That is an attitude Ajman is trying to change — and squinting up at the sun back at the hotel, with a gin and tonic by my side and the Gulf lapping gently in the background, I could see why.
Ajman may lack its ritzy neighbour’s skyscrapers and £100 brunches, but it is a far quieter, more relaxed and manageable destination: a collection of hotels, restaurants and shops spread lazily down a short stretch of coastline, which offers Dubai’s attractions at a fraction of the price.
You can see why it might seem remote to Dubai-ites used to getting around within a ten-minute taxi ride, but for British tourists in search of winter sunshine under seven hours away, it is tantalisingly near.
I stayed at the Fairmont, a family-friendly hotel working with Virgin Holidays. There is a large pool with a swim-up bar and a sheltered beach, as well as a spa, gym, several restaurants and a pub where you can undo all the good work you did in the gym.
The other guests were a mixture of Britons, Europeans and the occasional Russian couple, tanning to deep hues of nut-brown. Unlike in Sharjah, alcohol is legal, which did not go unnoticed.
Ajman has a collection of hotels, restaurants and shops on a short stretch of coastline, pictured
With Ajman’s growing appeal, there are an increasing number of attractions. At the Ajman Stud we saw the glossy Arabians bred for racing at Meydan (the Dubai racecourse) and beyond, while at the Al Zorah watersports centre, fit young things spun and jumped on wakeboards.
The Sheikh’s old palace has been turned into an amusing little museum, with waxworks illustrating traditional ways of life. There’s even an old windcatcher, a simple but Koinqq clever design in which convection draws hot air up through a high tunnel, bringing a breeze through the rooms. The royal family would sleep there during the summer, when the temperature can reach 50c.
Given that the UAE only came into existence in 1971, it’s no surprise that some of the exhibits, such as handcuffs from the 1980s, are more contemporary than what you might find in the Louvre.