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Dubai without a budget

Joe Worthington spends big in Dubai

Visiting Dubai can leave a serious hole in your wallet! The ultra-luxurious city of glistening skyscrapers and expensive SUV-filled highways is certainly not for the budget conscious, so rather than trying to hunt down the few budget options in this beacon of excess, it is worth splurging for a few days to get a true feel for this (not so) sandy city.

From the very moment that you touch down at Dubai International Airport the splurging can begin. There is no need to haul your luggage onto the crowded metro when you can pay for an Emirates chauffeur ride to your hotel. Sleek leather seats and in car Wi-Fi in the BMW 520i Touring executive cars will whisk you along the hot and busy streets and highways of the Gulf’s most densely built city in air-conditioned comfort. When you have money to spare in Dubai, comfort and luxury is only a few steps away.

Hotel – Armani Hotel Dubai
There is no shortage of luxurious and exclusive accommodation options in this uber-wealthy metropolis, however only the Armani Hotel Dubai, located on 11 floors inside the Burj Khalifa, gives you the bragging rights of staying in the world’s tallest skyscraper.

The whole hotel is draped in the finest (and most expensive) Armani linens and furnishings specially chosen for its comfort and style – money no object. All 95 square metres of the Armani Premiere Suite are well worth the expense. The suite comes complete with a living room kitted out with the latest in technology, heavy dark oak tables, and soft cream sofas, a butler station with a 24-hour butler if this is what you want, and a bathroom that doesn’t scrimp on marbles and the finest porcelain.

All of the Armani linens and furniture have been specially created just for the suite, and it really does show. The bedroom and living room windows look out onto the dancing water of the Dubai Fountain and Dubai Mall below.

The Armani also doesn’t scrimp on the dining options, with no less than 7 on-site restaurants to choose from. Hashi restaurant, overlooking Dubai Fountain, adds a modern twist to traditional Japanese sushi and sashimi, flying fish into Dubai each day. Amal restaurant brings exotic and fragrant Indian curries and tandoor meats to the plates of diners at Armani and pairs them with a menu of specially-selected beverages from around the world. And Ristorante restaurant brings modern Italian foods and wines to diners looking for a more private and high-end dining experience.

Dubai’s Armani Hotel, located at the foot of what is undoubtedly one of the world’s most famous buildings, is definitely not for the budget conscious, nor is it for those who want to avoid the gaze of jealous tourists who stand outside imagining the luxury inside. It is somewhere for those who want a unique luxurious experience in the centre of Dubai, and with nightly rates starting at 2,400 AED, it can have a serious effect on the bank balance.

Desert Retreat
No visit to Dubai, whether on a budget or otherwise would be complete without visiting the orange sandy desert that surrounds the modern city. The Al Maha Resort is without a doubt the most luxurious desert retreat in the Emirate, and it could not be in a more spectacular location.

Deep inside the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, where Arabian Oryx and gazelles roam freely amongst the date palms and Bedouin tents, there is a temperature-controlled infinity pool and sundeck seating area that appears over the horizon like an oasis surrounded by the most luxurious tents that have been inspired by Bedouin traditions.

The Presidential Suite is the finest of Al Maha’s offerings, and it is the most grand and opulent desert tent that you could ever wish for. The 530-metre squared retreat includes a decorative water feature in the majlis, uninterrupted views of the orange desert sands and glowing skies from every room, a wooden-decked temperature-controlled swimming pool, three huge bedrooms, a walk-in shower, a lounge and private quarters for a private chef or housekeeper, and complimentary barbeque equipment, minibar, champagne, fruit, and 60-minute spa treatment.

There are 5 on-site restaurants, all with glorious views of the desert, but the Al Maha concierge staff pride themselves on catering for all requests, including shipping foods from anywhere in the world and cooking them in guest’s private tents. It all comes down to how much money you have, and prices for the Presidential Suite start at $3,450 per night.

“Nathan Outlaw has a seafood menu that makes use of the freshest catch from the seas surrounding the Emirate”

English Afternoon Tea
English afternoon tea and ladies who lunch are synonymous with wealth in London, and the tradition of sipping tea and eating tiny cakes and sandwiches has quickly become popular with those who have spare time and money in Dubai. There are so many delectable options to choose from in Dubai that it could be hard to choose, but what could be more apt for enjoying afternoon tea in the scorching Dubai sun than in a typically English establishment?

At Rhodes W1 restaurant in the grand surroundings of Grosvenor House, award-winning British chef Gary Rhodes has created a quintessentially English afternoon tea menu for guests to enjoy. For $95 you will be treated to the very best teas served in Wedgewood bone china, and scones with jam and clotted cream, freshly baked cakes, delicate fancies, and egg custard tarts. The restaurants is decorated in floral wallpaper with gold and white butterflies painted on the walls, bringing a slice of the English countryside to the heart of Dubai.

Exclusive Dining
After a busy (and hot!) day exploring all that Dubai has to offer, what could be better than escaping the humidity in a luxurious air-conditioned restaurant in one of the world’s most exclusive and famous landmarks, the Burj Al Arab.  The Burj offers its ‘Culinary Flight at Burj Al Arab’, which gives its exclusive guests the opportunity to sample the many culinary delights waiting to be discovered at the Burj.

The gourmet experience starts with pre-dinner drinks at Sahn Eddar, a softly lit marble and mosaic cocktail bar to the sound of classical piano music playing in the background. Sahn Eddar has an extensive cocktail and champagne menu to choose from, and the prices are included in the ‘Culinary Flight’ cost. Next you are taken to the Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara restaurant for your starter dish. Nathan Outlaw, one of Britain’s most successful chefs, has a seafood menu that makes use of the freshest fish and crustaceans from the seas surrounding the Emirate. Starter dishes include oyster ceviche with avocado, coriander and chilli, lobster risotto with orange, basil and spring onion, and scallops baked in the shell with seaweed butter and burnt lime.

Next is the “intermediate course”, which is served at Junsui, a finely decorated luxury Asian restaurant on the ground mezzanine floor of the Burj. Junsui restaurant, meaning ‘Pure’ in Japanese, is bathed in Swarovski crystals, it has no less than 25 chefs working in an open kitchen, and 8 live cooking stations for you to enjoy. Each of the live cooking stations specialises in a different Asian cuisine, including Korean glass noodles on the Korean live station, Beef Rendang on the Indonesian station, and sushi and sashimi Teppanyaki on the Japanese station. This restaurant is pure luxury.

The pièce de résistance is served on the top floor of the hotel at Al Muntaha, a modern French restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows offering endless views across the waters of the Gulf. Popular main dishes range from grilled river trout with sorrel, white asparagus and pickled onions, wagyu tenderloin, and Iberian mountain lamb served with a selection of vegetables and sauces.

To cap the culinary journey through world cuisines, you are invited to enjoy a dessert in the Skyview Bar on the 27th floor. Some 200 metres above sea level, Skyview has a modern feel and is heavy with blues, greens, and glistening glass. The ‘Culinary Flight at Burj Al Arab’ experience does not come cheap. Prices start at $345pp and rise to $535pp if you want each dish to be paired with grape by the Burj’s expert sommeliers.

Gold to Go
Nothing symbolises wealth and luxury more than gold, and nothing could be more luxurious than walking up to a vending machine and buying a bar of gold bullion ranging from 2.5 grams to 1-ounce bars and 24-karat gold coins. These gold vending machines, with computers that update prices every 10 minutes, can be found on the Burj Khalifa Observation Deck. Access starts at $35 outside of peak hours, and $55 during peak times.

Dubai is world renowned for being a rich persons’ playground, where money can buy anything the heart desires. You really cannot enjoy all that Dubai has to offer if you visit on a budget, so a once in a lifetime trip to Dubai is well worth the splurge; so get saving!


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