Variety

Residence & Spa, Dubai review - An Arabian night's tale

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on December 14, 2011 Published on April 20, 2011

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With a km-long private coastline and beach with fine white sand and an incredible 65 acres of elegantly landscaped lush green gardens to lose yourself in, Dubai's extremely elegant, stylish and plush beach resort ‘Residence & Spa', sets a new benchmark of luxury in the hospitality industry. It is one of the trio of properties that jointly form the One&Only Royal Mirage.

Beauty and elegance, tranquillity and personalised service, great food and three swimming pools with controlled temperatures to choose from… these are the essential elements of this swish resort that pampers its guests to the hilt in true Arabian style extravagance and courtesy.

And then, along with the chirping of a host of birds, peacocks too are attracted to this serene, green haven. As I photograph one that is lounging on a reclining chair outside a guest's room, a couple of pea hens hanging around in attendance, a staff member says that these resplendent birds are frequent visitors from the Royal Palace belonging to Sheik Mohammed, Dubai's ruler.

Philippe Dupont, Manager of the Royal Mirage, who is a member of the association of The Leading Hotels of the World, confirms this. “Yes, the gentlemen and ladies are not staying with us, but they visit us regularly from the Sheikh's palace, three km away,” says the Frenchman. But thanks to their frequent visits the pea hens have quite a large family to manage!

Dramatic architecture

The first thing that strikes you about the Royal Mirage — The Palace, the Arabian Court and Residence & Spa — is the dramatic architecture that evokes the spirit of Arabia with traditional Islamic architecture blending in with contemporary flourishes and touches. The arches, surprise curves and meandering, picturesque walkways, fountains and other water features, romantic lighting, trellis work and the lavish use of silk and other fabrics for the furnishings, evoke the magic of an Arabian era that had once powered and dazzled the world

Together, the three hotels have around 450 rooms and suites. The Palace, which was built first, is a huge facility with 197 rooms, 35 suites, including two royal suites, each of which is a gigantic 3,500 sq ft. These have separate living and dining rooms, linked to a large balcony overlooking the Arabian Gulf, which is barely 50 metres away, and a private kitchenette. The Arabian court has 162 rooms and 10 suites, including two Prince Suites. The highlight of the Prince Suites is the outdoor terrace with Majlis-style seating complete with cushions and bolsters… and of course, fancy hookahs!

But it is the much smaller Residence & Spa with 47 rooms and suites that is really recommended as a getaway for a special, intimate occasion. Several facilities here, including its swimming pool, is exclusive for its guests and can't be used by those living in the other two resorts. Both its interior and exterior areas have an old world charm that blows you; overlooking manicured gardens and water bodies and walkways, all the rooms are done stylishly with the finest of detailing. Having sampled One&Only Le Saint Geran in Mauritius, the design and décor of my room, particularly the wash basin and wash room areas, gave me a feeling of déjà vu and comfort. Small wonder then that the letter welcoming guests always says: ‘Welcome back'.

An impressive 50 per cent of the guests here are on repeat visits and this figure goes up to an unbelievable 70 per cent for the peak season or New Year's Eve. For the coming New Year season, the resort is already fully booked, and many of the guests reserved their room before leaving in the first week of January 2011. The average stay of the guests here range from seven to 10 days; the rates in the low season or summer range between $600-1,000 per night depending on the room, but the Garden Villa can set you back by $4,000-5000 a night.

Uber luxury

If you can afford it, check into the ultra luxurious Garden Villa, which is very close to the pristine beach, has a private driveway, two bedrooms separated by an elegant lounge, dining room and entertainment area. And the ultimate in luxury, at least for me, is the shaded terrace opening out to a private temperature-controlled swimming pool! What more could one ask for?

Most of the guests are from Europe — UK, Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy – but the Indian market is opening up too; the Bollywood stars have been coming here for some time as the resort offers luxurious pampering with incredible service. Interestingly, the Indian guests are here not only for shopping and relaxing “but also to discover some new culinary experiences. They know that Dubai is a city of the future and only a few hours away from home,” says Dupont.

Apart from three swimming pools and a spa that houses the Oriental Hammam where you can get an unbelievable traditional Turkish or Moroccan hammam experience (in other words the good old royal scrubbing, but only embellished with special touches to enhance the pampering), the resort also indulges golf lovers. Just five minutes away are located several world-class 18-hole golf courses. The more adventurous can opt for horse riding, scuba diving, desert safaris and other sightseeing tour options that Dubai has to offer.

There is enough put on the table to pamper the palate; the best in Mediterranean and West Asian cuisine is available at the many restaurants in the Royal Mirage. The Palace has four speciality restaurants - Olives, serving delectable Mediterranean food; Tagine, dishing out authentic Moroccan fare; Celebrities, which serves international cuisine; and The Beach Bar & Grill for mouth watering seafood and grills. In contrast to these plush specialty restaurants, the Dining Room at the Residence & Spa, that has several tables laid out under the cool shade of the innumerable palms, is a place where you can enjoy a relaxed, leisurely meal. An added bonus is that over 80 per cent of the staff is Indian; most from Kerala but speaking impeccable Hindi.

But the most romantic moment, and my favourite, is The Jetty, the classy beach lounge where you can settle down for a couple of evening drinks as the dipping sun gives a dramatic hue to Dubai's impressive skyline. The cool breeze blows from the Arabian Gulf, and the sound of the water weaves an Arabian magic around you.

Old world charm

My special takeaway from this resort is its old-world charm…the extremely high ceilings often panelled in wood creating a feeling of abundant space; the warm, earthy colours —beige and brown —in the entire décor beginning with the furniture, the flooring, the furnishing that exudes class; the colonial ambience in the Library which houses the bar and where high tea is served each evening. The large French windows, the classic chandeliers, the wooden arches and stairways, the trelliswork, all blend together beautifully to recreate the magical aura of an ancient civilisation.

The various facilities are so charmingly and ingeniously arranged that you get the feeling of abundant space and privacy. The resort, I was told, was full, and yet, I could barely see, or hear, the guests.

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Published on April 20, 2011
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