Ever been to Ajman? Or did you just think Aj…where? I admit I’d not heard of it either until I was invited to go and film there. It is actually one of the seven United Arab Emirates, the smallest one in fact. Overshadowed by its considerably showier near neighbour, Ajman is the latest Emirate to target the British market and I was intrigued to find out what it has to offer…
Turn up the heat
Ajman has the same trump card as all the Emirates of a hot, dry climate. Winter is the best time, when the temperature from October through to April sits pretty steadily in the mid to high 20s. And, it’s a dry heat, so it very pleasant to sunbathe, sightsee as well as being active. In the summer months, the temperatures start to soar, at times to the point of intolerable. Of course hotel rates fall dramatically in summer and everywhere is air conditioned so people do still go, but…
6.5 hours flying time
Dubai is the gateway to Ajman. The top end of Sharjah lies between them but nevertheless Ajman is only a 30-minute drive from Dubai airport (possibly 45 mins at busy times). Dubai of course is one of the busiest and best connected airports in the world, making Ajman easy to reach whether it’s for a short break, longer stay or even just a stopover.
More for your money
Your holiday money will go further in Ajman than Dubai. Being so new to the UK market, rates, for now at least, are at their keenest. If all you are after is a nice relaxing holiday in warm sunshine and you can avoid the busiest public holiday periods, you can expect to save between 20 to 40% on comparable standard hotels in Dubai.
The hotels offer a good choice of restaurants and half board packages will be the norm but, to save even more, you could stay on a bed and breakfast basis and eat out locally. This would work well if you stay on the Corniche where there are plenty of local restaurants within walking distance. If you like a drink of an evening though, take note most, but not all, of the hotels have alcohol licenses and the local restaurants are dry.
Beachfront luxury hotels
The majority of hotels are along the four-kilometre seafront of the Corniche. It is a popular area for locals too but it’s not the uninterrupted promenade you might imagine. It runs by a busy road and the beach side is broken up in to sections so you can’t walk any distance along the shoreline. The nicest part is towards the far end of the Corniche where the sand is finer, and you can’t hear the road noise. This is where you find the Fairmont Ajman, Ajman Saray (A Luxury Collection Resort) and the Ajman Hotel (formerly Kempinski). They all have private beach clubs and a wide range of facilities including multiple restaurants, a Spa, gym and kids’ clubs. If you are on a tighter budget, further down, there is also the newly opened Wyndham Garden Ajman Corniche.
Another luxury hotel option is the Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah. Just beyond the city (15 minutes drive from the Corniche) the Oberoi in a league of its own, in more ways than one. For now at least, it stands in splendid isolation on a 12 km stretch of unspoilt beach. Designed by renowned Italian architect, Piero Lissoni, it is a highly contemporary self-contained resort. Expensive, but classy and very, very cool.
Bird Spotting in the Nature Reserve
The other jewel in Al Zorah’s crown the Nature Reserve – a vibrant eco system of tidal pools and mangrove forests. The reserve is on the Ramsar list ensuring that the wetlands and its wildlife which includes over 60 species of birds and a resident flock of 120 or so pink flamingos will be well protected from over zealous developers. The best way to explore the mangroves is by kayak – easy to access via local operator Quest for Adventure.
Still in Al Zorah, resort golfers will enjoy a round or two on the 18-hole Nicklaus designed golf course set along side the mangroves and designed around the tidal pools. With two tides a day, it’s an ever changing landscape and an unusual, challenging course – very different to other courses in nearby Dubai and, once again, significantly cheaper. Loan of clubs and buggy hire are both included in the green fees if you are staying in one of the Ajman hotels.
The Ajman museum is interesting to learn what life was like in this part of the world before the UAE was formed in 1971. Just over the road from the museum, you can visit the modern day equivalent of the Gold and Fabric souks. They were quiet when we went during the day but in the evenings, they are full of locals bartering for jewellery and picking out highly embroidered fabrics that can be sewn up as bespoke garments within 48 hours.
The fish auction was one of my favourite outings. Its not a tourist attraction of any kind, just a true slice of life. Held every evening at 5pm on the dockside by the vast Fish Market, it’s fascinating to observe – three megaphone wielding auctioneers conduct proceedings as the boats come in, unloading the fish straight on to white slabs where its haggled over before being whisked off at speed in wheelbarrows to the successful buyers.
From the newly opened Marina in Al Zorah you can take boat trips along the creek and mangroves. Ajman Pearl offer guided cruises where you learn more about the pearling industry which, way before oil, was the source of much wealth in this region.
Ajman may not be able to boast the iconic sights, buildings and mind-blowing attractions (Indoor ski-ing anyone?) of its considerably flashier near neighbour but it does have a charm all of its own. And why pay for bells and whistles if all you really want is a nice relaxing holiday in the sun with maybe one or two gentle excursions?
I don’t think it will be too long before Ajman is just as familiar a name to wintersun seeking Brits as say Tenerife or Tunisia.
Cathy travelled as a guest of www.ajman.travel
Silver Travel Advisor partner, Tropical Sky offers a choice of holidays in Ajman. Spend 5 Nights at the 5* Fairmont Ajman on Bed & Breakfast from £729pp; or the 5* Ajman Saray, a Luxury Collection Resort on All Inclusive from £999pp or opt for the opulence of the 5* Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah on Bed & Breakfast from £999pp.
Prices are based on two sharing including return flights from London Gatwick. For more information visit www.tropicalsky.co.uk or call 01342 889 505.
For more destination and general information visit Ajman.travel