The Hedonist: Dubai
What to see and where to be seen
Saturday 17 April 2010
Want to party like an Emirati? Perhaps you don't know it yet, but you almost certainly do. Because Dubai's beautiful people – in truth, a mixed bag of expats rather than locals – are a United Nations of sylph-like sirens and minted magnates. Happily for these fashion fans, the opening of the Armani Hotel, halfway up the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, which has been postponed three times, has now been announced for next Wednesday, so they'll soon be able to sleep chez Giorgio.
Until then style-seekers have plenty of well-dressed digs to choose from. One of the newest is The Address at Dubai Mall (00 971 4 438 8888; theaddress.com), which offers superior R&R – rest and retail – just across the pond (the world's biggest, naturally, with the world's tallest fountain in the middle). It's attached to the city's flashiest mall, boasts an infinity pool, and – most importantly – a not-so-secret door that leads straight into the new four-floor Bloomingdale's store. Bored boyfriends can avoid skulking around the shoe department by trying out a cage dive in the shark-filled Dubai Aquarium (00 971 4 448 5200; thedubaiaquarium.com), also housed in the mall.
Meanwhile, the DIFC district outpost of Rainer Becker's sublime Japanese restaurant empire Zuma (00 971 4 425 5660; zumarestaurant.com) is still packing them in more than a year after opening, and with good reason. So good is the food, in fact, that an unnamed Abu Dhabi royal helicopters his dinner to the neighbouring emirate daily (although apparently he only actually eats it twice a month). So make like a Sheikh and visit on Friday from 12.30pm-4pm when, for the princely sum of 285 dirhams (£50), you can sample an unlimited amount of pretty much everything on the menu.
Now for some eye-candy. Dubai's nightspots aren't for the faint-hearted – it's pretty much no hairdo, no entry – but they make for stellar people-spotting. The only thing that can compete with the bling of the Cavalli Club's Swarovski-encrusted interior stylings are the diamond-bedecked clientele, who spend the night eyeing each other from the suspended VIP booths. Ladies, think short, tight and shiny if you want to make it past the velvet rope at this nightspot, which is attached to the Fairmont Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road (00 971 4 332 5555; fairmont.com). For guys? Well, undo your shirt to the navel and you'll be halfway there. A word of warning for the uninitiated: the black marble stairs that lead up to the ballroom-sized space seem specifically designed to break your ankle, so it's best to slip off the stilettos on the way up.
Worried the wind will change and you'll be stuck with that pout forever? Time to experience the other side of Dubai's nightlife at the distinctly un-chic President Hotel in Bur Dubai (00 971 4 334 6565). At its Maharlika Café Filipino, if you pretend it's your birthday and pass a napkin with a song request to the covers band on the stage they will play pretty much anything. We recommend "Killing in the Name", as the sight of the five scantily clad dancers headbanging in time to the Rage Against the Machine classic is a singular treat.
This will, inevitably, lead to a stinking hangover, and nothing will nix the nausea like a trip to Aquaventure, the Atlantis Hotel's water park (00 971 4 426 0000; atlantisthepalm.com). A word of warning, though – ladies, it's all about the one-piece. The Leap of Faith, the 61-metre, near-vertical slide that takes you through a shark-infested lagoon, summarily dispenses with string bikinis on the way down.
For a more sedate afternoon in the sun, there is always the beach. Dubai might not boast endless acres of white sand, but what it lacks in palm-fringed, postcard-perfect views it makes up for with five-star service. Most of the hotels that line the coast have a day rate for using their facilities, and the best of these is the One & Only Royal Mirage on Jumeirah Road (00 971 4 399 9999; oneandonlyresorts.com). Just £40 here will get you a sun lounger, a towel and a sea view.
Still haven't had your fill of sand? You're in luck. The desert is a mere 30 minutes outside city limits. The bog-standard 4x4 safari, bookable through most hotels, usually includes a jaunt up Dubai's surrounding dunes, getting better acquainted with your bilious fellow passengers than you might ideally like on the bumpy ride. So a better way to indulge your Lawrence of Arabia fantasies is a night at Al Maha Desert Resort (00 971 4 303 4222; emirateshotelsresorts.com). You'll get 75-square-metres of desert to yourself, as well as your own villa complete with pool and an endangered Oryx or two gambolling out front. A sunset camel ride, ending in champagne and strawberries, is a brilliant photo op, although if you are feeling slightly more creative, the villa comes equipped with a sketch pad and a set of pastels for some impromptu life drawing on the chaise longue. Dinner is included in the price and is a knockout, too.
A Hedonist’s Guide to... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see www.hg2.com
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