By Gareth Rees, a Dubai resident who makes a living reviewing Dubai hotels...
1. JW Marriot Marquis
The world’s tallest pure hotel. You can literally wake up above the clouds, with the top floor towering 1,164ft above the ground. The beauty behind the Marquis is that it shuns Dubai’s trademark extravagance (except for the height) in favour of elegance. Opened in February it has 1,608 rooms split between two identical towers designed to echo a palm tree. Ask for a deluxe room and tell them you want to be high up. Views of the sea trump views of the Burj Khalifa, but only just. Hungry? Atul Kochhar, the Michelin-starred chef at Benares restaurant in London, has a restaurant there. It’s, predictably, incredible. Oh and finally, Snoop Dogg stayed here. That’s all you really need to know.
2. Atlantis The Palm
You’re not still looking for the lost city of Atlantis are you? Where have you been for the past five years? It’s been found. Turns out it was sitting in Dubai on the world’s biggest man-made archipelago, The Palm, the whole time. We don’t know how you missed it, what with it housing 15 restaurants, including the Dubai outpost of Nobu, its own Aquaventure Waterpark and The Ambassador Lagoon, a giant fish tank containing 11 million litres of seawater and housing 65,000 marine animals, which you’re encouraged to jump into (for a fee).
3. Burj Al Arab
OK, so you’ve heard of this one before. The world’s only seven-star hotel, shaped like a sail, built on a man-made island 280m offshore, blah, blah, blah. But, did you know that at 321m it’s the fourth tallest hotel in the world – the second tallest in Dubai after the JW Marriott Marquis? How about the fleet of Rollers, did you know about those? The helicopter? Al Mahara, the seafood restaurant with the giant aquarium? How about the £1,600 per night Royal Suite? That, too? OK. Still quite impressive, though, eh?
4. Al Maha
It’s pretty easy to forget that Dubai is a desert, and you’d struggle to build a sand castle in most parts, what with all the skyscrapers, 4x4s and shopping malls. But it is a desert, all right? Book the Presidential Suite at Al Maha Desert Resort for £2,250 a night, and not only can you enjoy Al Maha’s many desert related activities – camel treks, champagne and strawberries in the desert, falconry, horse riding, archery, that sort of thing – but also your own private 10x8m temperature controlled pool, three bedrooms, a private chef and a complimentary minibar. Even the standard Bedouin Suites (strictly for the plebs) have their own private pool. Just don’t be surprised if an oryx pops by for an ale while you’re busy contemplating a Ghaf Tree Walk (you’ll have to visit to find out). They have very little decorum.
5. Grosvenor House Dubai
If you like food, there’s only one hotel to stay at in Dubai – Grosvenor House. There are two towers. In Tower One are British chef Gary Rhodes’ Rhodes Mezzanine and Indian genius Vineet Bhatia’s Indego By Vineet – they like to name their restaurants after themselves those two, just in case you were wondering who they belonged to – then across the road in Tower Two you have the Dubai outpost of London’s celeb magnet Embassy nightclub and its superb Provencal restaurant Kitchen 45. For that little extra touch of celebrity magic, there’s also Mexican celeb chef Richard Sandoval’s pan-Latin American place Toro Toro.
6. Desert Palm
You’re in a desert city, which can reach 50˚C plus in the summer. What should you do? Well, how about a spot of polo, old bean? Desert Palm is on the outskirts of Dubai, just past the 150,000sqm Dragon Mart shopping mall and a rather pongy sewage plant. Don’t let that put you off; this place is pretty special – it has grass. Grass is at a premium in Dubai, and by grass, this being Dubai, we mean four full-size polo fields with their own viewing pavilions. The resort also has its own stables and riding school.
7. Kempinski Hotel Mall Of The Emirates
Make no mistake, when looking for accommodation in the Middle East, the most important thing to look out for is a ski slope. Book the three-room Grand Ski Chalet at Kempinski Hotel Mall Of The Emirates, sit down for dinner in your own private dining room, and check out the view of Ski Dubai’s ski slope on one side and the lanky skyscrapers that make up Dubai’s skyline on the other. A desert is not a desert without snow. Fact.
8. Raffles Dubai
The original Raffles Hotel is a British colonial structure in Singapore built it 1887. Ernest Hemingway loved it – probably because the Singapore Sling was invented there, and Papa thirsted for nothing more than a nip of the old firewater. Raffles Dubai went with the Egyptian theme. Obvious, really, when you think about it. No, no it isn’t, not at all. Only in Dubai would a major hotel brand think it wise to build a five-star hotel in the shape of a pyramid. But you can sip the traditional Singapore Sling, as well as the lesser-known Dubai Sling, at the Crossroads Cocktail Bar, and the Pharaohs, being gents with a taste for life’s little pleasures, would have appreciated the view from Tomo restaurant in the glass pinnacle of the pyramid.
9. Jumeirah Creekside Hotel
The Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, one of the newest in Dubai, is rather nice. It has 292 rooms and suites, a cooking school, a couple of decent restaurants, a private cinema screening room and it runs an arts and cultural programme. Yawn (sorry). Wake Up! Step one: ask you wife to stand in the lobby and wave – she might look a bit special, but stick with us. Step two: jump into the 25m rooftop pool at Cuban lounge-pool bar Cu-Ba, look down and wave right back at her through the glass bottom. There is no step three. But there are hours of fun to be had, believe us.
10. Armani Hotel Dubai
It occupies the first eight floors of the world’s tallest building, the 828m Burj Khalifa. It was the first hotel opened by fashion kingpin Giorgio Armani. Giorgio personally oversaw every single aspect of its design, from the spoons to the interior decor. That’s enough for you, right? Right? OK. Good.