Rahim Kanani

History Meets Modernity: The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal

Rahim Kanani
History Meets Modernity: The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal

Surrounding our luxury Abu Dhabi beach hotel are iconic attractions including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, beautiful beaches and cultural institutions,” explained Alexander Sell, Hotel Manager of the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal. In an interview, we discussed the history of the property, regional design and culinary influences, specialty suites and signature spa treatments, and much more.

Tell me a little bit about the history and location of the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal.

Abu Dhabi, the largest of UAE’s seven emirates, was a fishing village known regionally for its pearl trade just 50 years ago.  Today, luxury and style are infused with traditional values of hospitality and culture, and make this dynamic city a draw for over 2 million visitors annually.  Made up of 200 small islands, Abu Dhabi’s stunning beaches, expansive desert and lush oases provide a venue for exhilarating adventure or tranquil retreat while the old souks and majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – recently named one of the world’s top visitor attractions – offer an intimate look into Arabian culture.

With over 200 natural islands, more than 400 kilometres of pristine coastline, tranquil oases, rich cultural heritage and modern cityscapes, Abu Dhabi offers a diversity of experiences. Visitors can tour former palaces and forts, visit the world’s third largest mosque, renovated oases, desert camps and experience falconry, camel trekking and Arabia’s famed hospitality.

Inspired by 15th to early 17th century Renaissance architecture and the urban planning of the city of Venice, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal is located in front of the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque along the sandy shores of the historic Al Maqta creek and consists of ten stately buildings arranged in a crescent formation. The property features 360 luxurious guestrooms and 87 suites, in addition to 53 garden suites, 28 garden houses and 4 plunge pool villas.

What makes the Ritz-Carlton Suites and the Royal Suites so unique and luxurious, and how have you balanced local and regional design influences with a more modern touch?

Drawing inspiration from the 15th to early 17th century Renaissance architecture and the urban planning of the city of Venice, the designers seamlessly incorporated the grand Venetian classical architecture into a landscape of the rolling sand dunes of the Arabian desert pierced with countless minarets. From the imposing entrance arch with a cobble-stone pathway leading up to the porte-cochère, to classical horizontal bands and ornamental entablatures of the hotel’s 10 main buildings, the effect of arriving at a Venetian palazzo is multiplied by the classical fountains scattered around the 57 acre property.

Capturing spectacular views of the Grand Canal beach and the 1,600-square-meter (17,222 square foot) outdoor swimming pool, the signature Royal Suite is located on the top floor of one of the property’s ten interconnected buildings. It occupies 250 square meters (2,700 square feet) of the entire floor and comes with an adjacent security room. An elegantly appointed master bedroom connects to a regal bathroom featuring Italian-inspired wood inlays and semi-precious stones in the flooring and counter tops, epitomizing understated luxury and refined comfort. In keeping with the Venetian theme of the hotel, the indigo and gold floral mosaic is inspired by acanthus leaf motive, a medicinal plant often found in interior design and architecture of the 15th to 17th century Renaissance in Italy.

In terms of dining, what are some of your favorite dishes and drinks across the different restaurants and bars at the hotel?

The culinary journey at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi is about more than just food.  It begins in the intricate detail of the unique design from award-winning Super Potato and carries through to each ingredient selected for the menus developed to suit even the most discerning palate. Giornotte, the hotel’s all-day dining Italian restaurant, features a lovely outdoor terrace overlooking the gardens; The Forge, steak and seafood restaurant, offers specialty cuisine in a stylish and contemporary setting; the Middle Eastern restaurant Mijana showcases the very best in the region’s cooking, and Li Jiang, the Asian restaurant, will whet the appetite for all things spicy, authentic and Oriental. For those who enjoy a more casually luxurious experience, there is Al Fresco, a breezy pool and beach restaurant, two poolside bars, and a Lobby Lounge and bar, all of which offer guests a great selection of drinks and bite-sized meals.

The Forge, one of the hotel’s three signature restaurants, features a menu boasting premium beef from the countries renowned for top-quality produce: USDA Prime Beef, Australian Gold Angus Beef, Australian Wagyu Beef, Australian Master Kobe Beef, Canadian Beef, French Charolais Beef, Spanish Iberico Beef, Irish Beef, and Argentinean Beef. The restaurant introduced dry aged beef to its menu (12 days dry aged Spanish Iberico tenderloin and 21 days dry aged Irish T-bone.) The process evaporates the beef’s moisture from the muscle resulting in a greater concentration of flavour and taste and a tender texture.

How would you describe the design and decor of the spa, and what kinds of signature treatments would you recommend to guests?

The spa’s design concept is a contemporary take on Bedouin Culture, inspired directly from their use of colors, textures and most notably their metal works in jewelry. The spa blends both nuances and formal geometry of the past with organic forms and patterns, which in turn surprise and refresh the mind and body. The use of gentle lighting effects throughout the spa walls and ceiling create a soothing ambience. Neutral colors flood all surfaces with subtle pops of color, adding interest and energy within the space. Luxurious stone and metals compliment the elegant fabrics and furnishings. A journey into a tranquil setting has been created. The ambience of the spaces along with the healing and relaxation practices all conspire to create an unforgettable experience as the guest moves from being into wellbeing.

Our signature spa treatments include:

Radiance Restorer: This 120-minute top to toe treatment combination revives skin and energy levels restoring vitality and radiance. A salt and oil body scrub smoothes skin and prepares for the graceful, sweeping movements of the Balinese inspired massage with warm essential oils before the Radiance facial and relaxing scalp massage complete the experience. Includes: Foot ritual, body scrub, body massage with warm oil, radiance facial, scalp massage

Oasis Ritual: A revitalizing and cleansing treatment to awaken the senses uplift the spirit and soothe tired muscles. A stimulating Hammam scrub gives heat to muscles and joints at the same time increasing circulation and is followed by a rebalancing massage with warm oil to calm achy muscles. The result is silky smooth skin, a healthy glow and an overall feeling of wellbeing. Includes: Foot ritual – hammam body scrub and foam wash –body massage with warm oil- scalp massage

Four Handed Synchronised Massage with ESPA Personalised Facial: Two therapists connect to commence the four handed tension releasing body massage. Using long sweeping movements, this treatment features the pouring of warm oil and use of hot volcanic stones finishing with a balancing and soothing therapeutic head massage to achieve relaxation and total bliss. To complete the ritual, a unique facial is specifically tailored to you including deep cleansing, exfoliation, steam with gentle extraction and a treatment specific massage and mask. Includes: Foot ritual, body exfoliation, facial cleanse, four handed massage.

What other experiences and activities might guests be able to organize while staying at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, to enjoy all Abu Dhabi has to offer?

Abu Dhabi appeals with a rich collection of experiences, inviting visitors to explore its magnificent architecture, cultural history, outdoor adventure and luxury shopping. At The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, guests can easily experience it all, both at our beach resort and around the city. Surrounding our luxury Abu Dhabi beach hotel are iconic attractions including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, beautiful beaches and cultural institutions. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has become a must-see site for every UAE visitor and so has the Ferrari World and the newly open Yas Waterworld. Our concierge can assist in arranging a stroll along the Corniche on the edge of the island where guests can savour some picturesque waterscapes. Other popular activities include the Saadiyat Island Cultural District Exhibition and the Heritage Village sites, as well as boating and fishing or even golfing.

To explore the picturesque area and Abu Dhabi attractions around Al Maqta’a creek or to visit the nearby souk, a scenic ride in a traditional wooden Arabic abra boat will take guests to Souk Qaryat Al Beri - a bustling market with souvenir shops and various dining options. With a total of four stops, the boat ride is also a wonderful photo opportunity providing an amazing backdrop of the hotel and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque at sunset.

Guests can also take a guided tour to the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, the most advanced of its kind in the world, during which they can visit the luxurious wards where the birds are kept, explore the museum, and learn about the aristocratic desert sport of falconry, or try their hand at the pursuit in the hospital’s lush gardens.

During desert safaris, guests can try sand skiing before watching the sun set kindle the desert sands aflame or ride up and down some of the desert’s biggest dunes. After driving a short distance farther to a permanent desert camp, they are treated to a sumptuous barbeque, followed by shisha, camel rides, falconry displays and henna painting. Visitors can choose to either stay overnight or combine their adventure with a trip journey into the mountains.

Strategically positioned between Mussafah and Maqtaa bridges, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal is conveniently located for both business and tourism, and is a short 25-minute drive from the airport.