The exterior of Ayla Hotel Al Ain. The exterior of Ayla Hotel Al Ain.

The ‘origins story’ of Ayla Hotels & Resorts, the Al Ain-based and homegrown hotel owner and operator, is very much intertwined with the career trajectory of the company’s group general manager, Mohamed Soussan.

Sitting in his Arabian art-bedecked office inside the company’s latest opening – its first five-star property, the Ayla Grand Hotel – the garrulous Lebanese-Australian spills the details of how he fell in love with Al Ain when he was, by chance, posted there for a job assignment.

“The story of Ayla Hotels also starts with my personal story as well, when I established myself in Al Ain back in 2001. From 2001 to 2004, I used to work for the former InterCon here in Al Ain,” Soussan recalls.

“I became really attached to Al Ain and started to think about it for the future. I thought to myself, in future, if I would have any opportunity to work in a hotel, I want to go back to Al Ain,” Soussan says. And he was not alone. As he recounts it, his family shared his sentiments.

“My family, especially, they love Al Ain. This is what led me to keep good relationships with certain decision makers in Al Ain,” he says.

A savvy move, because when Soussan relocated to Kuwait in 2004 for an assignment with Rotana, fate would intervene to bring him back a few years later. At first, his hopes were thwarted as the 2009 financial crisis hit the region. Then, when Rotana had just transferred him to Abu Dhabi, an opportunity to return to Al Ain presented itself once again.

Instead of making an outright immediate jump, Soussan felt he still owed time and loyalty to Rotana and reviewed the Al Ain opportunity only after much careful thought and deliberation.

“For me it was very hard. I’m a person with ethics,” he says empathically. “I cannot give you my word and not fulfill my word unless six months have passed. I believe that with everything in life, within six months, you will know if you can go on or not.”

Soussan believes in a degree of fatalism, he says, that if destiny has dictated a certain outcome, then that outcome is bound to happen, sooner or later.

“Six months soon passed and still, they didn’t find anyone for Al Ain so, I got the call again and in the end, they sent me the contract,” he says.

It was the beginning of the conception of what would later turn out to be Al Ain’s first and – still the only – hotel management company. Soussan says that to be instrumental in the creation of such an enterprise, to be so hands-on with the creation of a hospitality company, was something that he had always dreamed about and been working towards, since the onset of his career.

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