While Bahrain is only just beginning to develop its potential as a tourism destination, the Ritz-Carlton property in the tiny Middle Eastern country is something of icon.
For more than two decades the hotel has been pioneering luxury hospitality in the market, and this month it celebrates its Silver Jubilee.
Calling in for the night during a recent stopover, I was delighted by what I discovered.
On arrival, the lobby makes an immediate impact, stretching the full height of the building and revealing the floors of rooms heading off in all directions.
Three glass lifts whisk guests to their destination, giving the hotel a futuristic, Blade Runner-like, feel.
Staying in a Club Room, we had access to the exclusive check-in on the seventh floor, where a warm welcome saw us settling in within moments.
Views are very much room-dependant, with our windows offering only glimpses of downtown Manama some distance away, but on the other side of the property guests will be treated to a sight of the Gulf.
Heading out to explore, there is a great deal more to the property than originally meets the eye.
The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain sits amid 25-aces of manicured lawns, manmade lakes and tasteful architecture; it is a true oasis.
Given that summer temperatures in the county can reach 50 degrees Celsius, this lush, verdant feeling was something of a surprise – there are even flamingos lazing in a sparkling pool.
Guests have access to the longest private beach in Bahrain, while, for the super-rich, there is also plenty of space in the marina to store yachts of all sizes.
Rounding out the offering, there are tennis courts, with a full-time coach on hand, while the gym has recently been redeveloped to meet the growing needs of the wellness-focused market.
There is even a squash court, which must be one of the few in the Middle East.
Such strong facilities have seen 3,000 or so locals join the Royal Beach Club, offering access to the gym, pools and even the executive lounge – well worth checking out for those with more time to spend in the country.
Shortly after becoming a Ritz-Carlton property, back in 2003, more than two dozen luxury villas were added to the hotel, each sleeping up to six people.
Dotted around the grounds, each is a secluded world offering plenty of privacy for those who do not want to be seen.
They come with a private butler, who will lay out breakfast for you each morning, while a private pool means guests do not need to visit the hotel-proper should they wish to remain away from the crowds.
If money is no object, this is where you want to be spending your time in Bahrain.
High season at the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain runs from November, when the weather becomes a little cooler, through to Ramadan – in the summer months it is simply too hot to enjoy some of the outdoor facilities.
The hotel is popular with locals, who come to enjoy the beach, while the Saudi market is also vital.
King Fahd Causeway links Bahrain to its giant neighbour, meaning guests can drive from Riyadh in just a couple of hours.
American expats taking a break from the Aramco oil fields are another key sector, with European guests, largely from Germany and the UK, and Russia completing the line-up.
As with virtually everywhere in global hospitality, there is also long-term ambition to grow the number of Chinese guests checking into the hotel.
Earlier this year, the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain launched La Table Krug by Y, an exclusive dining experience in partnership with the luxury champagne brand.
In a region where Dubai has virtually cornered the market on events of this kind, bringing the concept – only the fourth in the world – to Bahrain was seen as something of a coup.
Featuring the cuisine of the resort’s executive chef, Yann Bernard Lejard, the experience takes place a purpose-built restaurant.
Dishes change weekly, with guests making repeat visits to sample the sumptuous dishes on offer and collect the numbered menus.
During our visit chef Lejard was on hand to talk us through the eight-course tasting menu, explaining each dish as well as what attracted him to Bahrain in the first place.
Our sommelier, who was the real star of the show, discussed each wine with us, revealing each bottle of Krug champagne has a unique authentication number detailing its provenance.
Featuring everything you would expect from a meal in this price bracket – including veal, foie gras and delicious fish – the event was formal, but not stuffy, and comes highly recommended for anybody looking for something different in their luxury travels.
As though that were not enough, the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain can also offer guests an authentic picnic on the ‘vanishing’ Jarada Island.
The strip of land is only visible for two-hours per day, before the tide washes it away.
Perched atop traditional woven floor cushions, those lucky enough to visit can feast on regional delicacies prepared by the resort’s resident chefs, before heading back to shore.
With such exquisite experiences on offer, the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain looks well-placed to grow further in stature as the country takes its place on the international hospitality stage.
Home to 23 three-bedroom seafront villas, 31 suites, 42 club level rooms and a 600-metre private sandy beach, the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain is the pinnacle of luxury and comfort in the Middle East.
The spa features an extensive selection of Arabic rituals inspired from regional culture and local traditions. Guests can also take advantage of the gym, tennis academy, world famous pearl diving and an 18-hole Royal Golf Club located just 25-minutes from the hotel.
Find out more on the official website.
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