5 nights of luxury in the Maldives, with two nights in Dubai ‘thrown in’!


Regular readers may recall that when we went to the Maldives a couple of years ago, we stayed a few nights in Dubai on the way there. It’s a great way to break up the journey from the UK, allowing you to adjust your body clock more gradually and take in some of the ‘City of Gold’ along the way. And one such trip is currently available from Brightsun Travel who are offering a 5-night stay at the luxurious 5-star Taj Exotica Maldives along with two complimentary nights at the 5-star Taj Dubai included, flying with Emirates. Here’s the low-down.

5 nights at the 5-star Taj Exotica Maldives

The Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Maldives, set on Emboodhu Finolhu Island and in one of the largest lagoons in the Maldives, is just a 15-minute speedboat ride from the airport at Male, giving you maximum time to relax. Here 64 luxurious ocean-view villas and suites merge with a picture-postcard landscape to create a living experience that is at one with nature. Pale sand and crystal clear waters form the basis of this perfect Maldivian island setting where you can simply laze on a hammock or put on a snorkel and explore the rich marine life that habitats the well-preserved coral reefs.

You’ll receive a welcome drink on arrival, daily a la carte breakfast and dinner at 24 Degrees Restaurant which offers everything from Pan-Asian cuisine to a multitude of international delicacies. There you can breakfast under the shade of dhigga trees or enjoy a romantic dinner under the night sky.

You’ll also enjoy a personalised butler service, complimentary access to snorkeling equipment and non-motorized watersports activities, gym access, and a complimentary WiFi plan for up to four devices per room. All taxes and charges are also included.

2 complimentary nights at the 5-star Taj Dubai

Included with your getaway to the Maldives are two nights at the Taj Dubai. Situated in the Burj Khalifa precinct, home to the world’s tallest building, the hotel is perfectly situated for exploring Dubai Mall and Downtown Dubai. The hotel oozes traditional influences but with modern amenities such Jiva Spa, fitness centre and outdoor pool deck.

Included with your stay at this luxurious 5-star hotel is a welcome drink on arrival, a breakfast buffet at the main restaurant, Tesoro, and complimentary WiFi for up to four devices per room. Again, all taxes and charges are included. Additional dining options include xquisite Indian cuisine at the hotel’s Bombay Brasserie, or for fusion dishes from a lively gastro pub, try The Eloquent Elephant.

The 7 nights are available from £2,282 per person including Economy Class flights on Emirates, or from £4,308 per person when flying Business Class with Emirates.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Brightsun Travel.



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6 unique things to do in Abu Dhabi


Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and its richest city. Home to man-made islands, silver skyscrapers, mega malls and lavish palaces, it is a modern, cosmopolitan city and a popular tourist destination. Here are six unique things to do in Abu Dhabi:

Ride the world’s fastest roller coaster

If you are a thrill seeker then this should definitely be on your bucket list. Ferrari World is the world’s first Ferrari themed park and home to two record breaking rides. Until recently it was also the world’s largest indoor theme park. Formula Rossa, the fastest roller coaster in the world, will blast you to an incredible speed of 240 km/h in 4.9 seconds. Flying Aces, will take you through the worlds highest inverted loop, while travelling at speeds of up to 120 km/h. You can also take a real Ferrari for a drive here.

Stay in the world’s most leaning building

The iconic Capital Gate building is the ‘World’s Furthest Leaning Man Made Tower,’ and has a certificate from the Guinness Book of World Records to prove it. The building leans at an astonishing 18 degrees to the west, four times more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Unlike the latter, this structure was specifically designed to lean this way. You can stay in this incredible building at the luxurious Hyatt Capital Gate Hotel, where you can also experience the highest spa in Abu Dhabi.

Marvel at the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest and most beautiful mosques in the world and Abu Dhabi’s most visited attraction.  Striking in pristine white, it boasts 82 domes, golden colonnades and giant floral marble inlays across the vast courtyard. This architectural masterpiece is home to one of the largest chandeliers in the world, which is 15 meters high and 10 meters in diameter. It also contains the world’s largest hand-woven carpet which measures 5,627 square meters and was made by over 1,200 specialized workers.

Visit the only other Louvre in the world

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the only museum in the world to carry the Louvre name besides the original Louvre in Paris. It opened in November 2017 to great fanfare.  The museum covers nearly 64,000 square metres and contains a universal collection of ancient and contemporary artworks from around the world. The cosmic dome of the museum with its starry latticework is a work of art in itself. The current collection includes works by Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Vincent Van Gogh.

Go on a desert safari

Take a break from the city and escape to the sand dunes on a desert safari, a quintessential Arabian experience which is fun for the whole family. It starts with an exciting dune-bashing session in the desert as you speed up and down the biggest dunes in a four-wheel drive vehicle. This is followed by desert activities like sand-boarding and quad-biking as the sun sets. You are then taken to a traditional desert camp, where henna artists and shisha lounges await you. The evening ends with a sumptuous Arabic buffet dinner and live entertainment under the starry night sky.

Discover the historic garden city of Al Ain on a day trip

Al Ain lies between the desert and the mountains which provide the springs for its vast oasis. The oasis is one of the world’s oldest permanently inhabited settlements. More than 4,000 years old, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here you can visit the former home of the late founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan. You can also visit picturesque old forts, the last camel souk in the UAE and the Green Mubazzarah Hot Springs at the feet of Jebel Hafeet, Abu Dhabi’s highest mountain.  The pace of life here is gentler and more traditional and it is a vestige of what the United Arab Emirates was like before the oil boom.



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The world’s longest and highest zip line


The world’s longest and highest zip line will officially open on the UAE’s highest peak, Jebel Jais, next month. With the exact length of the zip line remaining a closely-guarded secret until the multi-million dollar adventure tourism product’s opening, the zip line will propel the UAE’s most northern emirate of Ras Al Khaimah into the major leagues of global adventure tourism and cement Jebel Jais as the region’s leading active adventure tourism destination. What we do know so far is that the currently unnamed zip line will be longer than 28 soccer fields in length.

Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) has partnered with Toro Verde, the world’s leading zip line operator, to develop its latest active adventure tourism product, which is due to break the current Guinness world record zip line of 2,200 metres held by ‘The Monster’ in Puerto Rico, a site also developed and operated by Toro Verde. The Ras Al Khaimah zip line will also be a case study for eco-tourism, using solar energy and locally-sourced natural materials, ensuring visitors enjoy the natural experience in the emirate’s mountain landscape.

“Jebel Jais’ dramatic and beautiful landscape offers an iconic backdrop for what will be a bucket list experience for people all around the world. The mountains also provide a strong and very challenging base for construction and through our experience and the expertise of our team, we are already making good progress,” said Jorge Jorge, CEO of Toro Verde Ras Al Khaimah.

“Opening within the heart of the UAE’s highest and most iconic natural mountain range, the Jebel Jais zip line experience will consist of two lines, allowing friends and family to take part in the flight together.” commented Ricardo Lizano, COO of Toro Verde Ras Al Khaimah.

The zip line will be open to all ages, providing participants meet required minimum weight of 35kg and maximum weight of 150kg, and a minimum height of 120cm.

Expecting to attract a high-end clientele, a dedicated VIP Lounge and Welcome Centre will provide an enhanced experience. In addition to private parking and the option to fast track their zip line flight, a helicopter transfer will be available, flying guests from Ras Al Khaimah’s pristine coast line, taking in the views of the dramatic Al Hajar Mountains from above.



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5 of the world’s best serviced apartments for the business traveller


Travel around the world on business a lot? If you do, you’ll no doubt appreciate the comfort of a good quality, long-term base when you travel – something that gives you more independence and privacy than a traditional hotel stay. We spoke to our friends at Vision Apartments to identify five luxury apartments that you can rent in five of the world’s leading cities for commerce. Here’s the shortlist:

New York

Situated in the heart of Manhattan’s financial district, this senior two-bedroom apartment at 70 Pine Street is a perfect alternative to a hotel suite, offering plenty of living space, and separate living and dining areas. Groceries can be delivered to your accommodation for those days when work is particularly busy.

Of particular appeal to the business traveller is free WiFi, a daily cleaning service and unlimited local and long distance calls. The residence even includes first-class on-site facilities, including a business centre with conference rooms.

Dubai

If you travel with family when you’re working sometimes, you’ll love this junior three-bedroomed apartment at Bay Central in Dubai Marina. Basing yourself here puts you within easy reach of Jumeirah Beach, the Dubai Marina Mall and Dubai Media City, and yet only 30 minutes from the international airport Al Maktoum.

The accommodation is bright and airy and its proximity to a number of Dubai’s main attractions means that it’s perfect for combining business with pleasure. Tenants may even enjoy an open swimming pool and fitness centre, as well as other extra facilities for free.

Zurich

Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city and one of the world’s principal financial centres. This senior 3-bedroom apartment at Bellariastr 36 in Zurich comes with all the mod cons that you might expect from a top quality apartment, but also comes with two balconies that offer fantastic views of the city and lake.

The apartment is quiet and relaxing, and yet only 10 minutes from the city centre and 40 minutes from Zurich Kloten airport. Access is easy through a modern keyless access system and free WiFi is included in the rental.

Hong Kong

This senior studio apartment in Hong Kong can be found at 26 Peel Street in the heart of the central business district, close to a number of international finance corporations as well as numerous consulates and to the Government Headquarters. Yet despite the hustle and bustle of this central location, you’re also near the relative peace and tranquillity of the Zoological or Botanical Gardens and Hong Kong Park.

The apartment has floor-to-ceiling windows that let in lots of natural light and make the interiors seem even more spacious than they already are, modern design features and dark hardwood floors. A fully equipped kitchenette with a refrigerator, microwave, electric kettle, stovetop and toaster complete the offering to give you all the independence you need whilst working on the move.

London

No list on business travel would be complete without including London, widely regarded as the financial centre of the world. With this senior 3-bedroom apartment at Hyde Park Gate in Kensington, you’ll be positioned in one of the city’s most sought-after districts, where many embassies and consulates are headquartered and 25 minutes from Heathrow.

This spacious three bedroom apartment can accommodate up to six guests and is the epitome of elegance and refinement. The accommodation includes ornate decorations, decorative fabrics, upholstered furniture and state-of-the-art amenities, all combining tradition with modernism.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Vision Apartments.



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6 of the sexiest tented camps outside southern Africa


The rugged wilderness has always been a natural calling to mankind – after all, mankind was shaped by it before by inventing agriculture, creating colonies and discovering civilisation. But the adventurer has found a way to escape the chaos of cities and going back to mankind’s roots by roughing it out and camping in nature. Luxury travellers have always prized accommodation that are at one with nature, but these have primarily been ensconced within southern Africa by way of safari lodges and tented camps. Tented camps, often referred to as glamping, typically offer all the modern comforts of hotel rooms, suites or villas, but in unique accommodation that offers a glimpse of the power of the wild. Some arose to experience wildlife, but tented camps have a history dating back millenia to the nomads and nomadic tribes. However, a rise in the need for nature has resulted in a selection of tented camp resorts outside Africa, some along traditional nomadic routes, offering a mix of raw nature and cultural experiences with luxury.

Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai

In the harshness of the desert, it is best to describe Al Maha as an oasis. Only an hour’s drive from Dubai, Al Maha showcases the heritage and architecture of the Bedouins against the backdrop of the dunes, where gazelles and the Arabian onyx roam free, visible from your suites that each come replete with a private plunge pool.

Al Maha, Dubai

Aman-i-Khas, Ranthambore, Rajasthan, India

Ten highly-exclusive identical tents sit on the outskirts of Ranthambore National Park, famous for housing one of India’s largest populations of tigers and other wildlife. While the main draw, wildlife is not the only attraction in the vicinity, with a range of cultural excursions including a visit to the daunting Ranthambore Fort. The tents are luxurious (108 sqm/1,162sqft), the food is rustic yet refined, and the service is exemplary, with each tent provided a dedicated batman (or butler), who will even accompany you on your journey from Delhi to Sawai Madhopur, replete with refreshments for the arduous road ahead.

Aman-i-Khas, Ranthambore, India

Read our review of Aman-i-Khas here.

Kasbah Tamadot, Asni (near Marrakech), Morocco

Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition retreat, set at the foothills of the imposing Atlas Mountains outside of Marrakech, is a traveler’s dream. While the retreats hosts several room types including a more traditional structure, the ten Berber tents are each individually decorated with traditional Moroccan furnishings and select antiques and items from the vast collection of the resort’s previous owner, Luciano Tempo.

Kasbah Tamadot, Marrakech, Morroco

Longitude 131°, Uluru, Australia

Staring stark at one of the wonders of the world, Longitude 131° features 15 tented structures built at the edge of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in central Australia, each with a view of the outback icon, Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, a large plateaued sandstone formation in an otherwise flat landscape. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer spectacular views of the red rock, perfect for waking up to see the sun soaring, or camp at night gazing at an array of glittering stars in the balcony by a toasty roaring fire.

Longitude131

Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai, Thailand

At this crossroads of Southeast Asia that connects Burma, Laos and northern Thailand, the historic Golden Triangle region, Four Seasons’ Tented Camp Golden Triangle offers guests the chance to explore the region’s bamboo jungles and to interact with rescued elephants in their natural habitat. The elevated tents are luxuriously appointed, some with hot tubs on the outdoor deck.

Four Seasons Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai, Thailand

The Serai, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

One of the very first Relais&Chateaux-accredited properties in India, this tented camp site set on the outskirts of Jaisalmer draws inspiration from the royal caravan sites of the Rajputana. Away from the chaos of Jaisalmer, the retreat is a throwback to a colonial age. Aside from excursions to Jaisalmer and Jaisalmer Fort, one of the key highlights here are the evenings, where the silence of the calm night is punctuated by haunting folk songs by the local Rajasthani Manganiyar singers.

The Serai Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India



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Dubai’s best brunches – A Luxury Travel Blog : A Luxury Travel Blog


In the UK, the term ‘brunch’ refers to a late morning meal – nothing particularly noteworthy – but in Dubai, Friday Brunch is an institution.  It’s the week’s main event – the chance to kick the weekend off in style (weekends run Friday – Saturday in the UAE).  It’s not breakfast, not lunch, but an all-inclusive banquet of seemingly never-ending food and drinks.  Most brunches carry on for several hours, serving food from all over the world, accompanied by free-flowing drinks and live entertainment.  Almost all hotels and restaurants offer this blow-out meal on Fridays; and almost all offer a great experience, but here’s our pick of the best:

Bubbalicious – The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi

Widely considered to be Dubai’s #1 Friday brunch, winning ‘Favourite Brunch’ in the What’s On Awards consecutively for the last two years.  Three different restaurants team up to offer almost every kind of cuisine imaginable, all presented with Willy Wonka-style theatrics.

It’s popular with families (less rowdy than some of Dubai’s other brunches – despite the free-flowing bubbles included in the price), and during the winter months they even lay on a petting zoo to entertain the youngsters, as well as magicians, acrobats and a live band.

Le Royal Meridien

The highlight here is the fact that beach and pool access is included in the brunch package. After lunch, the party moves to the pool bar and continues well into the afternoon.

Spontaneous games of volleyball, ping pong, and football erupt in the hotel grounds – and once brunch is finished you can even opt to continue the dancing and drinking upstairs in the hotel’s nightclub.

In terms of food, there are three restaurants to choose from: Brasserie 2.0 (International food, with 10 live cooking stations), Maya (Mexican), and Geales Restaurant (British classics).  All are popular.  The seafood in Brasserie 2.0 is especially impressive, as are the freshly grilled steaks.

Jumeirah Al Qasr

For sheer excess, this brunch – Dubai’s biggest – is unbeatable.   In fact, it’s so vast, you’ll need a map to navigate all the food stations, stretching over 3 restaurants, which cover an endless list of cuisines from all over the world. You name it, they’ve got it: seafood, sushi, Italian, Indian, Arabic, Mexican, Spanish, steak – as well as free-flowing drinks.  There’s a whole room dedicated to chocolate!

It’s in the heart of the Madinat complex – lovely to sit outside overlooking the waterways during the cooler months.  Another highlight is the fab view of the Burj Al Arab.  This is a decadent, over-the-top, opulent brunch – definitely one to experience at least once.

Nobu – Atlantis The Palm

Whilst most brunches in Dubai compete to dish up the most varied types of food from all corners of the globe, Nobu’s sole focus is Japanese cuisine.  As a result, it’s supremely well-done, with the sushi, lobsters, and black cod miso among the highlights.

This is a classy brunch, and a good one for champagne connoisseurs – with unlimited Perrier Jouet served, as well as premium cocktails.

Bur Dubai

If you’re on a budget and fancy a walk on the wild side, hop across the creek to the Bur Dubai area.  This used to be the centre of Dubai’s party scene, but today it’s not really on the tourist radar.  Head here for carvery roast dinners, great value all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink feasts, and to mingle with Dubai’s expat community.

Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel

This brunch is sometimes overlooked due to its off-the-beaten track location – although it’s a shame because the food here is fantastic.  It’s also a great choice for families, as they lay on all kinds of entertainment including face-painting, a bouncy castle and cinema room to keep the kids happy.  The Movenpick is one of the few hotels in Dubai to offer an all-inclusive package, which includes the Friday Brunch – a bonus if you’re staying here.

It’s one of the few places in Dubai offering an evening brunch too – so if you can stomach it, it’s possible to ‘double brunch.’  The atmosphere becomes one of cool sophistication; the dress code is all-white and the room is lit by hundreds of Moroccan lanterns suspended from the 90-metre ceiling – which, combined with live music, creates the perfect ambience.

Spencer Groves is Commercial Director at letsgo2.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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5 great reasons to visit Abu Dhabi


Abu Dhabi’s popularity as a tourist destination has rocketed recently, and it’s not hard to see why. With it’s brilliant blue sky, Emirati culture, luxury hotels and exciting theme parks, this is a city that will please even the most discerning traveller. From exotic safaris to spellbinding mosques, here are five great reasons to visit Abu Dhabi.

A stay at the Anantara Eastern Mangroves

Just a short drive from Abu Dhabi airport and city centre is the city’s most stylish hotel, the Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa. Set along a stretch of protected mangroves that perch above pristine blue waters, this gorgeous waterway is the perfect setting to admire some of the best sunsets in the city. The inside of the hotel is just as spectacular, with glistening chandeliers, Arabian style arches, grand halls and opulent decor.

There are 222 rooms, all of which boast mangrove or cityscape views, large bathrooms with tubs and rain showers, sofas and a desk. The state-of-the-art gym is enormous, but best of all is the Anantara spa. You can choose from an array of indulgent treatments, but if in doubt go for the hammam. This six-step ritual combines Turkish elements with Middle Eastern to provide you with an incredible pampering session that includes a sauna and steam, exfoliation, a clay mask, head massage, foam massage and body polish.

Dine at Pachaylen

Billed as Abu Dhabi’s best restaurant, a visit to Pachaylen definitely won’t disappoint, and from the moment you enter the restaurant you’ll know this is a dining experience out of the ordinary. The lavish-but-intimate space is decked out in rich golds and purples, and the gilded bronze screens and intricate curtains lend a sense of regality.

This is not a case of style of substance, however, as the food is no less special. With a focus on Thai food, the menu is packed with flare and flavour. Dishes include delights like flower shaped butterfly pea and chicken dumplings, and slow-cooked lamb shank in massaman curry with sweet potato and shallots. Make sure to leave room for dessert, as the coconut sticky rice pudding and sweet mango is out of this world.

Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

You can’t visit the UAE and visit a mosque, and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is easily the largest and most magnificent mosque in the country. Rising dramatically from pristine manicured gardens, the architecture here will leave you stunned. Solid Greek marble walls are decorated with sparkling gemstones like lapis lazuli, red agate, amethyst and mother-of-pearl, forming delicate floral designs on the marble pillars.

Construction began in 1996 and wasn’t completed until a decade later, and the mosque boasts seven chandeliers, each made up of millions of Swarovski crystals and measuring 33ft in diameter and 49ft high. The carpet in the prayer hall is the largest single piece of handmade carpet in the world; it took approximately 1,200 carpet knotters two years to create this 67,570 square ft, 35 tonne textile masterpiece. The mosque welcomes visitors from all faiths, although you must dress and behave respectfully.

A day out at Ferrari World

Abu Dhabi is home to the world’s only Ferrari-branded theme park, and if you consider yourself a thrillseeker you’re almost obligated to visit. There are a host of exhilarating Ferrari-themed rides and attractions that will get your blood pumping, but most famous is Formula Rosa, the fastest roller coaster in the world. Accelerating from 0–240km/h in 4.9 seconds, this is as close to a real F1 experience as most of us will get.

There are also some tamer attractions here, like a flume ride that takes you through a V12 engine, a state-of-the-art simulator that gives you the feeling of driving a Ferrari, interactive 4D family adventures, and plenty of car exhibitions and fun live shows.

A safari on Sir Bani Yas Island

You may not think a safari is on the cards when you visit the UAE, but you’d be wrong. Abu Dhabi is an archipelago of natural islands, one of which is Sir Bani Yas Island, a lush wildlife oasis in the middle of the desert. Known for its beautiful flora and fauna, Sir Bani Yas is home to over 10,000 free roaming animals, including cheetahs, giraffes and hyenas.

Located 170km from Abu Dhabi city, it’s worth spending a few days here to make the most of it, and luckily the island comes with its own luxurious resort. The boutique Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara takes guests on nature and wildlife drives in 4x4s, so you’re bound to capture some impressive shots of these magnificent animals while you’re here.



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17 of the latest luxury developments in Dubai


With the world’s biggest ferris wheel rising, hotel expansions at Atlantis, The Palm in excess of £77m and Damac’s new luxury property due to open this year, it is an exciting time to be in Dubai. Have your breath taken away by the mesmerizing performances of La Perle as they begin their first shows or enjoy the multi-sensory Orbi Dubai experience taking you on a virtual voyage of discovery. All this and more are just some of the latest luxury developments happening in Dubai.

La Perle

La Perle, a brand new, one-of-a-kind theatrical experience has just opened and will reflect the beauty and flavours of Arabia as well as embodying the soul of its hosting neighborhood, the spectacular Al Habtoor City.

La Perle is the first ever resident live performance show in the U.A.E., with 450 performances a year. It is a 1,300-capacity theatre combining a range of technology and creative imagery to produce a spectacular visual display. Conceived by world-famous Cirque du Soleil director, Franco Dragone, 65 entertainers from 23 countries will perform an array of aerial and aquatic stunts during the show, above an on-stage floor. Unlike other performances, which are often modified to fit into a stage – the theatre for La Perle is tailor-made for the show itself. Seats are built to “wrap” around the theatre, creating an intimate and exciting atmosphere for the audience.

World’s biggest ferris wheel

Ain Dubai – the largest and tallest observation wheel in the world, is now halfway complete. The wheel rim is one of the most striking features of Ain Dubai and is now clearly visible at Bluewaters Island, where the landmark is being assembled. Once completed, Ain Dubai is sure to become an iconic destination, offering visitors and residents stunning 360-degree views of the city and its spectacular coastline.

The 668 feet tall marvel will have the capacity to carry 1,400 passengers in 48 self-contained capsules. The hub and spindle at Ain Dubai were installed in 2016 and the final structure will include around 9,000 tonnes of steel, almost 25 percent more than the amount of iron used to construct the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris.

New 24/7 fish market

Dubai’s new fish market, Waterfront Market, will be located in Deira and will officially open in October. The new market will be open 24/7 and will be one of the most important specialised markets in the Emirates. Besides being a fresh food shopping experience, it’s an environment where local fisherman, butchers and vegetable and dry good traders can grow – blending a traditional Emirati souq with a multi-cultural retail bazaar that reflects the evolving city of Dubai.

New multisensory natural-history project

Dubai is the first city outside of Japan to open Orbi, a high-tech, multisensory natural-history project from the BBC and Sega, setting off its visitors on a virtual voyage of discovery. Recently opened Orbi consists of twelve different nature zones designed to create experiences that would be impossible in the real world – where visitors can soar through Earth’s skies, follow in the footsteps of polar explorers and experience the thunder of being placed in the centre of an elephant migration. The centrepiece of the attraction is the Earth Theatre, a 35-metre-wide screen with a powerful 3D sound system where the natural world comes to life through state of the art technologies including fog, vibratory sensations and fragrances.

Another night beach

Due to overwhelming public feedback received regarding the Night Swimming Beach at Umm Suqeim, a new night swimming facility will now be available at Al Mamzar Beach. The facilities include a main rescue station and a qualified crew of rescuers equipped with all safety, rescue, ambulance and communication equipment, as well as beach and water rescue bikes that ensure a safe environment for beach-visitors. This initiative is a continuation of Dubai Municipality’s efforts to improve the emirate’s public beaches and provide smart services that support the Government of Dubai’s plan to transform the emirate into a smart city.

The Woman in Black

One of the world’s most successful plays, The Woman in Black, is due to return to Dubai for a limited run. The legendary thriller-horror play is returning to Madinat Theatre in Madinat Jumeirah. There will be nightly shows plus four matinee performances of the chilling production, which has been internationally acclaimed as one of the most spectacular live shows in the world. Now in its 27th year in London’s West End, the production returns to Dubai following sell-out runs in 2009, 2012 and 2015, and will feature cast members from the London show.

Re-vamp at Atlantis, The Palm

Dubai’s Atlantis, The Palm will undergo a £77m programme to refurbish the resort’s 1,539 rooms and suites. Having started on the 4th of July 2017, the iconic five-star destination resort will embark on a three-year programme that will see 50 rooms and suites refurbished every six weeks. Completion for the mammoth task is marked as 2019, just in time for Dubai Expo 2020. UAE-based interior design studio WA International has come up with a fresh look and feel for the updated guest rooms, with contemporary carpeting mirroring the turquoise sea just outside, and coral accents.

Balconies and bathrooms will also get a facelift, with free-standing bathtubs and Greek Didyma marble basins. Technology enhancements will include 49-inch flat-screen televisions, proximity reader key systems, among other features. The hotel’s all-day dining restaurant Kaleidoscope is also currently under renovation, and will see a new dynamic introduced when it re-opens this month. Further projects planned are the re-design of Ayamna Bar, Nasimi Beach and The Imperial Club.

New beach club

A brand-new beach club, Azure Beach, has opened at Rixos Premium Hotel on Jumeirah Beach Residence. The Mediterranean-inspired beach hangout is the first of several outlets to open in the new Rixos Premium. Azure Beach caters for the whole family with seaside and poolside facilities ranging from a relaxed lounge area serving fusion Asian dishes for lunch and dinner, a shisha terrace where guests can sit back and unwind, an infinity pool equipped with private island beds overlooking the Dubai Eye and The Palm, a beach with all the comforts and a fun-filled kids club.

New ultra-luxury hotel

Damac Properties has announced that it will open an ultra-luxury five-star hotel in Dubai’s Downtown district later this year. The 305-key Damac Maison Royale The Distinction will have over 52 floors. The property features a choice of fully serviced deluxe rooms as well as one, two and three-bedroom suites that are complemented by a full kitchen, a spa and health club.

Golf championship

Dubai will be home to one of the world’s most prestigious tournaments for another three years after it was revealed that Jumeirah Golf Estates will remain the host venue of the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, until 2020. The Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, a member of the European Tour Properties network and branded as a European Tour Destination, has been the permanent home of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai for the last eight years and is a fitting finale for the concluding Rolex Series event of the season with a prize purse of US$8 million and the additional US$5 million Race to Dubai bonus pool.

Dubai World Cup

Tickets are now on sale for one of the biggest days in the city’s sporting and social calendar – the Dubai World Cup. In March thousands of stylish racegoers were treated to a stunning performance at the 2017 Dubai World Cup when racehorse Arrogate lived up to expectations and won in superb style. This was then followed by a concert from Australian pop powerhouse Sia. The new racing season kicks off at Meydan on 9th November, and tickets are now available online for next year’s main event, with plenty of early bird offers. The Dubai World Cup 2018 will be held on 31st of March, and the day will showcase nine top-class races and a total prize purse of $30m.

Key West comes to Dubai

Key West Bar & Grill opened earlier this year at Nikki Beach and captures the essence of the resort town on the tip of Florida. Mixing Floridian, Caribbean with Latin influences guests can expect authentic ingredients that are grown locally, the freshest fish and seafood, citrus flavors, and signature spice rubs for grilled meats. With a charming, serene beachfront setting, visitors can start early celebrating with traditional sundowners and aperitivo, Key West also features a boutique collection of rums and cigars from the Caribbean and Latin America.

A new place to have brunch

Sarabeth Levine, who is now 73, pioneered the culture of social brunching in the Big Apple, and recently opened the first Sarabeth’s restaurant in the Middle East, in Dubai. Sarabeth’s is one of the most famous spots for brunch in New York City, having appeared on the sets of Gossip Girl and Sex and the City. The Bakery Café and Restaurant is frequented by celebrities like Kanye West, Brad Pitt, Taylor Swift and many other A-Listers. Now in Dubai, Sarabeth’s is at City Walk. Here guests are serve the New York signature brunch dishes including the fat and fluffy French toast and eggs benedict. In addition, the multi-award-winning chef and Sarabeth’s founder, Sarabeth Levine, has personally created just for Dubai, an outstanding contemporary-American menu for lunch and dinner using the finest ingredients.

Michelin-starred street food

Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar has launched a six-course Indian street food menu at JW Marriott Marquis Hotel’s Rang Mahal. Kochhar explores the flavours of his youth and his culinary adventures through North and South India. Guests can choose from seekh wali kaathi, the much-loved lamb kebab of Delhi, rolled in paratha served with spicy green chutney or try some keema toast, slow-toasted bread with hand pounded lamb masala.

Chinese cuisine

Located in the FIVE Palm Jumeirah Dubai, Maiden Shanghai has just opened and is led by Luo Bing, formerly head chef of Hutong in London. The menu is takes guests on a journey through China, with flavours from four types of Chinese cuisine – Cantonese, Sichuan, Shanghai and Beijing. The restaurant is spread over three floors – with a restaurant, a bar, and a rooftop lounge, along with three private dining rooms. The interiors are inspired by Chinese history, with a colour palette of bronze, teal and white alongside a collection of antique chandeliers, lanterns and other decorative features, all sourced from vintage stores across the world.

Nature-inspired shopping

The world’s first nature-inspired shopping mall appears to be in full bloom. With developers behind Dubai Miracle Garden and Dubai Butterfly Garden, currently working on Cityland Mall, a £250 million development that will be packed with botanical wonders and set to open in 2018. The 200,000-sq ft open-air garden, dubbed “Central Park”, will feature a mini-version of the famed Miracle Garden, a mini water park, 300-year old ancient tree garden, a Japanese garden, a 360-degree rooftop garden, and a cluster of restaurants and cafés overlooking the natural wonders of the garden. In addition to all the garden features, there will also be a 3000-seat amphitheatre for artistic performances and a walking track along the garden so people exercise.

The Mall

The Mall, a new Dubai shopping centre, has been officially inaugurated. The 80,756 square foot centre, owned by Meadhad Rashed Meadhad Almheiri, spans two floors and houses more than 65 stores. It is aiming to attract around 5,000 visitors per day during its first year of operation. Mall chairman Rashid Meadhad Rashid Meadhad Almheiri said he expected its close proximity to the five star hotels at Madinat Jumeirah and view of the Burj al Arab to lure visitors “Our aim is to provide a one-off shopping experience that is totally different to that of the bigger retail malls,” he said. Food and beverage options at the shopping centre include Arabian Tea House, Ayam El Ezz, Sahara Grill and The Hutch.



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6 new hotels to look forward to in 2018




Interested to hear about some of the world’s best luxury hotels that are just around the corner? Here’s our guide to some of the most exciting new hotels opening across the globe in 2018.

Rosewood Baha Mar, The Bahamas – Opening Spring 2018

The Rosewood Baha Mar is part of a huge redevelopment project on Cable Beach (the best beach on Nassau), which – when complete – will comprise a handful of luxury hotels, casino, contemporary art gallery, restaurants, shops, and 18-hole golf course. 

The hotel will have timeless colonial interiors typical of other Rosewood properties, and all the rooms will have balconies with outdoor living areas.  There’ll be four restaurants within the resort, a natural-themed bar, a Rosewood Spa, barber shop, gym and two swimming pools reserved solely for Rosewood guests, as well as access to the other facilities in the wider Baha Mar resort.

Sandals Royal Barbados – Opening Christmas 2017

According to head-honcho Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, Sandals Royal Barbados is a “game-changer” for the company.  It’ll feature a number of Sandals firsts.  For starters, there’ll be a huge zero-entry rooftop pool, with plenty of surrounding sun loungers – and a trendy rooftop bar. 

The resort will also have its own 4-lane bowling alley, a gentlemen’s barbershop, and two new restaurant concepts – an American-themed tavern and a Chinese-Japanese fusion restaurant.  There’ll be a whopping 15,000 sq ft Red Lane ® Spa.  The hotel will also have access to the facilities and restaurants at sister property Sandals Barbados.  Sandals Royal Barbados is an all-suite resort, and every suite will feature an al fresco ‘Tranquility Soaking Tub™ ‘ – the signature Sandals indulgence for two.

W Dubai, The Palm – Opening March 2018

You’ll need to be oozing glamour to really fit in at this glitzy new property on the Palm.  The journey starts as you drive into the swanky air-conditioned entrance – WHEELS – which itself looks rather like a top-end nightlife venue – before you emerge into in the high-ceilinged ATRIUM to check-in. 

The hotel features a large WET DECK, where the pool is divided by wave-shaped walkways featuring cabanas and various lounging apparatus, plus in-pool drinks holders.  The main pool is complemented by a stylish rooftop variant, as well as a several smaller pools dotted around the complex.  The rooms are suitably modern in design – featuring all the expected tech – including keyless entry (your smartphone is your key). Other facilities include the AWAY spa, SWEAT fitness centre, plus eight trendy restaurants and bars.  The rooftop venue boasts 360° views, which will no doubt become one of the city’s most coveted social hotspots.

Oblu Select at Sangeli, The Maldives – Opening July 2018

Situated at the tip of the Male Atoll is the island of Sangeli – home to this brand new resort. Operated by the same award-winning team behind the popular Maldives resorts Atmosphere Kanifushi and Ozen by Atmosphere at Maadhoo, Oblu Select at Sangeli promises an all-encompassing hassle-free four-star deluxe experience – in a picture perfect location. 

And if the standards of the other Atmosphere resorts are anything to go by, it’ll more than deliver.  Aside from the island’s natural beauty, highlights include the large, contemporary villas, a choice of 3 restaurants, multiple pools, Elena spa complex, and fitness centre.  The resort itself actually encompasses two (tiny) islands, connected by a wooden boardwalk lined either side with water villas.  The two a la carte restaurants, spa and exclusive honeymoon suites are located on the smaller of the two islands, whilst the beach villas, kids club, main pool and restaurant are located on the larger island – and these two sections of the hotel should work very well in ensuring that those with children and those without can holiday in harmony.

Ikos Dassia, Corfu – Opening May 2018

Ikos Dassia brings the popular all-inclusive concept from the Ikos properties in Halkidiki to Corfu’s picturesque Ionian Coast.  Aimed predominantly at families, this expansive beachfront resort lines up stylish contemporary rooms, and enough facilities to keep everyone happy. 

Highlights include seven à la carte restaurants, as well as a ‘Dine Out’ experience – where you can opt to visit several top local restaurants (as part of the package).  Other facilities include a plethora of bars, a theatre, the Ikos Dassia Spa (by luxe spa brand Anne Sémonin), several swimming pools (including a couple of adults-only options), a sandy beach (with a complimentary beach childcare service), and various kids clubs and activities catering for those aged from 4 months right through to late teens.

Sala Samui Chaweng Beach Resort, Thailand – Opening late 2017

The first wing of this stylish property is set to open at the end of 2017, although it’ll be 2018 before the hotel is fully open.  The pool villas and pool suites are the absolute highlights – gorgeously designed in a chic, minimalist style, with the emphasis on peace and privacy. 

The beachfront pool also looks beautiful, facing the white sandy beach.  There’ll be a romantic beachfront restaurant ( specialising in Thai and seafood dishes) – as well as a beach bar, and lots of sun loungers, bean bags – all the hallmarks of a relaxing holiday.  Further action is available in the form of water sports, and in Chaweng Town – a five-minute walk away.

Spencer Groves is Commercial Director at letsgo2.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.



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6 art events to visit in the UAE this Summer




It’s sizzling hot in the UAE but let that not stop you from enjoying a pop of colour on canvas at several art exhibitions and events taking place over the summer.  Several luxury hotels are hosting various artist exhibitions, many of these are running for more than two months. So, if you find yourselves in Dubai or Abu Dhabi and eager to see and do new artful things, pop on over to the following locations in the cities and enjoy some art.

Art exhibition by Fabian Edelstam, Rosewood Hotel, Abu Dhabi

The exhibition by Swedish artist Fabian Edelstam is presented by Swiss Art Gate, a UAE based company that seeks to foster interest in the arts and regularly hosts exhibitions featuring Swiss and Arab artists mainly, around the country. This art exhibition takes place in Roberto’s, a gourmet Italian restaurant based in the well-known luxury Rosewood Hotel on Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah Island. The selection of paintings on display includes mixed media artworks where the portraits capture the artist’s love for travelling through the Far East.  He’s also created art portraits of celebrities such as The Supremes, Salvador Dali, Audrey Hepburn and Scarlett Johansson. Each portrait starts out as a photograph which is digitally enhanced with oil and acrylics.

The exhibition is open daily from 12pm to 2am till 30 November 2017.

Perspective – a Korean art exhibition at St. Regis Hotel, Al Habtoor City, Dubai

St. Regis Hotel Dubai has thrown open its doors to all art lovers this summer at Le Patio, home to the current group exhibition titled ‘Perspectives.’ This is the third installation of the exhibition that has been well received by private collectors and art galleries alike. Supported by Gallery The Grace Seoul and The China International Development and Investment Corporation Limited, the art exhibition showcases paintings by Korean artists such as Hakman Hwang, Sunhee Kim, Nahyun Hwang, Hyojung Kim and Jiyoun Jeon.  Opened in July, the exhibition runs till the end of September 2017.

Clyde & Co MENA Art Showcase, Dubai

Each year, Clyde & Co, a leading lawyer firm on the global scene, holds an art showcase at its offices in Dubai as part of their global corporate responsibility programme to support emerging local artists in the MENA (Middle East North Africa) region. The showcase is part of the annual MENA Art Award by Clyde & Co for the purpose of nurturing emerging visual arts talent in the region. This year, artists whose works are selected have had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have their work on display at the firm’s offices. The pretty art wall shows a myriad of art techniques used by the nominated artists, from sketches to watercolours, acrylics and resin. Several art galleries and organisations support this initiative including Antidote, Kobo Art, Gulf Photo Plus and Dubai Community Theatre & Centre.  Viewing of the artworks is by appointment only.

Literaturhaus at Nadi Al Quoz, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai

Al Serkal Avenue in Al Quoz is the home of every creative, whether artist, collector or art aficionado. During the summer, one of its venues, Nadi Al Quoz, is offering a full summer programming called Literaturhaus. Nadi, meaning ‘Community Club’ in Arabic, will host its events in the style of a 19th century salon where people come together at salons to discuss all issues related to art and literature. Every Saturday this summer from 4pm onwards, regional and international creatives will be featured, some of them are household names such as Hussain Ali Lootah, Andrew Hansen, Philip Kennedy, Marian Al Saedi, Farah Chammah as well as Nathalie Fend De Sousa Lobo. From poetry slam to creative writing workshops and spoken performances, the Literaturhaus at Nadi Al Quoz will satiate your creative hunger.

‘Made in Tashkeel 2017’ Summer showcase, Dubai

Established in 2008, Tashkeel is an art organisation in Dubai that places the city at the helm of art and design by supporting the creative community. Their summer showcase called ‘Made in Tashkeel 2017’ displays works done by its members and exhibiting artists. Several mediums have been used by the artists, from photography to jewellery, illustration and print-making. Prints of their work have been showcased on merchandise such as notebooks, aprons, pencils and laptop bags.   The artworks were created specifically for Made in Tashkeel by artists such as Ibraheem Khamayseh, Mobius Design Studio, Myneandyours, Tulip Hazbar and Wissam Shawkat. Take time to visit the gallery that’s located in Nad Al Sheba and is open from 10am to 8pm Saturday to Thursday, throughout the summer. The showcase will run till the end of August.

Art exhibition at Sofitel The Palm, Dubai

Monda Gallery is presenting an exhibition of regionally inspired artworks at Sofitel The Palm, Dubai. Artists taking part in this exhibition include Art Noor, Dana Naser, Wafa Khazendar, Olivia Boa, Catch Deniset, Sara Nimer, Cecile Delikoura and Cristina Baekkelund. And if you find yourself at The Dubai Mall, visit Kinokuniya a book haven where various prints, framed and unframed artworks and photos by the Monda Gallery artists are available for purchase.



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