Gemma Does Dubai – Sand, Shopping & Desert Surprises!

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When surrounded by some of the most unique high-rise building I have come across, on my recent trip to Dubai (meant only for rest and relaxation purposes,)I couldn’t help but be intrigued by what each one had to offer so ditched a couple of beach days in favour of some site inspections of the most popular hotels.

Undoubtedly the perfect destination for families, as I discovered travelling alone with a 3 year old who was spoilt rotten everywhere we went, this is a shoppers paradise but also a great stop off for a few nights if you are heading out to or back from the Indian Ocean, Far East or Asia. There quite literally is a hotel to suit everyone!

My first visit was to the Armani Hotel situated in the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. The area of Downtown also hosts the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping destination and The Dubai Fountains (20 times higher than The Ballagio in Las Vegas). The entrance is impressive as are the staff – all gorgeous looking young things with tailor-made Armani suits (what else). More thought has gone into the interior design of this hotel than possibly any other I have seen. Whilst to the untrained eye it looks very glamorous and chic, there is exceptional attention to detail from the silk lined walls to no sharp edges or corners in the rooms. The corridors to the rooms and suites resemble catwalks and I’m sure if no one is looking guests love to ‘strut their stuff’ on their way to their room. Unlike many of the gold and elaborate decorations that adorn the majority of Dubai hotels, The Armani is the total opposite – but it works. A number of restaurant outlets cater for all tastes and Mr Armani overseas the menus personally – all the dishes are like works of art! I would suggest you stay at The Armani for no longer than 3 nights and combine it with either a beach destination (Indian Ocean) or some nights down in the Jumeirah area. If you are just in Dubai to shop then this would be perfect for you as you are exceptionally close to all the shops in the Dubai Mall which range from couture designers to the High St. Whilst you might not consider if for families, I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. The hotel will happily arrange Kidzania activities for the children whilst you enjoy the spa or the boutiques.

The Burj Al Arab has long been recognised as one of the finest hotels in the world and is in complete contrast to the aforementioned hotel. Upon entering the hotel you can’t help but be struck by the opulence of every aspect of the hotel. The colours are bright, deep and rich and everywhere is accentuated with gold. Beautiful fountains adorn the lobby and lounge areas and the respect for privacy appears to be of prime importance. Only suites can be found at Burj Al Arab and whether they be 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms they are all duplex. The colours and the opulence of the public areas are of equal grandeur in the rooms.

Madinat Jumeirah is exceptionally popular for families and it is easy to see why. Whilst the resort is rather large and connected by a number of waterways that are accessed by gondola style boats, it is broken down into two separate hotels and a number of summer houses. Madinat also has a Souk with 23 restaurants and 75 shopping experiences. Al Qasr – The Palace Hotel, is the centre piece of the resort and designed to reflect the Royal summer residence. Mina A’Salam – Harbour of Peace, is a grand boutique hotel of exquisite style (292 rooms and suites). All rooms have balconies and face the sea. Mina A’Salam is slightly more Arabic in theme but both parts of the hotel have access to each other including use of all restaurants and children’s facilities throughout. By far my most favourite part of Madinat are the Gulf Summer Houses. These Riad style houses with up to 10 rooms are situated along the beach and give the feel of a totally private sanctuary. They are the most premium accommodation in the resort but if you are seeking a more intimate hideaway, even with your family, then this must be your choice. In each Summer House there is a one bedroom suite – so couples and families alike are welcomed.

If you prefer a slightly more traditional, western style hotel then the Ritz Carlton may suit. Interiors are similar to worldwide Ritz Carlton properties, but unlike many of the Dubai properties, the Ritz Carlton is relatively ‘low-rise’ and also fairly boutique with only 138 rooms. This however will change and by 2012/13 the hotel will have undergone a renovation to upgrade it to 300 rooms. The location of the Ritz Carlton is perfect for those who like to venture out to restaurants and bars as it is just across the road from the Jumeirah Beach Residence ‘Boardwalk’. In the evening this areas is buzzing and great fun.

As a huge lover of all things One & Only, I was exceptionally excited to take a look at One & Only Royal Mirage and it didn’t disappoint. The resort is comprised of three hotels all linked with beautiful, lush gardens and overlooking The Palm Jumeirah. The Arabian Court is crafted in the spirit of Arabia with dramatic architecture which can be seen in both the public areas and within the rooms – all rooms are sea facing. The Palace is slightly more western in decoration and Arabian lamps are replaced with crystal chandeliers. Both hotels are of equally high standard, it is for you to choose which interior you prefer. Both Arabian Court and The Palace are extremely family friendly and there are many activities incorporated into each day of your stay. Residence & Spa is the jewel in the crown and is an intimate sanctuary for those who wish to have a more private and secluded holiday. Whilst children are accepted, they are not encouraged as the hotel does not have the children’s facilities and activities that The Arabian Court and The Palace do. With only 32 rooms, 16 suites and 1 villa this is by far the most prestigious address at One & Only Royal Mirage. On 10.10.10 One & Only opened a new hotel on The Palm. Reservations for One & Only The Palm can now be taken for stays from November onwards. This property is billed as ‘Dubai’s most intimate new beach resort’!

The last property I saw in Dubai was one of great surprise and a property that could open Dubai up to those who never had it on their radar before. So far everything I had seen had been amongst the hustle and bustle of Dubai, whether on the beach or in a more city location, but Desert Palm was a complete surprise to me. Sister of Huvafen Fushi in the Maldives (a favourite at Haslemere Travel) the name gives the illusion that it is hours into the dessert however it is only 14 minutes from the airport. Set amidst green fields and palm trees the Dubai skyline is a mere illusion in the distance. No high-rise buildings for miles – all you can see are wide open spaces and not just sand! Owned by a polo lover this 13 bedroom truly boutique hotel is only 40 minutes from the beach or shopping malls, so not completely isolated, but you could be in another world. Set on four polo fields, the bedrooms within the hotel all look out over the fields, as does the spa. In every corner is a piece of exquisite horse related art from antique saddles to horse head sculptures. In addition to the 13 rooms there are 13 villas with either 1or 2 bedrooms – all with their own pools. The fine-dining and brassiere style restaurants have both won Dubai Time Out awards this year so just because this property is small does not mean the facilities are not first class. I spent a few hours at this resort but they were a welcome retreat from everything that Dubai has grown to be – glitzy, glamorous, over the top, exuberant and every once in a while I wasn’t quite sure if I’d stepped on to the film set of ‘The Matrix’ – if you’ve been, you’ll know exactly what I mean!

If you would like to learn more about Dubai and which hotels could work best for your next trip, then please do call Gemma on 01428 658 777

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