel that few hotels reflect the nation’s fascinating history and unique landscape.
That’s where Erth Abu Dhabi stands out.
Here, everything from the décor to the ingredients and recipes in the restaurants to the flora and fauna growing in the gardens is distinctively Emirati and authentic to the UAE. Even the word ‘Erth’ translates to mean ‘legacy’ in Arabic.
Formerly the Armed Forces Officers Club, it first opened in 1997. Over the last few years, it has undergone a thorough revamp and in February it reopened with more than 200 brand new rooms, multiple villas and a shiny new pool and beach club.
When I say that it’s enormous, I mean that it’s roughly the size of a small village.
Driving through the complex we pass multiple sports pitches and courts, a running track, a helipad and various event spaces. The onsite Etizan Fitness center boasts huge mixed and ladies-only gyms, an Olympic-sized indoor pool, a bowling alley, a shooting club and every other indoor and outdoor sports facility you could imagine. It’s the biggest and most well-equipped gym I’ve ever seen in the UAE. Perhaps only The Bridge at Al Qana can rival it.
We love the gym so much we go twice during our one-night stay. It’s buzzing with members on both occasions, and classes such as beach yoga and bootcamps are also available throughout the week.
In fact, anyone into sports and fitness could easily stay for a whole week at Erth without getting bored. Squash, Padel, tennis, track and field, basketball, and Jiu Jitsu are just a few of the other activities available. Even on the beach, the staff are keen to get you involved with good-natured volleyball games. Kayak tours to the hotel’s private mangrove forests (which up until now were inaccessible to the public) will be launched very soon.
Al Waryah Pool & Beach is another clear highlight. Open to hotel and outside guests, its 350m stretch of soft white sand is perhaps even more beautiful than the pristine shores of Saadiyat.
Completed with a beautiful circular-shaped swimming pool, a swim up bar, stylish cabanas and a choice of watersports, it’s definitely on its way to becoming one of the most popular beach spots in Abu Dhabi.
Inside, the rooms and suites are chic, minimalist and decorated in earthy, desert-like tones. Adding an extra nod to the emirate’s heritage, the design is completed with little details such as lampshades made from traditional weaved Emirati baskets.
I like that it’s all understatedly luxurious, and not too gaudy or flashy like some of the country’s other top-end hotels.
Given the massive size of the complex, it takes us a while to get the hang of where everything is. You can order a golf buggy to take you to the various on-site restaurants, but we found walking around the vast corridors of the ‘old’ part added to our enjoyment. Filled with military photos and uniforms that date back to the very early days of the UAE, the place has real character.
Breakfast is held directly opposite the gym at Al Rimal restaurant. Alongside the extensive choice of mezze (including some particularly amazing zaatar and olive labneh) and Emirati breakfast recipes, there’s plenty of genuinely healthy options such as thick natural Greek yoghurt, homemade, unsweetened granola packed with dried fruits and seeds, fresh fruits, egg-white omelettes and more. Filled with members and guests in sports gear, it further confirmed our feeling that the hotel is somewhat of a hub for the local sporting community.
Picturesque pool bar Asrah showcases regional specialties with dishes like delicious Emirati quinoa salad, and baby cos salad with Gulf shrimps or Al Ain chicken. The shrimp tempura and salt and pepper calamari are truly excellent, too. Savoring a leisurely lunch in one of the shaded cabanas, all while admiring the spectacular views of the dazzling blue Arabian Gulf, was a truly wondrous experience.
Finally, if you fancy a nightcap, watching a bit of sport or treating yourself to some sophisticated bar bites like spicy beef anticuchos or juicy Wagyu burgers, cool and casual bar Ramsa provides lots to love.
Completed with a live DJ, big screens, a pretty outdoor terrace and signature sumac, pistachio and date-infused cocktails, the quality of everything we try is exceptional, and all very reasonably priced.
A haven for sport lovers and those who like their staycations to be infused with local culture, Erth is unlike anywhere else in the seven emirates.
Rates start from Dh1,150 per night. Day passes to Al Waryah Pool & Beach start from Dh199 for weekdays, including Dh100 F&B credit. For bookings visit erth.ae.
Harriet Shephard is an Abu Dhabi-based copywriter and freelance journalist with a particular focus on fitness, travel and lifestyle, which, along with good food, also happen to be her main passions when she's not typing away at her laptop.