For nomadic Bedouin, travelling through the desert dunes of Arabia, a hill would have been something special. The ascending approach to Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf, with an incline through rich emerald green lawns and golden sculptures of prancing horses, would have seemed like the path to heaven. This is what Versailles would have been like if Louis XIV had worked with a decent budget.
Between the towering pillars of the Jumeirah Al Qasr hotel, which also acts as reception for Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf, stands a splendidly turbaned chap. So resplendent in his tunic that he could be a Sultan’s footman. If your Arabic is a little rusty then Al Qasr translates as the palace, and Dar al Masyaf means the summerhouses.
Check-in, for Jumeirah, is a formal concept that is so last century: it is a ritual deconstructed and replaced by an Arabic welcome of sumptuous sofa, cool juice and chilled flannel. But the traveller’s journey to the Dar al Masyaf is not yet done. An abra with sun canopy, a traditional Arabic boat with more style and oomph than a gondola, guides guests through Venetian-like canals to their summerhouses.
The architecture, reminiscent of an Arab citadel from Sinbad’s tales, pays homage to a past that harnessed nature for cooling: cross-timbered wind towers, airy tall lounges and palm-shaded courtyards.
The abra’s journey puts a distance between visitors and frenetic Dubai. Swathes of palm trees filter out city sounds, save for a distant muezzin’s call to prayer. Cooling sea breezes drifting in from the Gulf of Arabia create a sanctuary from Dubai’s heavy acrid air. This is a place to relax after a visit to Dubai, to find a sun lounger on a long white sandy beach. Such quiet beach space is rare when the whole world flocks to Dubai for its R and R.
The 29 summerhouses, home to 283 rooms or suites, are a sophisticated retreat from brash Dubai. Yet, with their coffee-makers and widescreen televisions, the summerhouses are not a retreat from technological luxury.
At 650 square metres the entry level deluxe room is more spacious than what passes for a suite at many a hotel. In addition, there is a large balcony furnished with wicker chairs and table for views of passing abras, the Madinat – more on that later – and of the familiar sail of the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, frequently lauded as the world’s most luxurious hotel.
Although there’s the opulence of a Sultan’s palace to the decor – a vast fluffy oasis of a bed, tasselled wall-hangings and more cushions than you can count, the colour palette is neutral and restrained.
Few people know that the Muezzin’s call is actually a call to wash before prayer. For Arabs, bathrooms are important, a heavenly escape from a dusty, hot world. At Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf there are deep baths with a heady range of toiletries provided by Amouage, the Omani fragrance house. Separate showers, his and her vanity units plus a spacious dressing room all add to the luxurious experience.
Every summerhouse has a butler to help with unpacking, shoe-shining, making restaurant reservations, ringing for an abra – and hosting a drinks reception for guests every evening at 6pm.
Although the butler will serve breakfast on your balcony, taking an abra for breakfast in the palatial restaurant of the Al Qasr or at the Khaymat Al Bahar restaurant, on the beach, is an adventure.
There is an endless list of facilities numerous swimming pools with life guard, tennis, sunrise yoga on the beach, beach butler service, the Talise Spa, a concierge to book your excursions, pool tables by the beach, a secret garden massage, paddle boards and kayaks, Sinbad’s Kids Club, hair and beauty saloon, beach volleyball, free entry to the Wild Wadi water park and a cavernous 24-hour fitness facility. No surprise then that some families return year after year.
Souk Madinat is another tribute to traditional Arabian architecture, a multi-level ramble of souks: cafes, shops restaurants and a theatre. Altogether on Jumeirah’s site, including hotels and the Souk Madinat, there are over 50 places to eat. Those Bedouin would have never known that finding lunch could be so easy.
In a nutshell
Uber-stylish, Arabian chic relaxation on Dubai’s gulf coast. Larger apartments are perfect for families, deluxe rooms quiet and secluded for couples. There is so much to do for everyone.
Rooms from £300 per night including breakfast.
Address: Madinat Jumeirah, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud St, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 366 8888