i am in dubai My hotel destination this time: the Mandarin Oriental Jumeira. Arrive at the International Airport at 1am. Everything perfectly organized and sparkling clean. No crowds, no queues, no rush. Friendly luggage guides everywhere. Another world shortly after landing.
Everything is excellently prepared from the hotel side as well. My driver is waiting with sign, luxury sedan and perfect English. In addition: a pleasant 26 degrees in the middle of the night. The driver hands me a cold damp cloth, lightly soaked in lemon. You can hardly arrive more pleasantly.
Dubai is booming like never before. And Dubai is cleverly managed. For example, for the World Cup, the desert metropolis is following the boom in Qatar and is offering solutions for possible hotel and flight bottlenecks in the country of Qatar.
Every day there are 85 additional shuttle flights (45 minutes one way) between Dubai and Doha. Indirectly, perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the World Cup is Dubai – two thirds of the World Cup visitors are accommodated here and commute.
On the beach in Jumeirah: The Mandarin Oriental Jumeira
A well-known new addition to Dubai’s hotel landscape presents itself as first-class in the truest sense of the word: The Mandarin Oriental Jumeira has been located directly on the beach of Jumeirah since 2019. The luxury hotel is not far from Downtown Dubai, the City Walk and the Dubai Creek, has direct access to the beach and the sea. The 178 rooms and 78 suites were designed by Jeff Wilkes, who is known for his unusual interiors.
In my sea view room I enjoy the spacious balcony and the wonderful sea view. In addition to the location, the huge pool area with intimate daybeds and the varied restaurants make the Mandarin Oriental a current top spot in Dubai’s hotel scene.
I have lunch at Netsu, the Japanese restaurant. The manager greets me beaming: I don’t know Kevin Lipson, but I do know his management. He’s the son of a great Japanese waitress from Miami Beach. Tony’s Sushi is the insider place on Florida’s coast. When I lived there, this was basically my canteen. The Netsu offers perfect Japanese food and a dream view of the sea.
Then I head into the spa world. The mother of all luxury spas, it is well known, is the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok. That’s not to say that all Mandarin Orientals automatically run excellent spas. Here in Dubai it is: The spa is unique in terms of generosity, materials and equipment. Each spa suite offers great sea views. High ceilings and marble everywhere.
I notice two things that are different here than elsewhere: Nothing is rushed. Nobody tells you when, where and with whom you have to be. The guest says when he would like to come. The answer is always: very much. And: Nobody is assigned to me. I can decide, even at short notice, who I want to be treated by. With “my” Balinese masseuse I actually feel like I’m in Bali.
Carsten K. Rath at the Jumeirah in Dubai
A helicopter flight is scheduled for the next morning. I booked the twelve minute trip. That’s enough to get an overview and the price is reasonable. I fly over the artificial island world off the coast of Dubai, which is particularly impressive from the air. This is where the world’s financial elite live. True luxury: your own private beach.
In addition to the previous Palm, an artificial island in the form of a palm tree: the new Dubai Palm in mound. Even bigger, even more impressive. And if you believe the rumours: Everything has already been sold – at crazy prices. We fly around the hotel under construction that everyone is talking about at the moment: The Royal Atlantis Resort on Palm Jumeirah.
The famous Hotel Atlantis The Palm Dubai is getting a sister. The opening is planned for early 2023. I’m curious: The architecturally very unusual Royal Atlantis promises to be a superlative resort. Whether the hype is justified, I’ll take a look in good time.
Dubai relies on quality tourism
Tolerance and liberality are generally urged, but I have to say to be fair: a lot is done right here in terms of hospitality. The pandemic: massively contained, the vaccination rate: very high, the planning intervals: much shorter than in Germany. All of this has been good for tourism.
For the first few months of this year, more than seven million overnight guests came, an increase of 180 percent compared to 2021. German hoteliers are jealous of the occupancy rate of the approximately 800 hotels in Dubai: incredible 74 percent, and that so shortly after the corona crisis.
In the evening I look forward to dinner at Tasca (Portuguese for tavern), the hotel restaurant run by the Portuguese José Avillez, which was recently awarded a Michelin star (there has been a separate Dubai edition since 2022). I quickly notice that the Tasca menu offers exclusively Portuguese flavors with a modern twist and, despite the simplicity of the sideboard, is bursting with character and taste.
Avillez, who lives in Portugal, tells me passionately about his main goal: to promote Portuguese gastronomy and help make Portugal a top gastronomic destination.
Shortly before leaving in the hotel limousine towards the airport, I read: In Dubai, the metropolis where there is actually nothing that doesn’t exist, there is actually a separate Ministry for Happiness and Well-being – with a so-called Happiness Agenda.
I think of the silence, the vastness and the light, especially during my tour through the desert, also an unconditional recommendation, and I am grateful: My personal happiness agenda is filled to the brim from these Dubai days in 1001 nights mode and the magical hours full of beauty in the middle of the desert.
Rath’s travel rating (current rating in bold)
1. Explicit Travel Warning
2. Better than under the bridge
3. So-so, not oh, là, là
4. Complaining at a high level
5. If only it were always like this
6. Great cinema
Jogging route: The eleven-kilometre running route on the artificial island of Palm Jumeirah offers great views plus magnificent sunsets, including a circumnavigation of the tip of the palm island. Alternatively: a four kilometer route along the palm trunk.
Museum of the Future: the newest spectacular attraction in a grandiose futuristic building
Crossroads of Civilizations Museum: intercultural museum with the first permanent Holocaust exhibition (“We remember”) on the Arabian Peninsula
Burj Khalifa: World’s tallest building (828 meters) and restaurant in the world. Spectacular: the highest viewing platform in the world on the 148th floor. Tip against long waits: Reserve tickets online in advance. Curious: If you urgently need a gold bar, there is actually a gold-to-go machine here.
Dubai Fountains: The largest water fountains in the world. A water and light show the size of two football fields, every evening from 6pm, every 30 minutes, with over 1000 fountains, more than 6600 light sources and Arabic music.
Desert Safari: Anyone who has spent a night in the desert will never forget its beauty.
About the author: As a former grand hotelier and operator of the Travelgrand.ch travel platform, Carsten K. Rath is a professional globetrotter. He travels to all the hotels he writes about for the Handelsblatt on his own account. Rath is the brain behind the ranking “The 101 best hotels in Germany”, whose partners include the Handelsblatt.
Rath is also the author of the book on the ranking. The next edition of the book will be published with the cooperation of the Handelsblatt at the end of November as part of the publication of the next ranking of the 101 best hotels in Germany.
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