Admittedly, when the climate turns hostile and you have small children, there are times when you feel like you’re in an endless spin cycle of soft play and swimming – with a turbo-charged tumble dryer blasting hot air at you the moment you step outside.
But the truth is, there’s always something new or different to do in this part of the world – you just have to get creative and keep an open mind.
Dubai is renowned for pulling out the stops, and I was reminded of this again this weekend at the Meydan racecourse – a megastructure rising out of the desert, overlooking a carpet of lush green grass on which the Dubai World Cup – the “world’s richest horse race” – is held each year. With a purse of $10 million, and a dazzling array of hats, fascinators and feathers, the focus is as much on the fashion as on the horses.
We weren’t there for the races though. We were there to eat, at the Meydan Hotel’s Friday brunch – kind of like Sunday lunch transferred to a Friday, but with a lot more excess. Think gastronomic marathon with buffet stations laden with lobster, crabs, roasted meats (even Yorkshire puddings!), sushi, salads and a smorgasboard of mouth-watering desserts. To say the tables were straining under the weight of so much food isn’t far from the truth.
“You don’t have to eat it all,” DH told me, as I wondered round, my eyes larger than my stomach and my brain doing a quick calculation to figure out just how much damage I could do to the diet in one meal .
But, whilst the food was amazing, there were a few other things that stood out. On pulling up outside, the sheer scale of the place is breathtaking. The mile-long building is a veritable land-scraper and, even when racing isn’t taking place, you can almost imagine the sound of pounding hooves echoing off the grandstand.
Guests can look on from track-side, bar-side, pool-side – or from the bathroom tub in the five-star hotel. I don’t think watching the ponies could get any plusher.
Perhaps the most memorable thing, though, was the attentiveness of the staff who work there. Valet parking is common in Dubai, but at Meydan there’s an attendant for every door of your car – even to open the boot. Kids are treated like royalty (with kids’ entertainment laid on) and the waitstaff are so quick to clear your dishes (so you can move on to your seventh course) that you practically have to put your bag on your plate if you want it to still be there when you get back to your table.
So our experience was more about eating than racing, as there wasn’t a horse in sight at the $1.25 billion racecourse.
Why? Because they’ve all gone to Europe to escape the summer heat.