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Family Travel

Cally Squires On Family Holidays To Ajman In The UAE

When planning a family getaway, there’s no better travel advice than from a parent who has been there. Here, Cally Squires – editor of Belgravia Magazine and mum to one year-old Wylder – tells us about family holidays to Ajman in the UAE.

We ask travel-loving mums to give us the lowdown on a recent trip with their children; from where they stayed and shopped to their favourite restaurants and must-do activities. Read on to find out why Cally chose Ajman, where she recommends staying for a family-friendly holiday, plus what to do and see in the emirate.

What made you decide to visit Ajman?

I was keen to explore a bit more of the country – outside of the Dubai bubble. I’ve been to the UAE’s northernmost emirate, Ras al Khaimah a few times, so decided to look elsewhere.

Where did you stay in Ajman?

We escaped to The Oberoi Beach Resort Al Zorah for a family holiday with our one year old son Wylder. This five-star hotel is perfect for a family break because it has so many facilities for children – a great example is the kids’ pool with a properly shaded area, which is so useful with a baby. The hotel was easy to get to via Dubai and catered for little ones really well. Plus, the rooms are huge and easily accommodated our family.

Ajman is only an hour from Dubai, so you could combine it with a dual stay, but we beelined for the Oberoi for the hotel’s fantastic design (and that’s coming from my hard-to-please architect husband), uncrowded sandy beach and more zen atmosphere. The resort is surrounded by one million square-metres of protected mangroves, with pristine white sand beaches and beautiful lagoons. I’m not so much of a city-break person anymore, for me a real holiday is about seeking out nature with a little bit of adventure thrown in and Ajman, which is slightly off the beaten track, ticked those boxes.

Tell us some of the highlights of your trip: 

One was a private kayaking tour in the mangroves where we went canoeing amongst a huge flock of flamingos. The Oberoi Beach Resort’s concierge is so knowledgeable when it comes to planning days out and experiences, even with very little children. The hotel also has a divine spa and an excellent golf course. 

What did you love most about the hotel? 

The rooms were huge and on the ground floor, with their own equally big private gardens complete with tables, chairs and sun loungers. Perfect for us to enjoy drinks and room service when the baby was sleeping. The spoiling à la carte breakfast menu was an added bonus. We always found something suitable for Wylder too.

What will children enjoy most? 

My son, Wylder, particularly loved watching a falcon be released to hunt, which was a little slice of traditional Emirati culture.

Overall, staff couldn’t have been more friendly, even to a toddler who constantly chucked food all over the place. They appeared with beach toys, baby bath products in the room, colouring for meal times, and would happily adapt the children’s menu to suit young guests. There’s a small kids’ club which is great for toddlers, though perhaps less so for older children.

Close to the hotel, the lovely Al ZorahMarina One is only five minutes away by car and offers lots of great watersports which I’m sure would be really fun for families with older children. If you do spend time in Dubai then I would highly recommend a visit to the experiential OliOli museum – it’s a must-see with kids. 

Who would a family holiday to Ajman suit? 

Parents who want the ease of a manageable flight time, guaranteed sunshine and the perfect time difference for a lie-in (four hours ahead of GMT means little ones actually sleep in too!), but are maybe less enticed by glitzy Dubai and would like a more traditional cultural experience.

What did you pack for yourself?

I’ve just discovered Paolita, having walked past the store on Westbourne Grove many times. I felt mindful of dressing modestly to respect the local culture in the Middle East, and the Kaleidoscope Eyes print midi skirt was a good below-the-knee option that still felt feminine. While I worship the sun, I try to keep my face especially protected and have perfected my own bespoke blend of MZ Skin Tint and Protect misted over the top with Vichy’s SPF50 Capital Soleil enhanced tan protective water, for high coverage with a dewy glow. A recent gift was a gold Coco locket, a collaboration between Arizona Muse’s wonderful charity Dirt and Botswana-inspired, climate positive jeweller Beabond. I thought it would be sentimental to keep a shell Wylder had collected inside the locket (which never happened in the end, but there’s always next time).

And what would you recommend packing for children?

I swear by Slipfree’s UPF50+ water shoes which are so simple to put on and great for protecting little soles. We have the hot pink tie dye pair, but I now know more muted tones are available. At the moment I’m mid-way through a rental subscription with Bundlee so Wylder’s wardrobe is lots of Mini Rodini, which is a fun, colourful choice for holiday basics (and a definite style upgrade on the H&M I used to buy). Mori is the softest fabric, so I’m never without one of the brand’s sleeping bags, plus a few ribbed separates which double-up as pyjamas. Maxi-Cosi’s Nomad travel car seat always travels abroad with us too, for speeding up the car rental process or making an Uber safe and accessible. On the cabin-friendly pram front we fly with the Cybex Libelle, which honestly feels like a bit of a hidden gem given that it folds even smaller than some of it’s rivals and is priced more competitively too. 

What do you look for in a holiday as a parent? 

We’re all about that beach, which is why one of our early family holidays was to Soho Beach House in Canouan, a little island a few hops from Barbados with amazing marine life. We loved that our room was right by the ocean, and the fact there was no swimming pool gave it more of an adult vibe. Now as Wylder gets older, a kids’ club is starting to look more appealing, but I hope we still have a few more years of simple sandcastles and wave-hopping left in us.

What is your favourite family holiday destination?

Babylonstoren is our special place as a couple – and as a family of three – combining our mutual love of South Africa (and its rosé) with our passion for nature, tranquillity and pared back design. There’s an abundance of activities at Babylon, from guided nature walks to see (what feels like) every rare and stunning plant and flower under the sun to bike riding, canoeing and even natural soap making. I promise you could spend a whole week here and never run out of things to do. 

And if you are travelling sans enfants?

Safari every time (I’m obsessed with birding and Singita’s Kwitonda Lodge in Rwanda is top of my honeymoon wish list), closely followed by an adults-only boutique hotel in Ibiza like Petunia which we discovered last season, or The Wild Hotel in Mykonos to reminisce about our first ever holiday together.

What do you always take in your carry-on? 

My husband calls me a luxus vogel (translation: luxury bird) because I have to fly with my Hästens travel pillow and White Company hooded cashmere onesie. After a lost luggage incident, I now always stash one book and one trusty bikini in my hand luggage, and make it something classic like my black Penelope two-piece from Irvetta. My hack when Wylder was airline bassinet age was to carry masking tape too, for covering up that pesky cabin spotlight.

Where are you off to next?

LA for a wedding, and otherwise I’m a fan of booking on the spontaneous last minute side. This summer we are toying with (dreaming of): Amanzoe in Greece for a grown-up mini break; Menorca newness at Son Blanc farmhouse and Villa Le Blanc; or the Peligoni Club in Zakynthos for what I’ve heard is the ultimate toddler’s crèche, aka parent paradise. I’d also love to revisit Ras al Khaimah, when Anantara opens there later this year.

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