Inspired by our trip to Mirfa, and secure in the knowledge that no one is stupid enough to take the wrong road out of Abu Dhabi twice, we decided we should venture even further into Al Gharbia. We headed to the Danat Resort Jebel Dhanna some 240km from the capital. Assuming you take the right road out of Abu Dhabi (which we did) it is about an hour and a half's drive. Viewed from the road, the hotel looks like any other hotel in the region; in fact, it lacks a certain visual charm and I could see my husband wishing we had taken a wrong turn. But once you go through the main lobby and out the other side you realise why people drive all the way from Saudi Arabia to come here.
The main attraction is the beach. Unlike most beaches in and around the capital, this is a totally natural beach on the open sea. When the tide is out, small islands are created which the children had endless fun hopping on and off. Once you have had enough island hopping you can retire to a sun lounger and order a cup of tea, which, also unlike other luxury hotels in the capital, won't cost you a fortune. The children can relocate to the pool, which is constantly surveyed by a lifeguard.
The ferals loved their room, which joined ours through an adjoining door. A few minutes after we checked in a man arrived with biscuits and fruit. "No," I heard Olivia, the lead feral, yell, "we're not allowed anything." "Go away," her sister Bea joined in, trying to block the poor man from coming into the room. They have been well trained not to ever take anything from the mini bar or order room service. I consider the former a criminal waste of money and the latter is allowed only under strict supervision. They let him in after he explained there would be no charge.
I think the ferals would have been quite happy sitting in their room eating biscuits and watching TV but we forced them on to the tennis court. When playing tennis with three children there is never a moment when everyone is happy; there is always one child who feels hard done by, or picked on by the others or furious because they have to collect a ball or two. It was getting hot so we convinced them to go swimming instead while we played a set alone. That's the other good thing about the resort; it is big enough to provide plenty of activities, but small enough to ensure you don't lose your children.
The best place to eat is on the beanbags under an awning in the garden. The restaurants were expensive and rather formal for the ferals. Outside they were free to run around while we sat and listened to the sound of the sea. Double rooms with a sea view at Danat Resort Jebel Dhanna cost from US$408 (Dh1,500) including breakfast (firstname.lastname@example.org; www.danathotels.com; 02 801 2222)