Experience the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, just a 60 minute drive from Dubai, it’s easy to reach. The enormity of its size stuns as you arrive; a grand arch, not unlike the Arc de Triomphe, sits proud at the entrance. However this entrance is only for Heads of State and VIP’s so swiftly by-pass this to the tradesman’s entrance, unless you got that promotion you deserve so richly!
The foyer is as large as St Paul’s in London, and shaped as such. You’ll be greeted with dates and mint tea. Ladies are given a posy of roses as a welcome gesture.
After check in and receiving gold ‘chip’ as a room key, you are escorted to your room and introduced to your butler, on hand for any whim.
There is an east and west wing, east is predominantly for relaxation, while west is for family fun. In keeping with the lack of walking in Dubai, a golf buggy is available 24 hours a day to drive you between each wing.
If its glitz and glamour you are after this is the hotel for you. The Palace offers the worlds most expensive million dollar tailor made holiday. It cost approximately 3 billion dollars to build in just under than 3 years. You could imagine in that time it would have been shabbily erected, but no, the attention to detail is immaculate.
With 1300 cubic metres of the finest marble, this is home to 1002 Swarovski crystal chandeliers, 114 domes with 102 elevators. 9000 square metres of gold leaf adorn the walls, 5 kg of it is used every year to decorate the deserts, the favourite being the ‘Palace cake’.
You need GPS to get back to your room. There are 14 restaurants and a maze of shops. Not to mention the private beach with camel rides, the outdoor auditorium where Elton John plays, and the football pitch certified by FIFA.
The rich descend upon this hotel in their droves. They don’t want to leave. The Grand Prix is held just up the road; enticing celebrities spending frivolously. In its perfume shop an assistant remarked that the lady’s surname on her gold card was a little unusual. ‘Ferrari’ she said, ‘That’s my dad’.
You may not want to leave, but unless dad owns Dubai, or a famed brand of red sports cars, you can take the dream with you, and remember the mirage.
‘Visionaries’ Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, The Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE have constructed a true oasis. The short journey from the Dubai Airport to the Jumeriah Beach resort is just long enough to shake off desert dust and contemplate the luxurious balm, the calm that is the ‘One and Only Royal Mirage’.
Arriving late at night, it takes seconds for your eyes to adjust to the magnificence of the camel sculptures in the courtyard. Legend conveys that a royal mirage rose from the sand as a Bedouin caravan struggled through the desert. This provided the ‘oasis’ they needed until the storm subsided. Thankfully, your thirst will be quenched with a complementary ‘mocktail’ and a cold flannel to soothe your weary brow.
The Royal Mirage is divided into three distinct areas, The Palace, Arabian Court and the Residence and Spa. Each is designed to compliment the other, yet they have very different environments. You could spend weeks and never venture across the same experience twice. All of rooms are sea facing and laced with the latest technology.
There is a veritable mix of eateries. Tagine, provides a Moroccan experience where Olives focuses on Mediterranean influences.
The Beach Bar and Grill arises like a sand castle from the private beach. It offers divine sea food; opt for the speciality of mixed Arabian seafood platter. The atmosphere is relaxed and the candles and lapping of the waves almost nurse you to sleep after feasting.
For something more lively, you can grab a cocktail in the Jetty Lounge, before taking the complimentary water taxi to the Palm Island and the One and Only The Palm. The feel is different with a European vibe. Its restaurant ZEST is decked in silver and white with two cooking stations preparing Asian, Western and Middle Eastern cuisines. The menu is devised so that each dish is prepared in the three different styles.
In order to round off a relaxing stay, the signature oriental hammam at the Spa is a must. The masseurs are experts from Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey, known locally as Tayels or Tellaks and they are masters at making you feel utterly rejuvenated inside and out.
A short taxi ride from The One and Only, Dubai ‘doesn’t do feet’ brings you to the centre piece of Dubai Marina, The Ritz Carlton Hotel. As one of the oldest hotels in Dubai, it affords the eccentric luxury of combining old style with new. Afternoon tea, in fact, tea at anytime, is still a ritual of the Ritz Carlton and its no exception in Dubai. The pace is slower, almost sedentary and the welcome, especially everyone remembering your name, makes you feel like a worthy visitor.
The Ritz has a private beach and delicately landscaped gardens. Each of the rooms and suites over looks the pool and garden areas. The fitness suite is state of the art; there are also tennis and squash courts for the more fanatical fitness junkie.
Amaseena is their outdoor tented Bedouin village that offers a nightly buffet of regional cuisine. Arabian chill out music plays in the background, with the specialist oud and tabla (guitar and drum) as the main features. There are over 16 choices of hot and cold mezzeh and many traditional plates such as the shawarma (hot wraps), koftas, tagines and an array of mixed grills of meat and seafood.
Part of the charm of Dubai is the speed at which the ostentatious skyline turns into desert. As you leave the city for the Desert Palm Hotel (20 minutes outside), you can clearly see the soaring and vital contrast of old versus new. There are gold and spice souks along alleyways side by side with the malls. Dubai Mall boasts an Olympic sized ice rink.
Delve deeper and the Desert Palm suddenly arises from the lush green of the polo fields. This five star spa hotel is set in an extensive polo property. It has four championship polo fields and each room can view a polo field from some angle. The décor is surprisingly Balinese. The rooms have personal business centres, Apple I pods and a DVD selection.
Rainfall showers and stand alone roll top baths grace the suites. Even if polo isn’t your bag, you can still enjoy a sunset drink watching the chukkas (polo periods) and mingle with the gentry. The Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge is held here and most Saturdays there will be a training match taking place if the not a tournament during season (October-April).
In the evening you can see the Dubai skyline in the distance, far away enough to appreciate the tranquillity of the desert.
Soon enough though, the bright lights entice you back for more fun. One way of acting like a kid, where it’s acceptable, is in the Atlantis Aqua Venture Park. The park is part of the Atlantis, The Palm Hotel and allows adults to recapture lost youth. Floating on a rubber ring filled with fear, holding tightly onto your swim suit so as not to lose it in the deluge of water. The Aqua Park is overflowing with speed slides, rapids and rivers, a must for the thrill seeker.
One very special element to the park is the Dolphin Encounter. Spend time learning about dolphins and interact with them. A once in a lifetime experience.
Emirates, 0844 800 2777, www.emirates.com flies from various airports across Europe.
Where To Stay:
The One and Only Royal Mirage, 00 971 4399 9999, www.oneandonlyresorts.com.
The Ritz Carlton, 00 971 4399 4000, www.ritzcarlton.com
The Desert Palm, 00 971 4 323 8888, www.desertpalm.ae
The Emirates Palace, 00 971 2 690 9000, www.emiratespalace.com
Things To Do:
Atlantis Aqua park, Dolphin Experience, 00 971 4 426 1030, www.atlantisthepalm.com
Go Packaged :
Emirates – www.emirates.com