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Dubai — Rooms With A View
The best travel advice I ever received? “Pick your hotel carefully. More than any other factor, it will color your impression of the destination.”
Nowhere is this more true than in Dubai. Travelers who report “it’s just another big city” obviously didn’t make a good choice on lodging.
There was a time when few Americans traveled to the UAE, so it wasn’t important to be informed about hotel options. However, now that Dubai has become a major cruise port and Emirates airline has started nonstop service from Los Angeles, savvy travelers are singling out their favorite places to stay.
Frequent flyers also know that the long flight isn’t a problem due to the super-luxe surroundings and impeccable service offered by Emirates. I didn’t know how to respond when the attendant inquired, “May I offer you a mattress?” Then I realized that they make the seat in the flatbed position extra comfy for sleeping. My husband spent most of the flight playing with Emirates’ ICE system, which provides access to 100 movies, 50 television channels, 350 audio channels, and 40 in-flight games. Lest passengers be overwhelmed by the high-tech options, the purser doubles as the “IT guy in the sky.” (www.emirates.com)
Jumeirah Beach Hotel
Richard and I picked Jumeirah Beach Hotel because we prefer water views and fresh air to the busyness of commercial areas. It came as a total surprise that our hotel also offered a close-up view of the Burj Al Arab — the sail-shaped hotel that is Dubai’s best known landmark — as well as Wild Wadi water park, a white sand beach, curvaceous pool, and mega-yacht marina.
Our room and the service were in keeping with the hotel’s five-star status. After the first morning, the staff at Beachcombers Restaurant remembered which tea we preferred and that we liked to sit on the deck just steps from the sand.
Another huge advantage of this location: Jumeirah also owns the Burj Al Arab, Wild Wadi, and the nearby Madinat Jumeirah — a charming Arabian resort — and these properties are connected by more than two kilometers of private beach, accessible only to Jumeirah guests. (www.jumeirah.com)
Al Maha Desert Resort
Not only is Dubai not “just another big city,” it isn’t even just a city. The majority of the Emirate is covered in sand dunes roamed by camels, Arabian oryx, and gazelles. Our suite at Al Maha Desert Resort enabled us to fully appreciate this view. In the early morning, we lounged on brocade chaise lounges and watched the steam wafting off the surface of our private vanishing-edge pool. As the sun rose, the desert changed colors until we could clearly see the magnificent dunes, shaped like breaking waves and reclining figures.
Al Maha is the premier spot for experiencing both traditional and contemporary Arab culture. One afternoon we watched a demonstration of falconry — a Bedouin means of hunting and now a favorite pastime of sheikhs — and we learned that Emirates is the only airline that allows falcons in first class. Typically, a sheikh headed to, for instance, Uzbekistan to hunt with his falcons will book a whole row of first class seats, and his birds will sit on perches next to him.
Camel racing is also very popular in the UAE, and Arabian horseracing is another passion. In one of those strange small-world moments, I learned that a former La Jollan, Michael Hauser, DVM, is the horse vet for Sheikh Mohammad, the Ruler of Dubai. (www.al-maha.com)
Park Hyatt Dubai
For a completely different view, we opted for the Park Hyatt when we returned to the city. This luxurious lowrise retreat is adjacent to the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, and surroundings include lush green fairways and stately power boats.
The hotel’s 25-meter pool, surrounded by palm tress, tropical gardens, and a waterfall, creates a stunning oasis. Nearby, Amara Spa is a favorite with Emirati women who appreciate the discreet separate entrance. Eight residential spa rooms are also very much in demand.
At the Park Hyatt, Traiteur’s executive chef Steffen Gube treated Richard and me to a fabulous dinner, which we both agreed was the best meal of our trip. My seafood ravioli starter was so good that I soaked up the lobster sauce with several pieces of French bread. Chefs from around the world cook here, and each has his favorite national dish on the menu. (www.dubai.park.hyatt.com)
Afterwards, we strolled along the marina enjoying the quiet and lights reflected in the creek. Each small group of people we passed spoke a different language. In the distance we heard the call to prayer from one of the city’s mosques.
By now we had seen Dubai from many points of view and were absolutely certain it wasn’t just “another big city.” ELIZABETH HANSEN
More Rooms With A Dubai View
By the end of 2009, Dubai will be home to the The Burj — the much-heralded world’s tallest tower. At the base of The Burj, Downtown Burj Dubai includes an artificial lake where the world’s tallest fountains dance to recorded music à la Bellagio in Las Vegas. This neighborhood is also home to The Palace and The Address hotels and the Dubai Mall, which includes a skating rink, an aquarium, and a theme park. (www.thedubaimall.com)
The best place to stay in this area is The Palace, a six-story Arabesque hotel where poolside cabanas on the edge of the lake look like Bedouin tents complete with Oriental carpets and shisha pipes.
Even if you don’t sleep here, consider having a meal at Asado, an Argentinian restaurant, where 80 percent of the staff are actually from Argentina. They offer live music nightly and tango parties on Sundays. When we were there, a whole baby goat was turning on a spit and patrons were enjoying the largest collection of Argentinian wine in the Middle East.
The Palace also has a good Thai restaurant and an “Oriental” restaurant that combines Arabic and Mediterranean cuisine. All restaurants offer lake views. (www.thepalace-dubai.com)
Also located in Downtown Burj Dubai, the 63-story Address targets business travelers and boasts the world’s highest sky lounge. Neos offers a great view of The Burj, as well as The World development just offshore in the Arabian Sea.
Personally, the design of The Address is way too modern for my taste, but I have to admit that I was blown away by the view of The Burj from the level six pool area. Here, a series of connected pools with lights on the bottom are surrounded by extensive plantings and trees. The Risala coffee shop in this area is a great place for a drink or a light meal in a gorgeous setting. (www.theaddress.com)
Not to be outdone, some of the rooms at the Kempinski Hotel overlook the ski — yes, snow skiing — complex inside the Mall of the Emirates. The 500-meter run at Ski Dubai is accessible by a quad chairlift. A ski school offers lessons and equipment rentals are readily available. (www.kempinski-dubai.com, www.skidxb.com)