But now the town has risen up the ranks as a reason to visit Dubai – and that has meant even more people making a beeline for JA Hatta Fort Hotel…
At night this same sign illuminates in changing colours high above the otherwise quiet streets of this gateway to a thriving culture of outdoor activity.
Although still part of the Dubai hotel ecosystem, this resort comes in memorable contrast to the usual city offering.
Here mountains are the high-rise backdrop and the hotel makes full use of its surroundings by providing a picturesque getaway with as much or as little action as guests require.
All rooms are low-rise but, set on two levels, offer views of the hotel’s lush gardens and dramatic Hatta landscape dominated by the Hajar Mountains.
Time it right you’ll catch the strutting peacocks or family of dear that roam the lawns in an area teaming with wildlife.
Exotic birds soundtrack ochre sunsets, best viewed from the generous balcony of refurbished rooms that are contemporary yet suit their surroundings.
They offer the comforts Dubai folk have come to expect, while colours and materials take a cue from nature, with a stonewall and vaulted white wooden ceiling combining for a modern rural setting.
Elements of this continue in the main hotel building where greenery and a rocky water feature give way to contemporary fixtures with a nod to Arabic culture, including a snug majlis.
Prior to that there’s a choice of happy hour cocktails - or a nightcap - in the adjacent Roumoul Bar, or sundowners and shisha on the Sunset Terrace just beyond.
Cafe Gazebo is a slightly dated space by comparison, but it is also an airy dining area overlooking the pool. Here is where breakfast is served as well as snacks or meals at lunchtime for seated diners and those lounging poolside.
The hotel boasts two pools, Gazebo Pool for adults, and a second Rock Pool across the lawn, dedicated to families with children. The kids play area also offers video games, billiards and air hockey.
This includes zip lining with qualified instructors, wall climbing, archery, mini golf, floodlit tennis, a target driving range and even a life-size maze. You can also rent bikes to follow mountain trails – with a guide, on request - or simply wander the lush lawns and a stone pathway up to the hotel’s own viewing point from which to take in the local landscape.
If pampering is on your radar, you might want to beat a path to Senses Spa for a menu of treatments, including massage.
A short drive takes you to the scenic Hatta Dam, a cultural village, a honey farm or along winding roads through mountain villages.
General Manager Deborah Thomson has seen the rise in Hatta’s profile, along with the number of international guests staying at her hotel alongside a mostly UAE residents and nationals clientele.
“Hatta is really on the map at the moment - there’s such an energy about it,” she says.
“Mountain biking is becoming famous here because of world class trails. We’re getting bikers come just for the holiday aspect. We have a German team stay here.“By September the same person who designed the mountain bike trails is doing hiking trails graded as to how hard they are, so we’ll see even more people coming.”
That all spells good news for the town’s best-known hotel.
“Residents are looking for something different. And it’s a couple of degrees cooler here - the weather is a bit kinder. In the summer we run the same outdoor activities, but offer them earlier in the morning and are sensible about the timings.”
One aspect the resort is focusing on is an animal petting zoo, which has been boosted by tortoises donated by a lady leaving the UAE. Plus the dear have been expecting babies.
Hatta Fort is also a big hub for the biking community – the likes of the Ducatti, BMW and Harley group – often dropping in for breakfast.
These come in the shape of discounts of up to 30% off stays, and a further 30% off a wide range of experiences from spa treatments and restaurants, to watersports, adventure activities, and golf.
The Summer Lovin’ offer runs until October 31 and covers the group’s eight distinct hotels and resorts to choose, including tropical escapes in the Maldives and Seychelles – check out the portfolio at www.jaresortshotels.com
FOR more information about JA Hatta Fort Hotel and for pries and availability go to https://www.jaresortshotels.com/dubai/ja-hatta-fort-hotel
THE Summer Lovin’ offer gives guests a chance to visit the hotel with up to 30% off stays, all food and beverage and 30% off all 12 adventure centre activities including zip lining, wall climbing, maze, commando climb, orienteering and navigation, and human foosball.