This was my first visit to Dubai and I was lucky enough to stay at the Al Qsar hotel at the famous Madinat Jumeirah 5 star resort overlooking the wonderful sandy beaches of the Persian gulf just a short distance from the Burj al-Arab.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Dubai, the recent development of the quiet fishing village into one the premier holiday destinations for the rich and famous made me wonder if it was going to be a triumph of ostentatious gaudiness over class and style. However I was pleasantly surprised.
The Al Qsar which translated means The Palace is simply that a palace. It comprises 292 rooms and suites and was designed to reflect a sheikh's summer residence. The hotel only completed in 2006 was designed to recreate the style and opulence of the traditional Arabian palace and it has succeeded in every sense. The building itself is mesmeric mixture of traditional wind towers piercing the perpetually deep blue skies of the Persian gulf, with 21st century luxury but always in a considerate and authentic Arabian style. From the moment you approach the entrance along the winding drive and are met by the huge golden statues of wild horse frolicking on the lawns you know you are going to be in for an unforgettable experience.
The entrance and lobby is even more impressive. Marble floors inset with colourful mosaics, marble pillars lining the huge lobby dominated by three enormous Arabian crystal chandeliers leaves you awestruck the instant you walk in. The hotel fans out right and left on either side of the central lobby on multiple floors each tastefully decorated in traditional style. Earthy colours on the walls, hanging lanterns and impressive light stands are everywhere to be seen. The hotel space includes many secluded atriums with fountains and pools that give the whole building as sense of mystery has you learn your way round.
The facilities are of the highest order. In the hotel itself let alone the resorts there are a numbers of restaurants, shops, salons, spa, gyms and general relaxation areas to cater to your every need.
We stayed in the Ocean Deluxe room, a mid priced room with balcony overlooking the resort canal and with views across to the down town Dubai skylines was spotlessly clean, extremely comfortable and included all the niceties that you would expect from and 5 star establishment and of course full air conditioning as was throughout the hotel. The on suite facilities where wonderful including a luxurious bath, a spacious shower and twin basins all traditionally decorated in Arabian design; marble floors Persian rugs and cast metal lantern. Guests are provided with bath robes and silky slippers and an endless supply of towels. The bed was enormous and probably the most comfortable bed I've ever had in any hotel. It was covered with a fabric canapé and was made from a dark rich hardwood that matched the terracotta paints the golden and red fabrics and the hardwood carved furniture. The room included a comfortable sofa and armchair as well as a desk and coffee table. The wardrobe was spacious with an automatic light that came on when you opened it (a nice touch). All the other extras you'd expect were included; large flat screen TV with satellite channels, well stocked mini bar, tea and coffee making facilities (restocked every day), hairdryer, ironing board, room service, laundry service, free Wi-fi, alarm service etc. A daily supply of bottled water was also provided each time the room was serviced (usually twice a day). The room also led on to a private balcony with spectacular view across the resort over the tops of the palm trees that lined the avenues and waterways. The balcony had a small table and chairs so that you could enjoy the sunrise or sunset over the shores of the Persian Gulf.
Included in the price of the room was breakfast in one of two luxurious dining rooms. We opted for the first floor dining room that had a huge indoor seating area as well as a large outdoor shaded terrace area. The breakfast was buffet style with a huge selection of anything you could wish for. Cooked meats, cereals, sweet and savoury breads, eggs done whoever way you wanted, fruit and fruit juices, selections of teas and coffees. On entry to the breakfast room you were greeted by polite staff asked where you wanted to sit and shown to your table where you could order drinks and then shown to the buffet which of course you could revisit as many times as you liked.
For us the generous breakfast meant that we usually only needed a very light lunch to see us through to the evening meal. The best thing about the breakfast was sitting outside on the terrace. The whole area was lined with palms which provided a lovely cool shade. From the terrace you could look out over the resort and the beaches and out to sea taking in the impressive Burj al-Arab hotel in the near distance with its distinctive sail shape. It was the most relaxing way to start the day. Don't be surprised if your breakfast is accompanied by the calling of parrots or the tweeting of sparrows hiding in the palms and trees.
As a guest at the Al Qsar you have the run of the whole Madinat Jumeirah resort. The resort is made up of two luxury 5 star hotel at either end the Al Qsar and the Mina A'Salam and a courtyard of summer houses called Dar Al Masyaf. The area in-between the hotel is connected by palm lined waterways and includes 40 world class restaurants, a covered traditional Arabic market or Souk, a theatre and a number of high class bars and nightclubs. The resort also boasts huge pool areas and a private beach front adjacent to Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Burj Al Arab, and Wild Wadi Water Park.
The different areas of the resort can be access on foot, by golf cart taxis or by water taxis navigating the canal system these are free for the use of guests. Many of the restaurants and bars lie along the canal system giving them waterside views and seating. The Souk is a wonderful collection of small stall selling traditional Arabian fabrics, lanterns, earthenware as well as more western style products.
We ate at a couple of restaurants while we were there an Italian and a Thai and they were both excellent quality and reasonable value considering this. Although situated in a Muslim emirate the resorts bars and restaurant are all licensed to sell alcohol. There was also no dress code for women as there tend to be in Muslim countries and female guests could happily wear short, skirts of sleeveless tops, we found this was true of most of Dubai in general.
The beach area was also impressive, a spacious stretch of almost white sand gently sloped towards the sea's edge and beyond making it very safe for children, in any case the beach is permanently manned by lifeguards during daylight hours. The 1km stretch of beach is private solely for the use of hotel guests and on arriving you are greeted by friendly attendants that will provide you with beach towel and cushion that they will take for you and arrange on the sun-beds that you choose. The sun-beds are positions at reasonable distances apart so that you never get the feeling the beach is too crowded and each one comes with a large parasol to provide shade if desired. All this is included in your hotel price. If you wish a little extra you can hire out an Arabian beach tent with recliners and cushions for that little bit of extra luxury on the beach. The attendants are also there to provide you with drinks, snacks or food from the hotel menu if you wish. The water was lovely and warm and looked extremely clean as did the sandy beach to match the whole of resort in general.
I couldn't fault the service and customer care of the staff in the hotel or anywhere in the resort. Every member of staff from the hotel managers the receptionist, beach attendants, waiters and cleaners where extremely polite and extremely keen to provide a great service. The majority were from the Indian subcontinent, Thailand or the Philippines. They wore very stylish traditional uniforms and made you feel welcome whenever they spoke to you. Even walking through the resort you would get greeted by passing staff, gardeners, cleaners etc. What's more the friendliness seemed genuine. They certainly did their job well, our stay was without hitch, the room was spotless as was the whole resort; even the canals didn't have any debris in them it seems that any falling palm leaf was instantly removed. Through the crystal clear water you could see fabulously coloured carp happily swimming around testifying to the cleanliness of the water. Right from our arrival when our bags were taken to our room as we checked in to our leaving when our bags were again collects and placed in our taxi by the bell boy our every need was taken care of.
The Madinat Jemeirah resort lies on the coast to the east of central Dubai. It is within a half hour drive of Dubai international airport and ten minutes by taxi from central Dubai. While we were there we also ventured on a desert safari and were picked up at the hotel taking about 40 minutes drive to reach the desert. Not sure how practical it would be to walk to the city but the taxis that would be called for you to the hotel lobby were reasonably priced. While you stay make sure you visit the huge shopping malls near the Burj Khalifa the tallest building in the world, take a trip down the Dubai 'creek' and have lunch on one of the traditional dhow restaurants that travel the waters and go for a desert safari with Bedouin night-time feast under the extraordinary desert night sky.
The Madinat Jumeirah was a dream place to stay. It provided the sort of luxury and levels of service that we are sadly pressed to find these days in Europe. The styling of the buildings the quality of the food and the accommodation was superb and I would re visit without hesitation. Price wise it is not cheap but there are plenty of offers out there depending on the time of year you go. I expect you could get a week's stay for two including economy class flight for not much more than £3500 at this time of year. The weather is not a problem in terms of rain, although be warned that in the summer May to October the temperatures go up to 50C. When we were there in April it was touching 38C.
© Mauri 2012