Abu Dhabi: Its distinctive concrete facade has not changed in years, even though much of its land, and even the city, has transformed in unrecognizable ways. Built for a royal wedding, the Radisson Blu Hotel and Resort in Al Ain opened in March 1971.
At the time, the property, originally owned by the Hilton Group and known as the Hilton Al Ain, was the UAE’s first luxury hotel. It was inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, then Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
Surrounded by sand
All around there was sand as far as the eye could see. Yet the hotel brought comfort and hospitality to dignitaries attending the royal wedding and has become one of the most popular venues in the Garden City.
It had 76 rooms spread over five floors and a restaurant catering to local tastes, Tim Corden, senior vice president of the Radisson Middle East and North Africa group, told Gulf News.
âThe hotel became the meeting place and hosted the city’s premier theatrical event. Its ballroom was a popular venue for occasions and its conference rooms hosted many important meetings, âhe said.
Concrete structure only
The hotel building was the only concrete structure in town except for Kanad Hospital, formerly known as Oasis Hospital. It is said to have housed a restaurant serving buffet lunch and dinner, a cafe and an outdoor swimming pool.
Wrap-around balconies on each of the floors added clear architectural lines to the building, and a series of arches at the top echoed regional stylistic cues.
The media reported that the cost of the property was 18 million Bahraini dinars, the currency used in Abu Dhabi from 1966 until the introduction of the UAE dirham.
The hotel then hosted many famous guests in the early years. âIt hosted the famous boxer Muhammad Ali and Queen Elizabeth II. The facility was also very popular with the local community, âCorden added.
Changes over the years
Over time, the property has undergone many changes, in line with the demands of a growing city. In 1991 49 cabins were opened and 100 more rooms were added as part of an additional wing in 1994. The wing closely resembled the original building and fitted snugly next to it.
âWith all the additions, the hotel has grown to house 210 rooms, two cafes and two restaurants. The Radisson Group took over the property in 2019, âCorden said.
Keep signature elements
A complete overhaul was undertaken after the takeover to further modernize the hotel, but its traditional elements have been retained, including its main facade and arcades. âWe wanted to renovate the hotel for today’s guests, while preserving the elements that will keep the property identifiable to families who have visited it over the years,â Corden explained.
Similar changes were also made to the Radisson Blu Hotel in Deira Creek in Dubai, which opened in 1975, and to the Radisson Blu on the Abu Dhabi Corniche – also a former Hilton property and the first luxury hotel. to open in Abu Dhabi in 1973.
Today’s visitors to the Radisson Blu property in Al Ain will find lush gardens surrounding the hotel buildings, swimming pools, and a series of sports fields.
In addition to welcoming guests to the UAE, Corden said Al Ain property was a key employer. Today it employs between 250 and 350 people.
âThe hotel has always been very popular and it was 80% occupied before the pandemic. We look forward to welcoming more guests as tourism picks up in the United Arab Emirates, âhe added.