I still can’t quite believe that just 20 years ago, Dubai was a desert.
Today it flaunts style, and extravagance, and pushes the boundaries of innovation. Think jaw-droppingly luxurious hotels, a dreamy marina housing the crème de la crème of boats, and hypercars zooming by.
Dubai doesn’t do subtle; it’s all about the wow factor.
And somehow or other, despite sending many a traveller here over the years, I had never quite managed to see it for myself.
I had just needed the excuse and the circumstances, so when a pandemic-delayed Indian Ocean work trip was rescheduled this summer and one of my oldest and dearest UK friends Melanie was available for a long-overdue meet-up, the stars aligned, "et voilà”.
Dubai airport is pristine; as a home hub for Emirates Airlines, it offers connections worldwide and it’s HUGE.
I felt like a rockstar, being met after immigration, guided to the luggage carousel, taken straight out to my waiting transfer with cold water at the ready and an English-speaking driver to point out the sights on the way.
Just 40 minutes later, we reached home for the night - the Grosvenor House Hotel - and it fully lives up to the hype.
From the get-go, it was smooth sailing. Check-in was a breeze; the staff were all smiles as they escorted me to my swanky deluxe room where my “roomie” had arrived from London a couple of hours prior.
It was easy to see why my clients adore this place, plus when they stock Byredo goodies, you know it’s all about the finer things in life.
Dubai is all about location and the Grosvenor House has it nailed. Overlooking the marina and right in the heart of the action, the Walk at JBR, Dubai Marina Mall, access to bonus perks at Le Royal Meridien including a handy shuttle, and close to the tram with Metro links.
At 160 stories tall, the Burj Khalifa is the granddaddy of free-standing buildings, and the view was mind-blowing. I highly recommend booking in advance, especially on the weekends, and comfortable shoes are a must - I clocked over 13,500 steps that day.
The following two nights we stayed at Caesars Palace, situated on Dubai’s Bluewaters Island, and put simply: wow! Our premier sea view room was huge, the bathroom was straight out of a magazine, sleek and modern, and the whole hotel experience was effortlessly elegant.
Breakfast at Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen was a sensory feast. Tasty and totally Instagrammable, it provided the perfect fuel for a day of lounging and yakking by one of the resort’s five pools.
We were joined by an ex-colleague Heather, now an Emirates Airlines flight attendant, and whom I hadn’t seen for some time.
There was no shirking when it came to pampering either; cool towels, refreshing drinks and fantastic attention to detail plus a poolside lunch with us wanting to savour as much of the resort’s offering as possible.
My whirlwind debut already has me hungering for round two of that Dubai dazzle!