Some might sneer at Dubai for its man-made marvels; others seek it out for the guaranteed sunshine, the luxurious hotels, the malls, the restaurants and the accessibility from London. Best is to take a weekend there enjoy a city which is all about, not the C of culture, but the C of convenience; not the S of sights, but the S of shopping. For those who want to dally longer, a visit to the desert for lunch and an afternoon of falconry is a pleasingly exotic side trip with sightings of Arabian oryx and gazelles guaranteed as well, of course, as camels. Give it a chance and you’ll be surprised, say Mary Lussiana and Ellie Smith…
The Weekender: Discover Dubai
Jumeirah Al Naseem
The Madinat Jumeirah complex is Dubai’s largest resort, sprawled across 40 hectares of land running alongside the Arabian gulf. ‘Madinat Jumeirah’ is Arabic for ‘the country of Jumeirah’, which is an apt depiction: with four huge hotels, over 50 restaurants, two kilometres of private beach and its own river, it’s a true holiday empire – a destination within a destination. The newest hotel here is Jumeirah Al Naseem, which translates as ‘sea breeze’ – a term which epitomises the relaxed, peaceful feel of this endlessly chic resort. Soothing shades of caramel, cream and blue run throughout, white drapes cascade from the lobby ceiling, and the sounds of the sea reach open terraces, outdoor restaurants and many of the guest rooms.
There are a wide range of different room categories – with two new penthouse suites launching soon – but even those at the lowest price point are excellent. Some overlook the ocean with views of the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah (the world’s only seven-star hotel), while others look out onto the resort’s luscious gardens and pools. The beautiful open-plan bathrooms deserve a special mention, with a separate mosaic-tiled bathing area, carved wooden sink bowls and spacious showers inspired by Arabic hammams.
Being a five-star Jumeirah hotel in one of the world’s glitziest locations, it goes without saying that the facilities across the resort are outstanding, with an overwhelming array of glamorous swimming pools, impressive architecture and lavish eateries (check the EAT section for more on these). Hop aboard a golf buggy or abra boat to reach the hotel’s sibling properties and use shared facilities, which include a sleek newly opened gym, a spa, the famed Wild Wadi water park, and – perhaps most exciting of all – a turtle rehabilitation lagoon.
If you choose to stay in town, make the most of the private beach at Dubai’s latest, sleekest, most seductive hotel, the Bulgari. With its decorative theme of white coral courtesy of designers Antonio Citterio and Patrica Viel, this hotel is a brilliant new addition to the city. Excellent service and the rooms are vast and luxurious.
When dusk comes head over to Dubai’s extraordinary fountain. The Dubai Fountain is the world’s largest choreographed fountain, shooting water 500ft into the air, illuminated by 6,600 lights and accompanied by classical, contemporary Arab or world music. For music of an operatic kind, check the programme at the 2,000-seat Dubai Opera which has performances throughout the year.
Madinat Jumeirah boasts over 50 restaurants, spanning a wide range of cuisines – from Japanese to Mexican to Arabian. One of the best is Rockfish, a beachfront homage to seafood headed up by Michelin-starred chef Marco Garfagnini. Go here for some of the freshest, tastiest fish around, and don’t miss the truffle risotto: heaven on a plate. Kayto is also well worth a visit, a pop-up restaurant perched on the rooftop of The Palmery offering an eclectic blend of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine. Think ceviches, sushi rolls and nigiri, alongside a mouth-watering selection of meat and fish dishes – the wagyu beef is a must-try. For leisurely waterside food and drinks head to the glorious Shimmers, a Greek-inspired restaurant set on the beach of Jumeirah Mina A’Salam.
Elsewhere, Al Mahara in the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah delivers sublime dishes from wild turbot with seaweed mashed potato to Cornish scallops with mushroom risotto in the setting of the aquarium.
Spend the day at the ultra luxurious, Arabian style One&Only Royal Mirage comprising of three resorts set across 65 acres of grounds. Enjoy a stroll around the lush gardens taking in the impressive fountains, palm trees (there are 1000 in total) and 1km of private beach. Amongst the 15 restaurants and bars is Provence-inspired DRIFT beach club – dine on sea bream en papillote and drink Miraval rosé at the before spending the afternoon relaxing by the pool or at the beach. Enjoy a romantic evening meal at three Michelin starred chef Mauro Colagreco’s Beach Bar and Grill; the Royal Seafood Platter starter is a must. After dinner, recline on “Majilis” style cushion seating in atmospheric The Courtyards with a shisha, digestif or tea.
The Dubai Mall is one of the world’s largest, encompassing an aquarium and underwater zoo alongside the designer shops. Alternatively, head to the Gold Mall where watches and jewellery are yours for the picking.
Book a stay at Jumeirah Al Naseem from £176 a night.
Scott Dunn offers a seven-night stay at Bulgari Resort, from £2,100pp B&B, based on two people sharing a Superior Room, and includes flights and private transfers throughout. 020 8682 5070
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