During a quick trip to the United Arab Emirates, I wanted an upmarket yet not ridiculously swanky hotel in Abu Dhabi – and the InterContinental Abu Dhabi seemed to fit the bill.
Location & Impressions
The InterContinental is about as far west as you can go in Abu Dhabi city, on Bainuna (AKA Bainouna, Bainunah) Street. Cab drivers know where they're going.
Pulling up late at night after my flight from Sydney, I was pleased to find an elegant lobby — but not one dripping in tacky gilt. A friendly staffer checked me in swiftly and I was up to my room to fall into bed.
During my stay I discovered the reason the InterContinental isn't palatial: the building is a few decades old (it looks 1970s-1980s), and recent internal renovations have kept much of the old-school Middle Eastern international hotel feel to it.
In my book, that's a big plus: all too often in the UAE the swank factor is overpowering.
My Deluxe Room was fresh and modern with dark wood and seafoam-coloured fabrics. It was a fairly standard L-shaped room — you enter past the bathroom and then have the main part of the room between you and the window.
I noted that the lighting was fairly dim in the evenings, which was fine on my first night but night two (when I was wide awake and wanted to get some work done) felt a bit gloomy.
(That's also why a few of the photos make the room look dim: because it was. Fortunately, the hotel's PR snaps are pretty accurate.)
The bed was comfortable and up to the luxurious, high-thread-count InterContinental standard.
I appreciated the double seating option: a sort of day-bed couch on the wall between the bedroom and bathroom, plus a good wide armchair and an ottoman.
Top marks for the bedside control panel for the room's lights and air conditioning. All too often these are confusing and in odd places.
I was surprised by the size of the bathroom, with its separate bath and walk-in shower.
Elemis toiletries are always an upmarket touch in the bathroom, and the twist-top bottles are ideal for slipping in your carry-on.
Water pressure was great and the multi-head shower really soaked away the grime of travel.
The desk in the room was spacious, not overly crammed with hotel bits and bobs, and came with a comfortable enough chair. Not quite a full 8-hour workday option, but perfectly fine for an evening's work.
Wifi at the hotel was on a 'free-or-fee' basis.
Free access was very slow, and the paid service at 80AED (A$21) for 24 hours wasn't much better: I got 3Mbps down and 2Mbps up. It seemed to me that throttling was well and truly in force: disappointing for a purchased premium product.
Frustratingly, the network also dropped out when moving around the hotel — so you'd get downstairs and have to reconnect all over again.
The InterContinental is home to several top-notch restaurants, making it a useful hotel choice if you want contacts, colleagues or clients to come to you rather than vice versa.
Breakfast downstairs in the hotel's main restaurant was excellent: a wide range of international cuisines, with highlights being the Arabic mezze. The moutabal in particular was exceptionally good.
I ordered room service one lunchtime and enjoyed the hotel's burger (always my test of a hotel's room service).
I also munched my way through a selection of the Arabic mezze on offer — and thanks to the fact that hotels are one of the few places with liquor licences, also had a beer to slake my thirst. Ideal.
This is more of a business hotel with a few options for sitting in the sunshine than a resort, which was absolutely what I wanted. I was, unfortunately, too busy to lie on the hotel's own beach next to the marina, take a dip in the inviting pool or work off the mezze in the well-equipped gym.
The hotel's concierge on duty was invaluably helpful in putting together a two-hour sightseeing drive around some of the (relatively few) highlights of central Abu Dhabi. (Neither city layout nor climate suits a walking tour.)
I really appreciated her frankness — paraphrasing, "the tourist village is good for trinkets but not really cultural, and there's a lot of malls..." — and she arranged a taxi to drive me around for a couple of hours for around A$40.
Note that the incredible Sheikh Zayed mosque, the number one thing to see in Abu Dhabi, is roughly 15 minutes away in low traffic, halfway between the hotel and the airport.
I wanted a businesslike upmarket hotel, and the InterContinental Abu Dhabi delivered exactly that.
Just the right amount of class, no over-the-top bling, and an efficient stay. I'd certainly return.
John Walton was a guest of the InterContinental Abu Dhabi.