Dubai sometimes leaves a question mark on my friend’s faces. It seems to be saying: Why go to the desert? If I can compare it to any city in the world, it would most likely be Shanghai. Yes, there is a lot of business and money in Dubai, but that also brings along innovative architecture and a great fashion and a contemporary art scene.
The Emirate aesthetic is pure luxury with a deep appreciation for craftsmanship and tradition. If you are thinking about going, just do it. There is no place like it and yes, it includes all the clichés: exclusive art venues, private yacht clubs and the most refined hotel experience at the Bulgari Hotel. Here is my personal travel guide when in Dubai – a few of my favorite things to see, do, and eat.
HOW TO GET THERE AND BACK
I am flying to Dubai – home of the world’s best airline – so of course I fly Emirates. So here’s what it’s like to fly first class on Emirates — the best airline in the world. For starters, the airline’s first and business class passengers can relax in one of the Emirates lounges before boarding the plane without having to queue. After boarding I have my own spacious cabin with sliding privacy doors and the kind of amenities that you’d expect to find in a high-end hotel. The leather seat reclines and becomes a lie-down bed and my wash bag is filled with fragrances and toiletries by luxury fashion house Bulgari. So I am flying home-route with the best airline in the world in first-class, heading to the Bulgari Hotel smelling like Bulgari – I love it.
WHERE TO STAY
Bulgari has a hotel in Dubai — I am not surprised. Dubai is the city of superlatives and it seems only fitting that Italian jeweller Bulgari would set its latest hotel project here. The hotel itself looks like art: The exterior is covered with white-lacquered steel awnings resembling a coral reef, at the same time emulating shade-giving Middle Eastern fretwork screens. Think about the most lux place you know and then sprinkle some Bulgari on it — it’s just so tasteful and beautiful. The hotel is an elegant, sea-horse-shaped arc of terra firma with 101 bedrooms, 20 villas, a beach club, an apartment complex, a yacht club and private marina – Bulgari’s first – with berths for 50 boats. I can’t say enough about this place – it’s a joy! Rest in one of the spacious villas, take a dip in the Bulgari pool or have a light lunch at the Yacht Club Restaurant (one of four restaurants) – you will have the most sophisticated luxury hotel experience.
WHERE TO EAT
Dubai has so many great choices for food you can easily turn your trip into a foodie vacation. The restaurants serve virtually every national cuisine from around the world, including many specializing in Dubai’s own Arabic delights. Not far away from the hotel, Bulgari features the world’s first Bulgari Marina and Yacht Club with a 50-boat harbour and amenities including a members lounge, an outdoor pool, a bar and a nautical themed restaurant with a strict focus on Mediterranean cuisine.
WHAT TO DO
For an out-of-town excursion, jump in one of the hotel’s fleet of Maseratis to visit the new Louvre in Abu Dhabi. The city of Abu Dhabi is definitely worth a trip but the new Louvre outpost by architect Jean Nouvel in the Middle East, is a must see for any culture, art and architecture lover. The Louvre Abu Dhabi curated 55 galleries across its medina, with masterpieces on loan from the Louvre in Paris, 13 leading French museums and the museum’s own collection.
And while you are in town you have to visit the Sheikl Zayed Mosque. The largest mosque in the country draws crowds for its stunning architecture, interior gold work, 80 domes, Swarovski chandeliers and sparkling marble. And if you just want to stay-in at the Bulgari resort, you have my blessings. Get yourself pampered, scrubbed and bathed in rose water while you lie on heated marble in the hammam. Chic and understated, the Bulgari hotel really stands out among the glitzy hotel skyline world of Dubai.
What else can you do?
Photos: Benjamin Monn