Words by Olivia Cox
Dubai: playground for the rich and famous, and a well-earned highlight on the winter sun map. Trouble is, with such a plethora of impeccably curated experiences on offer, it can be hard to know where to start. With proclamations of best, biggest and newest at quite literally every turn, Dubai, the most populous Emirate in the UAE, truly knows how to sell itself. But what can be considerably harder is weighing up what is really worth spending the time, money, and frankly effort on. But fear not. LLM – Luxury Lifestyle Magazine has done the legwork for you, and whittled this year’s must-visit Dubai to a neat three destinations. Cut-out and keep, then book your Emirates flat bed.
Melia Desert Palm
Set in 160 acres and home to more than 400 polo ponies, Meliá Desert Palm, A Meliá Collection is an oasis of tranquility, calm and absolute indulgence.
A true lesson in luxury, the resort prides itself on offering absolute sanctuary and privacy for the most discerning amongst us. With surprisingly few rooms and suites, there is a real feeling of space yet intimacy, and impeccable personal attention. The staff greet guests by name, and are on-call via WhatsApp for help with anything from booking taxis, beach clubs and restaurants; to organising in-villa floating breakfasts. Which are – for that matter – entirely divine.
The central theme of the resort is elegant Spanish charm, with reminders scattered about public and private areas – there was a polo mallet in my villa, and vintage saddles adorned our path to breakfast.
The signature Rare restaurant boasts an impressive array of Argentinian cuisine (steaks come highly recommended), and sundowners are regularly accompanied by a chukka or two from the terrace overlooking one of four polo fields. What is perhaps most spectacular is the view of the field against the stunning backdrop of the Dubai skyline. A true paradox of urban and rural opulence.
The spacious and modern rooms are accessed via the sprawling hotel lobby, and villas are individually scattered around the resort. Each is different, with varying numbers of rooms, terraces, private pools, and unique twists like outside showers.
Wellness is a huge part of the offering here – think low sugar alternatives at breakfast, an impressively stocked gym, and the impeccable Samāna spa. On-demand bicycles for a sunset tour of the grounds come highly recommended by yours truly.
Rooms start at £104 per night (prices depends on availability and season).
Address: Al Awir Road Dubai 119171
25 Hours One Central
By contrast, 25 Hours Hotel One Central is vibrant, playful, and could never be accused of taking itself too seriously. Located in One Central, the 434 rooms and suites spiral up to the top floor, which spills out onto a pool, mixed gender saunas (the first of their kind in Dubai, BTW), and Monkey Bar – all overlooking the vast Downtown Dubai cityscape.
If you know the 25 Hours Hotel One Central brand, you’ll know to expect the unexpected. The latest launch is a spectacular lesson in irreverence and how to stand out against the smorgasbord of ultra-luxe destinations in Dubai. Because whilst 25 Hours flirts with Dubai’s ubiquitous opulence, it has a rebellious side, forges a new breed of luxury hotel.
There’s all the fun quirks you’d expect (particular highlights are the neon light slogans and pleasingly clever puns – Tandoor Tina’s wall proclaims it is “second to naan”, but also novelties to surprise even the most seasoned 25 Hours-er. Like sandpits in the conference rooms, and a lobby packed with curiosities paying homage to traditional Bedouin life. You really couldn’t make this stuff up.
Rooms at 25 Hours Hotel One Central continue along the same vein, with carefully curated art adorning the walls, analogue telephones and vintage typewriters sporadically placed, and fun extras like hammocks. Because why not. On which note, I heard rumours of ‘Sheik-sized’ beds – aka triple king – in some of the suites. Only in Dubai.
Rooms start at approx. £170 per night.
Address: 25 Hours Hotel One Central, Trade Center Street
Phone: +971 4 210 2525
Burj Al Arab
Once known as the only ‘six-star’ hotel in the world but now considered a lofty ‘seven-star’ destination, the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah is the brainchild of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. His vision was to create an iconic structure to rival the likes of the Eiffel Tower, Empire State, Big Ben et al., putting Dubai well and truly on the map. Unsurprisingly, the Burj continues leads the pack in overt opulence – think private helipad, a shockingly high staff-to-guest ratio, and a policy of offering only suites, not rooms.
Entry to the Burj is via private golf buggy over a bridge connecting the private beach to the mainland, giving the illusion that the 321 metre high structure is floating (don’t worry – it’s not). Privacy is paramount – this is a place to see and be seen, but only by the right people.
Upon entry, it’s hard not to be over-awed by the immense glitz and opulence. The foyer boasts an aquarium of over 4,000 fish, and the infamous escalator propels guests into the world’s highest atrium (180 metres, FYI). And there’s a running theme here – you’ll find a lot of world-first / best / biggest at the Burj. On which note, the Royal Suites…
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to meet a price tag of £25,000 per night, you’ll be delighted to know that the Royal Suites (there’s two) have now been transformed into tourist attractions, accessible thanks to the new Inside Burj Al Arab (IBAA) tour. It’s a rare insight into the lives of the very rich and famous – my butler name-dropped everyone from the Royals and heads of state to Tiger Woods and Justin Bieber as speed-dial friends. The ninety minute tour takes in the breath-taking two-floor suite, complete with full-size dining room, two separate bedrooms and bathrooms (one has a rotating bed. I’m not kidding), library, dressing rooms and of course, the spectacular 360-degree view.
As you’d expect, the collection of restaurants at the Burj is diverse and plentiful, and includes seafood, traditional Middle Eastern, French, and Italian. If you fancy venturing out of the Burj’s luxurious confines, new beachfront ‘It Spot’ Rockfish is a short buggy ride away at Jumeirah Al Naseem and offers an indulgent menu overlooking the beach. An exercise in beachfront fine dining, Rockfish has quickly earned its reputation as the place to go for achingly fresh seafood, the finest of fine wines, and exquisite cocktails. Portions are surprisingly generous – highlights include the tuna truffle ponzu, and their signature lobster risotto. As you’d expect, there is also an impressive array of fresh fish to pick from. It’s the sort of place to happily languish from dawn ‘til dusk. Next time, I’m trying the brunch.
Suites start at approx £1,138.44 per night.
IBAA tour price: £50 per ticket.
Address: Jumeirah St – Dubai, PO Box 74147, Dubai, UAE
Phone: +971 4 301 7777