There is nowhere on the planet like Dubai. The once oil-rich mecca turned to tourism years ago in a quest to create a second economic powerhouse. They succeeded and introduced the world to imaginative architecture that exceeded anyone’s wildest dreams.
And though the intervening years have been less than kind to them economically, those gems – including the ones that are hotels – continue to shine as examples of the Emirate’s portfolio.
These hotels offer you a mix of aesthetic stunners and luxurious pampering, and who could say no to that?
Built on one of the man-made, palm-shaped islands built by Crown Prince, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum when he feared the Emirate might run out of beachfront, the One and Only Palm boasts not only a stunning property but a unique locale. It has been enough to win over travellers who flock to the luxe resort. In 2014 the hotel was named #1 in the Middle East and North Africa in the Conde Nast Traverl “Readers’ Choice Awards.” The property is unique in the way it remains spacious while still feeling intimate, the way it is dotted with Moorish and Andalucian-styled fountains, pools and gorgeous gardens and the choice of rooms, mansions or villas it provides.
It’s easy to come to Dubai and forget that once, all that was here was desert. The skyscrapers are impressive but venturing out to a property that shows the beauty of that original landscape is well worth your time. The Bab Al Shams, with its sand dunes and camels, is the perfect way to find your way back in time. Set in an Arabic fort complete with fountains and courtyards. Experiences include desert safaris, falconry and horse back riding. The incredible sunrise and sunset views will leave your mouth agape and your camera shutter popping.
If all you know about Dubai is that there is a sail-shaped hotel reputed to have the world’s only 7-star rating, you’re not alone. While technically there is no such thing as a 7-star hotel, the Burj so topped the expectations of what was luxury for travellers when it opened that you can forgive those who thought it deserved it. Anything gold in colour in a room in this opulent palatial hotel likely has a few flecks of the real stuff including the 24-carat gold iPads that are loaned to guests without the batting of an eyelash. The building stands more than a thousand feet tall and has an atrium that is about 600 feet. With giant fish tank walls and incredibly artistic architecture it can be a bit surprising to see many of the rooms are comparitively understated. Rooms are all two-story suites (some as big as 8,400 square feet!) A private beach, full service spa and six restaurants complete the package.
It’s the hotel that looks like the wave, just below the familiar Burj Al Arab “sail” and although it may not be as famous as its sister, it remains a popular option. It’s cosmopolitan lobby atmosphere is a more comfortable and informal alternative to the Burj security. It’s a prime spot for people watching and perfect for families, especially with its location next to Wild Wadi Water Park. Rooms are well-appointed but it is the beach you’ll love most. Soft white sand, butlers ever present with complimentary popsicles and spritzes of water and bath-like temperatures in the water that laps its shores will keep you happy.
It’s address – at the base of the world’s tallest building (The Burj Khalifa -itself an architectural stunner) – is a clear indication of its luxe factor. 160 guest rooms and suites, lifestyle managers on every floor (like a cooler version of a concierge) and the SPA awaits to ease away the last bits of your tension. The only other place to find a hotel dedicated to the aesthetic of the Italian designer is in Milan. Those who are fans of his designs will be smitten when everything from the dishes in the seven restaurants to the colours in your room are a reflection of Armani’s tastes. Can’t leave it behind? There’s a shop for that.