Dubai Dreams in the Sand

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The Shangri-La Dubai has been a preferred city property for its five years of residence in Dubai. Those who have seen the film thriller “Syriana,” as it was the location for many of Matt Damon’s scenes, especially as he dove into the calm waters of the swimming pool and observed the city from his darkened hotel room, might recognize it easily. Decor skews to clean lines, lots of light and marble and, at 42 stories, views to the sea and sand. With 302 rooms and suites and an additional 70 longer stay residences, it is designed mostly for business stays. It’s a short drive to city center and 15 minutes from the airport along the business thoroughfare of Sheik Zayed Road. Horizon Club Lounge facilities are a must for their common spaces, business assistance and all-day and -night refreshments. The Club also affords complimentary use of the health club and indoor infinity lap pool. Published rates start at about $367.

The beach scene in Dubai is anything but quiet. The bulldozers have been busy along this once sleepy littoral, building a bastion of one-of-a-kind resorts, mostly under the Jumeirah Group brand. You can also find a desert-themed Hilton, Westin, three Le Meridiens, a Sheraton, and a Ritz-Carlton here and likely filled with more luxurious bells and whistles than their other properties. But Jumeirah rules when it comes to height, breadth and boldness in property design. The world-famous Burj al Arab, at 1,053 ft., maintains its title as the tallest hotel tower in the world. Only 202 suites in this sail-shaped structure—each suite is double story and leaving the guest wanting for little. They come with a complete turnkey office, a floor concierge, and dedicated butler to unpack and draw the bath. Windows run floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall looking out to sea, automatic everything—from curtain drawing to door answering. Bathrooms big enough to set up house present his and hers complimentary, full-sized designer amenities from Hermes, and a round jacuzzi tub to take away stress. The closet is actually the corridor between the bedroom and bathroom and the bedroom offers a large bed under a full-mirror for a guest to watch the sea when watching self becomes less interesting. Plenty of sitting areas here— living room, bedroom cubby, dining room, all entered by a marble foyer leading to a grand staircase. Standard suites start at $1,078 per night.

The Burj is connected by pathways to the spread of resorts, restaurants, shopping and waterways of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel (and connected Wild Wadi waterpark) and the Madinat Jumeirah—a winding waterway navigated by complementary abras (boats), through more than 40 cafes and restaurants, a huge indoor/outdoor souk-themed mall and three more moderately-priced Arabian- themed luxury hotels. The Mina A’Salam, Dar Al Masyaf and the Al Qasr offer guestrooms starting at $338, which pays for the location on the water, the non-motorized beach amenities, and the convenience of having a plethora of top scene clubs, cafes, restaurants, spa, shopping, theme park and Arabian ambiance at the door.

on the artsy side Dubai is not without its precious boutique options: the XVA Art Hotel in the historical Bastakiya district is a simple but chic boutique property with an award-winning vegetarian restaurant, and six designer-intensive rooms with WiFi filling an expansive, recreated turn-of-the-century Emirate domicile. Each room, which presents a completely different experience than the next, was conceived by invited designers and artists and inspired by the stylish designs of modern Arabia, Bedouin patterns, vintage and kitsch. XVA keeps collections from many renowned regional artists on exhibition in its galleries and has also been the launch spot for a number of high-profile international products under brands such as Hermes, Nokia and BMW. Rates range from $204 to $245 per night for two people.

what’s to come The Dubai Strategic Plan envisioned by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, v.p. and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, calls for more than 15 million visitors upon its shores by 2015. To make this happen, Dubai is aggressively applying the build-it-and-they-will-come rule. Rising from these sands are the following attractions and projects:

Movenpick is opening two properties in Palm Jumeirah: the 293-room Asian-themed Royal Amwaj Resort & Spa and the 249-room exclusive Oceana Resort & Spa.