Anantara director of operations Middle East Michel Koopman and Eastern Mangroves hotel manager Nehme Darwiche. Anantara director of operations Middle East Michel Koopman and Eastern Mangroves hotel manager Nehme Darwiche.

Louise Oakley takes a hard-hat tour of the upcoming Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara in Abu Dhabi and finds a surprising urban sanctuary aiming to be the hotel of choice for the capital’s corporate and government business

Standing back under the January sun and looking up at the Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa in Abu Dhabi, Anantara director of operations Middle East and Eastern Mangroves general manager Michel Koopman declares simply: “She is beautiful”.

It’s the first time I’ve heard a general manager refer to his hotel in the feminine, and rarely do I see someone look so admirably at a property in the midst of construction. “This hotel is a she to me,” he emphasises, sensing my trepidation.

Three hours later, after a hard hat tour of the hotel — no stroll in the park considering the vast 1.6 kilometre site — I begin to understand the sentiment and why Koopman is so proud of this project, his 17th hotel.

Koopman is shooting to open the hotel in May 2012 — quite a feat seeing as the management contract for Tourism Development and Investment Company’s (TDIC) Eastern Mangroves Hotel was only awarded to Anantara in July 2011, after the contract with previous operator Angsana by Banyan Tree was cancelled.

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It is full steam ahead though, with 1200 workers on site testament to this, and even as we walk the property, Koopman and hotel manager Nehme Darwiche, who joins from Anantara’s sister hotel in Abu Dhabi, Desert Island Resort and Spa on Sir Bani Yas island, notice new completed features and finishes that weren’t there just a matter of days before.

“We were specifically asked to take on this management agreement, normally they go out to tender,” says Koopman, commenting on the short lead time.

“We took it on a year ago but it’s obviously a very important project to our owners TDIC. We have a good track record here, we have two existing properties, we have more than 600 associates we can draw from.

In the team we have a lot of experience in pre-opening and in the Middle East; we feel that we have no issues with the time frame of opening the property successfully in line with the expectations of our openings.”

But, following a spate of hotel launches in Abu Dhabi – namely Rocco Forte, Westin, Park Hyatt, Jumeirah and St. Regis, each offering something new, and all sitting at the top end of the market – what is Thai operator Anantara bringing to the capital with Eastern Mangroves?

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