Kate Gilliland gets her just deserts, sampling the high life in Dubai and Oman with Azure Collection.
The Middle East weaves a special kind of magic for travellers, with destinations whose sheer luxury verges on delicious decadence, making Gulf resorts perfect vacation spots for the hedonists amongst us!
My personal touch of hedonism started the moment I departed for Dubai via BA’s Club World service, enjoying supreme airborne comfort before I was fast-tracked through Customs, then whisked by private chauffeur from Dubai Airport to the Waldorf Astoria. The very name ‘Waldorf Astoria’ signals luxury and I wasn’t disappointed. The elegant surroundings and the wonderful sea-view suites immediately make you feel like you’re living the millionaire lifestyle, if only for the duration of your vacation!
The Waldorf Astoria is situated on ‘The Palm’, a manmade island which takes the form of a palm tree, topped by a crescent – one of the most stylish and exciting areas of Dubai and best appreciated from the air … my 25 minute seaplane flight with ‘Seawings’ allowed me to appreciate the artistry of the venture as we soared above the island admiring its rich green design set in the azure sea.
Dinner was in Atlantis The Palm: a superb meal in its ‘Seafire’ restaurant, only one of the twenty-three restaurants at Palm Island. Atlantis is a very popular hotel for families with young children, successfully balancing luxury with child-friendly amenities.
A transfer by luxury Ford Expeditions took me to Madinat Al Qasr for an inspiring site visit and lunch at ‘Arboretum’, followed by fabulous fun sailing around the resort to reach other restaurants and charming souks. Talk about livin’ the dream!
Packing in as much luxury as I could I moved on to the Four Seasons Hotel for dinner and an overnight stay in a stunning and spacious hotel oozing with understated luxury. By this stage I was beginning to get into my stride and I felt perfectly at home in the amazing surroundings, but a visit to ‘At the Top’ at Burj Khalifa, the spired 828-metre skyscraper with viewing deck, restaurant, hotel and offices and 11-hectare park had me pinching myself to see if it was all really true. The views are utterly incredible and, although queues can be lengthy, this is an experience I would heartily recommend. It’s worth paying a little extra to benefit from fast track access.
Next stop was ‘Six Senses’ at Ziggy Bay in Oman. The three hour journey to Ziggy Bay may seem a little off-putting at planning stage – particularly as delays at customs are not unknown – but it is certainly worth the travel time to experience this relatively little-known glorious piece of paradise. As you arrive you will be met by your personal ‘GEM’ (Guest Experience Maker) whose role is to look after your every wish. What more could I need?
Onward to the ‘One & Only Royal Mirage & One & Only The Palm’, followed by dinner and still more luxury at two magnificent properties, with spectacular views, superb service and great style!
Overnight at The Burj Al Arab for my final night with dinner at the ‘Al Muntaha’ restaurant on the 27th floor, overlooking the city. Again a fabulous location with great service but let me also say a word for the cuisine here (and throughout my journey). Middle Eastern cooking isn’t very familiar to us in Northern Ireland, but it is truly wonderful and, if it isn’t quite what you want to enjoy, the international choices are almost as dazzling.
My whistle stop visit was over and I practically had to be dragged kicking and screaming from The Burj Al Arab. It’s hard to leave such luxury behind, but I’m already planning my next Arabian Delight.
If this has inspired you, feel free to give me a call at the Holywood branch on 028 9042 6969.