The Fairmont Fujairah Beach Resort, developed by UAE-based Mina Al Fajer Real Estate, was first announced in 2010, and since then has had its opening date pushed back. Last year, it opted on the side of caution, aiming for an April 2017 opening. However, the property has already soft-opened, with the official opening party planned for Q2 2017.
The general manager, Omar Souab, who was previously the hotel manager at the Fairmont Dubai, says that opening ahead of time was challenge.
He says: “We had initially planned to open on April 1, because we wanted to open the hotel and beach club at the same time. Then we moved the date to early January because we took a decision to open the hotel without the beach club. But then we had to open earlier (in December 2016), so my team and I overcame the challenge of opening the hotel two weeks before the target date which was a big achievement.
“It was not an easy task because we had to move forward quite a few training programmes but we managed, and I think that it was actually a good thing to do because it gave us time to fine tune the service and to make sure that we are at the level that we are today. The owners understood that it was important to open softly and then start building the service quality and fine tune the product before we did an official launch, and we supported that wish.”
The 180-room hotel located in the Mina Al Fajer mixed-use development was designed by Dubai-based design firm Stickman, and offers a mosaic-tiled swimming pool, children’s club, the second Willow Stream Spa in the UAE, a fully-equipped fitness centre and dive centre, along with five F&B outlets, expansive outdoor space, and three meeting rooms, including a large pre-function area.
When one approaches the property, it is reminiscent of traditional architecture in the region, but one step inside showcases the heavy focus on art – especially with nods to the region and its culture – which can be found across the entire property.
Marcos Cain, principal and founder of Stickman, says there was no predefined brief for the overall hotel and public spaces, so the design team worked with the operator to define the design brief, which centred on an Arabic bohemian art hotel concept.
He says: “The hotel was originally designed by another firm, however when the project was put on hold for many years, the previous design became outdated leading the client to choose to redesign the full property, which is where we came in.”
The design team faced a few difficulties with the restrictions created by the original design such as fixed bathroom locations, and certain architectural interfaces. Cain continues: “As with most projects, budget was a bit of an issue with this one, but in saying that we have tried to turn a negative into a positive by proposing this Arabic bohemian art hotel concept, allowing us to subtly create a space where we could embellish handpicked elements and commissioned art. We defined the sculptural pieces and artwork through cultural and social references displayed in a gallery setting or framed to capture a moment in time.”
This approach worked well in the sense that the minimal feel of the space marries well with the resort setting and natural surrounding creating a seamless feelgood and fresh overall palette.
“Key cultural, sculptural and artistic elements are used to expose and define each space, adding worldly character and a unique sense of style while maintaining a sophisticated and luxurious DNA throughout.”
The simple palette of finishes, based around gallery white walls and black and white stone flooring is enhanced with references to contemporary Arabic architecture from arches to decorative ceiling details and motifs. Creating a new step in the Fairmont legacy, this general direction has defined a unique resort style hotel in Fujairah.
“In our research we discovered that a 2500BC ostrich egg was found in Fujairah and is displayed at the Fujairah Museum. Similarly, like giving birth to a new beginning while also celebrating the past we wanted to introduce this sculptural element to the space. The oversized egg sculptures sit in front of the feature staircase embellished by framed vintage jewellery and Berber rugs that run along the ceiling and wall. Metal Arabic calligraphy merges together to create this beautiful abstract sculpture showcased within the lobby,” explains Stickman’s founder.
LOBBY AND LOUNGE AREA
Clean and contemporary with a regional influence, the lobby space is the welcome point and initial taster of the overall concept. With subtle references to local architecture such as Arabic arches and ceiling details, the interior is designed to respect the surrounding area while maintaining a contemporary feel. Symmetrically positioned within the lobby, the reception desks are the key view upon entering. Stacked Arabic rugs lining the front of the desk are reminiscent of a colourful Arabic souk. Comfortable Majlis style seating flanks the reception desks on either side. A wall of glowing lanterns acts as the backdrop to Moroccan style pendant lights, which are clustered and hung over theatre seating for guest arrival and waiting. Oversized conical sculptures sit on top of a decorative mosaic inlay floor in the centre of the lobby arrival space. Overall this artistic experience begins in the lobby and is carried throughout the public areas for a uniform quirky hotel concept.
Keeping in line with the public spaces, a similar palette of white walls and black and white stone flooring continue into the tea lounge. Characterised by contemporary columns, arches and Mashrabiya screens, private zones are created for guest interaction.
Cain elaborates: “The columns are clad with black and white Arabesque style mosaic tiles. Monochrome Berber rugs define the seating areas, while comfortable sofas, casual ottomans, and etched metal artisan coffee tables dot the room. Dominating the space are clusters of high-backed peacock chairs. These chairs consist of steam-curled wood and large fanned backs, which add another layer of personality throughout. Interesting pieces of contemporary art, referencing tea culture, are set into wall niches. Central art pieces, relating to the history of reading coffee grinds, adorn the space, while an oversized laser cut corten steel tea leaf, which represents the intricate patterns of the leaf structural, is on show.”
Director of food and beverage Heinz Giering explains that while researching the culinary scene in Fujairah, he discovered that the locals are traditional yet like to be exposed to new experiences.
“We try to stand out and offer something to everybody: the traditionalists as well as those who want to try something different,” he says.
Canvas is the resort’s all-day-dining restaurant with multiple interactive food stations. Adding a bit of fresh playfulness to the interior, the all-day-dining restaurant is distinguished with the use of pop yellow in the furniture and other various details. Contrasting with the intricate black and white geometric patterns in the marble flooring and the natural greenery throughout, the pop yellow adds life and vibrancy to the space.
An oversized wrought iron gate leads you into the bakery section where freshly baked breads align the display cabinets. Open show kitchens, display tables and juice gondolas provide a market style outlet, where the guest and kitchen staff can interact. Suspended above the show kitchens are elliptical mirrors and timber ceilings envelope the show kitchen area, separating it from the main dining. Scattered throughout the space are decorative pendant lights, crafted by regional artisans, which highlight the different seating arrangements. Nail hammered bohemian doors with white washed finishes disguise the support columns in the venue, while Arabic-style arches frame the views to the outside pool terrace and the marina vista.
Located on the piazza level, the Copper Lobster is conceptualised around the casual nature of the Fishman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Its personality is raw, rustic and relaxed. A small seafood ice display room showcases the daily catch.
Cain explains the main features: “To reflect the nautical references of Fujairah, the design features throughout are inspired by the local pearl diving and fishing trade. Traditional rope tying techniques and contemporary fish net lighting elements create screens that designate the private seating clusters. Leather upholstered banquettes and solid wood panelled walls define a level of sophisticated dining. The front of house beverage bar is adorned with antique mirror and distressed brick and backlit metal mesh panels. Long communal tables, rope lights, and French doors, give this area an authentic fishmonger feel. A semi private 10 seater dining room and ample amount of outdoor seating cater towards the larger groups.”
Right next to The Copper Lobster, is Café Pronto, a European-style bistro which serves coffee and light bites. Café Pronto takes all the visual delights of a traditional ‘ristorante’ and showcases them in a contemporary open layout. This casual café has both a sit in and grab and go concept. This eclectic venue boasts classical Parisian detailing, mixed with contemporary finishes and furniture.
Finally, the hotel offers Iammai (pronounced ya-mai), the poolside bar. For Cain, the pool is without a doubt the signature design of the hotel, one that will be used to identify Fairmont Fujairah for years to come. The Persian carpet inspired pool is best seen from the surrounding elevated platforms. Scenic views of the sunset are perfectly framed using a sculptural element showcasing birds in flight. The elongated bar services the pool deck and also the swim up counter, while the cantilevered deck above offers private Majlis style seating with unrestricted sightlines to the horizon.
RELAXATION AND RECREATION
Fairmont Fujairah Beach Resort offers the Willow Stream Spa, which is the second of its brand in the region after Fairmont The Palm.
“When designing the spa, we were keen on going in a different direction from the usual one in the region. There is no shortage in luxurious gold adorned spas in the UAE after all; instead we aimed to create an intimate homely cottage feel throughout the space,” explains Cain. “The spa is sectioned off in a way that creates a form of exploration for the guest rather than see everything all at once. The design is quite simple and elegant where we played on the very complementing dynamic of Arabic and bohemian aesthetic.”
The design team added simple details on every corner, from the hanging water cans to the various explorations of rope details to the carving details on the beams above.
“The finishes selection is very true to a resort where we have utilised natural materials such as aged timber, rope, jute and various textiles. The white epoxy flooring, although unexpected for a spa especially in this region, provides a blank canvas for the space, a clean and minimal backdrop,” concludes Cain.