Extravagance in a luxurious city along the Arabian Gulf
By Camellia Bojtor
Photographs courtesy of DTCM
Located on the golden shores of the Arabian Gulf, the city of Dubai has become a global hot spot for travelers who relish all things five star. Increasingly rivaling the likes of cities such as New York and London, Dubai optimizes über luxury at its best with no shortage of global hotel chains, restaurants and nightclubs. If you’re looking for an ultimately indulgent experience, look no further.
It was a vast desert landscape only a little more than four decades ago, but thanks to the wealth generated by the country’s natural resources, Dubai has mushroomed into a city of skyscrapers with a truly impressive skyline often compared to something out of “Star Wars.” Speaking of which, part of the most recent edition was shot in the city, as was the blockbuster movie “Mission Impossible III,” which famously featured Tom Cruise climbing on the outside of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building — standing at 830 meters high — and home to the only Armani-branded hotel in the world. The film also featured scenes from the opulent Turkish-themed Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel located on Dubai’s famous man-made island — the Palm Jumeirah.
With no end of opulent hotels to choose from across the city, you really can’t go wrong when it comes to selecting your accommodation. Expect to be hopping from one to another during your stay, as they really are home to the vast majority of life in the city (particularly since you will only find licensed venues located inside hotels). For a more central location to access the old, central and newer parts of the city, Downtown (an astounding mega-development) is a popular choice (where you’ll find the Burj Khalifa). If you prefer waking up to a view of the water and the city’s luxury yachts, consider Dubai Marina (The Address Hotel is a top choice with an award-winning spa). For a more authentic Arabian feel, you might want to check out the One & Only Royal Mirage — an oasis of peace and serenity. Wherever you ultimately end up, getting about the city is a relatively painless task owing to its endless number of cheaply priced taxis with a 20- to 30-minute ride at the most getting you to most locations. The city is also well connected via the Dubai Metro — yet another marvel of the city’s futuristic design.
The city’s extravagance doesn’t end there and extends to an endless choice of eateries and nightlife venues located across the city’s resorts. Restaurants are certainly in no shortage (in fact, Dubai is said to have more per resident than any other city in the world) and celebrity chefs, including Gordon Ramsey and Gary Rhodes, have opened outlets across the city. The famous Japanese Nobu restaurant is certainly one not to miss, and if you want to rub shoulders with the city’s socialites, be sure to head to Zuma, yet another global chain that has made itself a name on the Dubai scene. The New Orleans-themed Nola, which opened earlier this year, has been a huge hit with residents — be sure to book well in advance, however, as the restaurant is consistently oversubscribed. Even getting a drink at the bar can be a challenge on any given weekend (note that in Dubai, the weekends run Friday through to Saturday, in line with Islamic tradition). The Maine Oyster Bar and Grill is also certainly one not miss. Housed in the Hilton DoubleTree, while service may sometimes be lacking, the food certainly makes up for any waiting time.
For nightlife, you’ll be just as spoiled for choice, with global brands vying for your attention. Brought to Dubai after the establishment of a celebrity cult following in London, Cirque Le Soir, which describes itself as a playground for the city’s freaks, will leave you bedazzled after an evening of extravagant performances, as its name suggests. The club is located in The Fairmont, World Trade Centre, where you will also find the world’s first Cavalli-branded nightclub. The restaurant and lounge is a good place to party if you’re looking to keep everything under one roof. Start with dinner and watch as the venue fills up with the city’s glamorous residents and turns into a full-on club night. Expect zebra print, chandeliers and plenty of sparklers throughout the night. For something slightly more relaxed, you might want to check out Coya — yet another London brand. The venue features an exceptionally stylish Peruvian-themed restaurant and it’s Pisco Bar, with impeccable service and exquisite cocktails. Be sure to adorn your best heels for this venue. For a night of high-culture, be sure to visit Dubai’s recently opened Opera House. The venue features classical musicians, ballet and musicals from across the world, having launched with performances from the legendary Spanish tenor and conductor Plácido Domingo.
After a night of partying till the wee hours of the morning, a day of pampering and shopping is on the agenda. The spa at the Zabeel Saray is the city’s largest, styled on the traditional Ottoman baths — certainly one not to miss. Select from any number of treatments, but be sure to try the Turkish Hammam — a lavish head-to-toe wash, scrub and massage in an opulent marble steam room. Another personal favorite is the Willow Stream Spa at The Fairmont. A massage or a facial is a must, but be sure to arrive early and enjoy the spa’s wonderful Jacuzzi.
Without a doubt, you’ll be glowing like a princess and with only one tick box left, it’s time to hit the shops. The world’s largest mall — Dubai Mall — will keep you busy for an entire day or more. A shopper’s paradise, you will find every brand you can think of, from high-street through to designer. Be sure to allow some time to check out the aquarium located within, and for those more energetic among you, there’s an ice-skating rink. Grab a spot of lunch at the Social House for a recharge.
Depending on the length of your trip, there is plenty more to explore both in and around the city. If you’re flying to this side of the world via Eithad, you can likely squeeze in a free stopover of a few days to check out the city. For a longer stay, be sure to sure to explore the rugged Omani landscape — great for the more outdoorsy types.
For more information on booking tours in Dubai and other sights to explore, check out ELYSIAN’S “Dubai Itinerary.”