The Dhafra Beach Hotel

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"The best kept secret in Arabia" - a petrochemical engineer.

Camouflaged with sand-coloured paint, concealed by eucalyptus trees as high as its three storeys, the Dhafra Beach hotel at Jebel Dhanna subtly merges with the surrounding desert. It is a modern oasis. It was built in the 1970s to accommodate European and American oil engineers and managers who were helping to develop the nearby refinery and oil terminal. Our ‘field camp' for the last 10 years its promotional literature proclaims a ‘one storey building designed to resemble a fortress for the public area [sic]' and, ‘The perfect spot to run away for some peace and privacy. It's so seclusive, nobody will bother to look for you here.'

It is staffed by a wonderful team mainly from India.Their philosophy is that anyone who comes to the Dhafra Beach is not a usually a tourist but a worker. They also are workers so that there is great bonhomie throughout the hotel. Its Manager, Sashi Pannaker (in 2001), has been there many years and his staff have thoughtfully organised our many requests for boxes, packing materials and safe storage of equipment for the following field season.

On Thursday evenings - the beginning of the weekend in Arabia - the carpark is full of 4WD vehicles (120 counted one night) whose occupants are visiting either the bar, sports or pool facilities. The car park also boasts a helicopter pad upon which His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan bin Murbarak al Nahayan landed his machine in 1995 so that he might open the First Conference on the Fossil Vertebrates of Arabia.

The ecosystem around the hotel boasts sightings of geckoes, skinks and birds such as hoopoes and raptors visiting this unique "stop-over" during their migrations from Asia to Africa and southern Europe, and vice versa.

Since our first visit, the Dhafra Beach has now become the field study centre for the education of both young Arabian graduate and professional oil company geologists who will be able to experience the Western Region's unique geology and study the present day marine and sabkha sedimentological environments.

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