“Busy Dubai is currently building its own Airbnb Remote Working Hub. But for me, who works regularly in the Emirates, hotels are still the better choice for Bleisure & Workation. A new Dubai trip – with a classic, a little Thailand and the first luxury hotel on The World” Kai Böcking
The Thai hotel group Anantara is represented in Dubai with three hotels: in Downtown, on Palm Jumeirah and – hold on – on The World. Dubai connoisseurs will now ask themselves: What The World? On this tourist mirage, heaped up of sand in the shape of the globe?
The World was once thought to be a step up from Palm Jumeirah. But while the latter, despite the crisis of 2008, continued to be developed, The World in Dubai literally sank into itself. I still remember how celebrities from all over the world bought the undeveloped sand islands piece by piece and built virtual castles on them. But in the end, apart from a mediocre party island (“Lebanon”), nothing happened.
All the more astonishing, then, that in recent months there has suddenly been a lot of construction traffic on some of the islands. And even more amazing that the first luxury brand, the Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort, opened its doors there. But more on that a little later.
First I check into a classic …
… at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers on Sheikh Zayed Road, the city’s main transport artery, a true five-star hotel classic since 2000. Situated within sight of Jumeirah’s flagship Burj Al Arab (also over 20 years old), the towers (photo above) are a business travel hit alongside the new Museum of Technology. The Trade Fair, Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa are nearby, and with 400 rooms and twelve restaurants, it’s big enough for any trade fair or holiday rush hour.
In the last few months, a large part of the rooms and suites have been renovated and here and there the public areas have been given a helping hand. What has remained is the business centre. We remember: In the past, people went to such an establishment to write emails, send faxes or make copies. Today, no one needs that any more, and one could simply make a chic bar out of it or casual, quiet work areas for workation, remote work & co.
Even after the renovation, the rooms are kept in classic brown-beige, the bathroom in marbled stone, and in other respects, too, less attention is paid here to ultra-modern design than to practicality. There are power sockets and charging points everywhere, as well as a large, free-standing desk and, of course, a 24-hour room service for the overtime shift.
6 am swim
The focus of Jumeirah Towers is clearly on guests who want to be flexible. For example, I swim my laps every morning if possible. This is possible from 6 am here, whereas in the chic design hotel next door, it’s from 9 am at the earliest. The pool is big, the bar tidy, and very important here too: If you want to work, you can swim in a “sea” of internet bandwidth. And those who want to swim in the real sea use the free shuttle to Jumeirah Beach in the other Brand Hotels. This also makes the hotel a real bleisure destination.
What has made the Jumeirah Towers a Dubai landmark since the beginning is the large selection of excellent restaurants of various tastes. My personal tip: La Cantine du Faubourg, a lifestyle restaurant with French cuisine and Ibiza entertainment. This is where the Dubai hip crowd meets for weekend brunch with oysters, caviar, champagne and DJ music. Gohan, on the other hand, focuses on Japanese street food of a high standard in a cosy atmosphere in Speak Easy style.
… on to the Anantara on the Palm
The artificial Palm Jumeirah is almost bursting at the seams. Hardly a plot is still undeveloped. And with the new, spectacular Atlantis The Royal, the island has just entered the direct higher-faster-further competition with Saudi Arabia.
So far on The Palm, I had not yet included the Anantara The Palm Dubai on my list. Too bad, that was a mistake. The hotel of the Thai hotel group does something incredible: it brings a piece of Thailand to Dubai.
Can you stay in an overwater villa on the Palm Jumeirah? You can. And not only that, you even have the feeling of being in the Maldives or in Thailand. 18 of these villas line two jetties in the Arabian Gulf, all with dark woods, wooden roofs, ultra-large beds, sun loungers, outdoor showers, direct water access and, of course, individual butler service 24/7. In addition, there are 293 rooms and suites united by the water theme – literally, because the hotel is not only located on an island, but also creates its own water world with a huge lagoon landscape. You can swim from building to building if you want. A different world.
The hotel is clearly a leisure destination. Families, big pool, many restaurants, lots of hustle and bustle. If you have to work, like me, you should definitely stay in one of the overwater villas. Here, room service is included, and you avoid crowds at the huge buffet restaurant, especially at breakfast.
WLAN and Mekong
I need a working WLAN to work. One that not only “works” but is really fast, for example to download films that I am working on remotely with my editor. Does that really work in every hotel in Dubai, and are the hotels prepared for the fact that their guests don’t just come to Dubai to splash around and eat?
For Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort, the answer is clearly yes. The Wi-Fi in the villas works just as smoothly as everywhere else in the hotel complex. There are plenty of charging options, a table and a view of the Gulf that really makes working a pleasure.
There are also six restaurants, with the Mekong being one of the best Thai ones in town. In true style, we take a rickshaw to the restaurant, which is large, quite lavish, but definitely has intimate corners for a relaxed dinner. From the open kitchen, no Thai food wish remains unfulfilled: From Tom Khar Gai to duck in coconut, everything comes fresh and spicy to the table.
For those who prefer meaty dishes, I recommend Bushman’s Restaurant and Bar. After the oysters for starters, the gigantic tomahawk steak is carved at the table. Add a few bar classics and the evening at the Australian restaurant is complete.
Dreams built on sand
A few days later, it is only a few steps from the water villa to the jetty, where a completely different Anantara adventure begins: the crossing to the Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort. As I mentioned at the beginning, I would never have thought that anyone would really dare to open a hotel in the sandy desert in the sea, four kilometres off the coast.
The owner of South America Island has now taken the step together with Anantara and turned a pile of sand without infrastructure into a five-star hotel. For a few months now, you can comfortably get from one Anantara hotel to the other by boat shuttle.
The resort on The World has 70 rooms and villas, and I wonder how the supply works? With the shuttle boat, no problem. The luggage is loaded and it takes 40 minutes to travel from one artificial island to the other. And then it’s in front of you, probably the craziest world on this planet, which you can even see from space as a globe – 300 “countries” made of sand spread over about 50 square kilometres.
The closer we get to the resort, the more you see the efforts that have been made here to create an exclusive destination: Small, squat villas on the beach, a few two-storey houses, palm trees and a long jetty for arriving boats. The empty islands of sand through which we drove here – almost forgotten.
We are warmly welcomed with drums and singing by the resort crew and escorted into the main house. And with its height and wood and bamboo architecture, it is bright and friendly at the same time. A fresh coconut as a welcome drink, and the Italian hotel director greets the few guests personally.
For me, Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort is clearly a leisure destination. This is where you spend a weekend or a few quiet days. The target group is certainly first of all locals and expats who book a short break in the Emirates.
The hotel can best be compared to a small Maldives island – various small and larger beach villas with their own pool and some standard rooms. The crew lives in an extra part of the island, or drives back and forth from Dubai in the morning and evening.
Island feeling sets in
My Beach Villa is on the beach, has its own pool, partitions to the neighbour and the possibility of a 360-degree privacy through mobile wooden walls. The rooms are – and I don’t mean this in a bad way – luxury as good as it gets on a sandy island. Very cosy and practical – I feel at home.
There are four restaurants and a bar with a truly breathtaking view of the Dubai skyline, a real eye-catcher especially in the evening. The large pool is more than 25 metres long and open early in the morning. The a la carte breakfast leaves nothing to be desired, the team is easy and motivated. For dinner, there is fresh fish, homemade pasta and a good selection of wines. The island feeling sets in, no question about it.
And work? That goes well. In addition to water, electricity and all the other things you need for a hotel like this, the crew has wisely brought along a couple of powerful WLAN routers. If I wanted to, I could work anywhere here. But not this time. I’d rather go to the small, fine spa and take a few days off – even if this island is out of this world. Small addendum: The Dubai government has reduced the tax on alcohol by 30 per cent in 2023. Cheers.
Kai Böcking …
was once again surprised by what he hadn’t seen in Dubai. He already got to know Atlantis The Royal when it opened a few weeks ago. But that’s another crazy story, which he will report on soon.
Photos: © Böcking, Anantara Hotels, Jumeirah Hotels