A few years ago, I spent a week in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, near the tip of the Arabian peninsula overlooking the Persian Gulf and is a little under 8 hours flight time away from London. As to what I was doing there, at that time of year (March) daytime temperatures average between 28-30C, I was in serious need of some sunshine and there was a ripper of a deal.
I had arrived around 9pm and after making my way though the cacophony of the arrivals terminal I spent over an hour shuffling through passport control with the rest of the queue. My pre-booked transfer was waiting patiently on the other side and I was whisked away to my hotel in the sumptuous leather back seat of a pristine white Audi. By a driver that sensed I was too tired to chat.
A little thing, but nonetheless appreciated.
My room was lovely and spacious – on the 7th floor overlooking the lights (at night) and the white sands of the private beach (during the day). The Traders Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri is a 4-star hotel – yet there was a robe, slippers, a gigantic bed with an assortment of pillows and a fully equipped bathroom: when I say fully equipped I mean not just the requisite toilet and basin but also a bidet, a big bath and a separate shower (not a shower over a bath).
I also found two complimentary bottles of water on the bedside table – these are rarely free or left in multiples – there were both English (3-pin) and European (2-pin) plugs in the room and the wifi was everywhere, fast and completely free.
These small attentive details made me feel incredibly looked-after, like the hotel had actually thought about what might make my time with them seamless and comfortable.
As the haunting sounds of the Muslim call to prayer echoed across the hazy dawn sky each morning, I’d head down to the breakfast buffet. You cannot imagine my delight at finding not only a plethora of healthy and indulgent options but a tray of turkey bacon. This may not mean much to you but little things like this are a great treat to someone who doesn’t eat red meat. It was a happy find indeed.
After a post-breakfast stroll it was time to hit the private beach. Another two free bottles of water were delivered – in a little esky to keep them cold no less – to my sun-lounger of choice along with two big towels. Another even larger towel was wrapped over the mattress with an offer to replace this later in the afternoon. And all this was ten steps away from a cooling, salty swim.
Little things. It takes such little things to make me happy.
I can remember sitting in my room during lazy afternoons, wrapped in my plush hotel bathrobe reading and listening to that wailing call to prayer. Then the city lights would start to shimmer under the dusky sky and my biggest decision would be whether to watch the sunset from the comfort of my room or head down to the outdoor terrace to admire it over a pre-dinner cocktail.
As-salamu alaykum (السلام عليكم) is the traditional Arabic greeting there and while it is used as ‘hello’, it actually translates as ‘peace be upon you’. Peace was definitely what I was feeling and I repeated the whole luscious process the next day, and the next day, and the next. It was my perfect holiday with every little detail taken care of.
I use the word “my” with intention here. You see my perfect holiday was to lie about, read and do very little for a seven days. But that’s not what every guest wanted. In fact, looking across the busy breakfast room each morning I could see families, couples, business people and friends – all with different agendas.
And that’s what made this so great, that in the midst of all of those different expectations, I felt that everything that I wanted from my experience was completely catered for. From selecting the ‘best’ sun-lounger to choosing the perfect cocktail each evening as I watched the sun dip below the horizon.
You might say that I was lucky, that I chose the ‘right’ hotel or that it was the ‘right’ time of year. But as a customer, I don’t care about being lucky or clever – I care about being heard, getting what I want when I want it. Back then it was an oasis of calm for a whole seven days.
And without a doubt, it was all of the little things that really made the difference.