Full disclosure, Sharjah was not on our radar as a prime destination for holiday retreats. However, after staying at the Chedi Al Bait, we have decided that it is a refuge worth returning to over and over and over again. History, beauty, culture, and luxury have all been wrapped up into one sanctuary hidden in the heart of Sharjah at this extraordinary heritage hotel.
A true escape into another world, it is the whisper of a time long gone yet not too far behind, an authentic immersion into the customs and traditions of this rich country, and a relaxing oasis for rejuvenation. Whether Sharjah has been on your radar or not is irrelevant, because the Chedi Al Bait certainly should be.
The Chedi al Bait is situated along the river in the old town of Sharjah and was built through renovations of former homes of the first founding families of the emirate, which is appropriate considering the word “bait” in Arabic means “home.” To enter the hotel, you walk through a maze of walls until it opens into the outdoor majlis. From there, you are ushered into an inner courtyard complete with a trickling fountain, low divans and couches, and trees. Each cluster of hotel rooms was originally the home of a prestigious family of Sharjah (and named after that family), so walking around the hotel is much like finding your way through a small village or community.
The Chedi Al Bait honors the history and culture of its location, while simultaneously introducing modern conveniences and upgrades throughout the property. Earthy and light colors throughout, local wood details, Arabic accents, history lessons, and a smorgasbord of local flavors, greenery, and experiences seem to be waiting around every turn. In addition to the communal swimming pool, there is a central restaurant (appropriately called ‘The Restaurant’) serving traditional food, a charming cafe (‘The Cafe’) with a delightful open-air courtyard to take your afternoon tea, and a beautiful library (you guessed it, ‘The Library’) housing history books, games, and various artifacts tied to local custom or Arabic origin and influence for you to explore and discover.
Savoir Flair had the pleasure of staying in a Grand Patio Suite, which had ample room for two adults and two children. The prominent wooden four-poster bed, with a mattress that felt like you were sinking into goose down, was pure bliss to fall into at night. The sitting area boasted Emirati charm, with small traditional elements, artifacts, and artwork throughout, neutral and calming colors, stone walls to keep in the cool air, as well as the original small windows, and every modern convenience you could want – like WiFi and a refrigerator full of goodies. It was comfortable, elegant, and was reminiscent of the past it had been built upon.
Location, Location, Location
However, if truth be told, it was not the room in which we found ourselves spending most of our time. Nor was it the cool oasis of a pool hidden in one of the courtyards. It was the city of Sharjah itself. As the Chedi Al Bait is situated directly in the area known as ‘The Heart of Sharjah’ and part of a huge renovation project by Shurooq, we found there was much to explore in the surrounding area that hit all the cultural sweet spots.
We experienced the ‘Heart of Sharjah’ tour where our guide was herself a descendant of one of the original families whose former home is now part of the hotel and heritage site. She spoke with pride as she guided us through her culture, her customs, her history, her past, and her future. We visited the home of Ibrahim Al Majid, the first person to print the news on paper and hang it in the town square for all to see. Our guide also highlighted the Chedi Al Bait’s unique circular wind tower near The Cafe – the only one of its kind still standing – built in the round shape simply because the owner wanted to do something different.
We were treated to a walk through the Sharjah Art Foundation to see new art, modern art, and past installations of art that are still growing – literally, a tree in an abandoned courtyard is involved. We found a secret garden surrounded by four walls and with a canopy of green – the community’s own little urban project that was like taking a step into a secret garden in a classic novel. We had a wander through the old souks – most of which are just a few steps from the hotel’s front door – and uncovered Arabic treasures, spices, photographs, artwork, and all kinds of interesting finds. We happened upon the apartment building whose southern façade has been turned into one of eLseed’s pieces of art, making it a national treasure rather than just another old building.
We even found ourselves wandering along the canal, watching the fishermen and dock workers on their boats, having a conversation with some local men in the local coffee shop outside the hotel, and fully feeling as if we were living in the true Sharjah and not a glitzy, shiny, replica of sorts.
Our one rule of thumb when staying anywhere is ‘Don’t Skip the Spa,’ and The Spa – it’s becoming predictable at this point – at the Chedi Al Bait is no exception. Separate male and female facilities – including reception areas – each side is fitted out with a luxurious relaxation lounge, hammam, steam and sauna, as well as a hot and cold plunge pool that is worth a dip or two. But nothing compares to the expert treatments. From scrubs to massages – you name it – they tailor the service to you and your needs at that time.
Not only does the Chedi Al Bait offer a respite from the everyday hustle and bustle, but it also opens its doors to welcome you into an authentic experience of Emirati culture, tradition, art, and hospitality. With its whisper of the past, elegance of the present, and convenience of the future, it is the ideal destination for anyone seeking that exceptional hidden gem.
For more information or to book a room at Chedi Al Bait, click here.