I realised over the past week that as expats, we may spend a lot of time in hotels – because that’s where the bars and brunches are – but to truly experience the full extent of Arabian hospitality you really need to book into one. Preferably for a few days. Maybe more.
Sure, we’ve had visitors who’ve stayed at hotels here and been ‘upgraded to an executive suite’, with an on-call butler serving champagne, dates and refreshing rolled face towels on silver platters. So I knew there was a very good reason why holidaymakers love Dubai – returning home with a renewed zest for life, an armful of gold bangles, a Persian rug, a comedy camel souvenir and their best-ever tan (persuaded?).
But, until now, all our travel has either been to visit family back home, or – when we’re travelling with the kids – to countries within a tolerable four-hour flying time radius.
At the Banyan Tree Al Wadi resort in Ras Al Khaimah (an hour’s drive from Dubai) this weekend, I learnt that you really haven’t sampled UAE hospitality until:
● Your accommodation is even nicer than it looks on the photos and has its own private, crystal-clear pool outside
● You are transported anywhere you want to go in the resort by gulf buggy (not as lazy as it sounds – the temperature was in the mid 40s)
● A call to reception to request a buggy ride to breakfast also means maids arrive from nowhere to make the beds before you get back
● The bathroom (pictured right) is bigger than your living room
● You’re greeted at your breakfast table by a falcon (the UAE’s national bird)
● Luxurious dressing gowns are laid out on the duvet during the nightly ‘turn down’ – and slippers placed by the bed
● The decorative pebbled pools are lit up by ‘fire features’ from which dancing flames arise
Of course, this is all bank-busting stuff if you pay full price, but there are deals-a-plenty to be had in the UAE (we booked one night, and got the next night free thanks to a summer offer). And the great thing about Dubai is the amount of choice available.
If you fancy staying in a vast waterscape, with exhilarating wild-water rides – two of which catapult riders through shark-filled lagoons – and you want to swim with dolphins, then book the Atlantis on the Palm. Or if you can stretch to a seven-star, super-luxe break, check in at the iconic Burj Al Arab, where there’s a private reception desk on each floor and you can arrive by helicopter.
Or, wait a while, and you may actually be able to stay in a room with an underwater ocean view. Believe it or not, architects have designed a half-submerged spaceship-shaped hotel that, if it gets built, will offer guests the chance to sleep below the surface of the sea.
“Are we going there for my birthday?” BB just enquired, totally enthralled by the concept of sleeping with the fish.