On Corniche Street in Sharjah, the 72 by Hues hotel’s small pull-in doesn’t scream five-star stopover, but that proves typical of an unostentatious approach, as we’re checked in at a reassuringly leisurely pace. Taking the boutique approach over glittering suaveness, the emphasis is on bright and breezy shades and contemporary lines, with multicoloured modern-art touches throughout the public areas. (In case you’re wondering, the hotel nomenclature relates to the total number of rooms.)
Sharjah is currently the Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014 and, accordingly, it presents a much more traditional Emirati experience for visitors than elsewhere in the country. The 72 overlooks the sparkling water of the Khaled Lagoon, Al Noor Mosque and Buhaira Corniche Park, where families congregate and children play in the evenings; it’s all a throwback to simpler times. The city’s arts hub is only a short drive along the Corniche – if you have time, though, it’s worth the walk along the waterfront. Once you escape Sharjah’s traffic-clogged city-centre streets, the transport links are solid; Dubai International Airport is 10 minutes away, while Sharjah’s airport is even nearer.
Our “Apex” junior suite could quite possibly accommodate a small business conference thanks to it’s a well-appointed lounge, including its own television and a sofa that converts to a bed, as well as an additional couch. Minimalist, post-Ikea fixtures and fittings abound, and it’s excellently lit, with a yellowish warmth controlled by an array of glowing blue switches. Two small rocking bird ornaments are a cute addition, as well.
In a city where most hotel options appear to have been here as long as time itself, the 72 is a real breath of fresh Gulf air. You won’t spy nearly as many expat visitors as in, for example, neighbouring Dubai; the clientele at 72 appears to be almost exclusively Arab. The dining options are relative to the hotel’s comparatively cosy size, but you won’t be left wanting for relaxation and recreation, with a spa, a gym and an indoor swimming pool.
A little sluggish at points but, generally speaking, everybody is polite without stooping to off-putting kowtowing.
Equation is the hotel’s solitary restaurant; a colourful space that offers all-day dining. The Arabic-centric dinner buffet is modest in scale, although the breakfast options are far more commendable, with an expansive range of fresh fruits being the standout. For an informal bite, the Quadrant coffee shop, adjacent to the lobby, is a sunny spot that serves snackish fair, from salads to sandwiches and burgers, plus desserts.
The room itself is pleasingly laid out, while the Ellipse spa also gets a thumbs up – a combination of the signature massage (60 minutes, Dh220), nourishing argan shell scrub (45 minutes, Dh220) and relaxing taster facial (30 minutes, Dh165) melts away two-hours-plus in what feels like minutes.
The dinner buffet isn’t the worst meal that you’ll ever experience, but it is limited and occasionally misguided – the cheeseboard’s limp crackers, for example, have the consistency of wet cardboard. And at more than Dh100 per person, it isn’t great value for money.
While it’s debatable whether Sharjah is ready for a boutique hotel, 72 by Hues certainly stands on its own in the city and should appeal to those visiting for the emirate’s cultural aspects.
The bottom line
Doubles start from Dh600 per night, including taxes but excluding breakfast. 72 by Hues, Corniche Street, Sharjah (www.hueshotels.com/seventy-two-hotel; 06 507 9797).