„… yes, absolutely! In autumn 2020, I was in Dubai twice for two to three weeks each time for projects and experienced a special atmosphere of departure in the emirate, including a feeling of long-distance travel and a large portion of security. On my first trip, I checked into The Ritz-Carlton and W Dubai – The Palm.” Kai Böcking
I have been travelling in the United Arab Emirates as a Bleisure Traveller for many years. There I produce shows and documentaries for German TV stations and enjoy and try out new restaurants, hotels and other highlights. Nevertheless: Dubai surprises me again and again. Also and even more so in autumn 2020. For a few months now, entry from Germany with a valid Covid 19 PCR test has been possible again. In hotels like the Atlantis, The Palm, for example, international guests who spend at least five nights at the resort can have free Corona PCR tests until 30 April 2021. So, under these conditions, I will travel to Dubai again, for business and leisure.
More liberal laws, significantly more beach bars
New hotels, restaurants, bars and shopping opportunities open almost daily – as if the Corona crisis had not happened here. The impression is deceptive.Dubai has had a very, very strict lockdown for months, much stricter than Germany, for example, with sometimes drastic penalties for those who refuse to wear masks.
Nevertheless, the emirate has been working over the summer to bring back business people and holidaymakers – with a strict set of rules. Entry on most airlines is only possible with a PCR test no older than 96 hours. The same applies to leaving the country.
Meanwhile, the desert state even offers a one-year visa for mobile workers from abroad. And – much more decisive – the ruling house has decided to modernise many laws: Cohabitation of unmarried women and men is now legal. In matters of gender equality and sexual assault, there is a promise to crack down, regardless of Islamic laws. And alcohol is officially no longer forbidden, which has already become apparent: beach restaurants and bars are currently shooting up with beach access. Highly recommended, for example, is White Beach in front of the Atlantis Hotel: a beautiful restaurant that offers DJ music on the beach and mega brunch at weekends. West Beach looks like a Caribbean beach bar and has the same flair with a view of the Arabian Gulf, but be sure to book. And Aprons & Hammers, just a few metres further on, is clearly heading towards the bar, the view is also gigantic, as are the prices.
Old, new pool of tranquillity: The Ritz-Carlton-Dubai
You can feel how Dubai finally wants to get the big wheel it has always turned going again. This is especially evident when visiting old and new hotels.
One of my favourite classics is the Ritz-Carlton Hotel not far from Dubai Marina in New Dubai. It seems as if this multi-storey, Mediterranean five-star hotel is ducking under the overpowering shadow of the gigantic residential towers of the Jumeirah Beach Residences. But the opposite is the case. The Ritz-Carlton has been the oasis of calm in the urban hustle and bustle for many years. Even as you drive up the driveway to the hotel: Silence, in the middle of this crazy Dubai world, a few metres away. Add to this the lobby with its world-famous fountain, floating rose petals, subtle light and view through the tall windows of the lush garden, pools and, at the very back, the Persian Gulf.
In the legendary Lobby Lounge with the Library Bar, one enjoys afternoon tea like an honest drink in deep armchairs on the colonial-style terrace under revolving fans. Under a wooden roof representing an inverted Arabian dhow, the typical boat of this region. The Lobby Lounge has been one of my favourite meeting places for business meetings for many years. It is easily accessible, discreet and equipped with a perfect Wi-Fi connection. The Business Centre is around the corner in case contracts need to be signed. And those who have access to the Club Lounge can also meet business partners there for lunch and dinner or work alone.
The rooms. Freshly renovated some time ago, they continue what the lobby and lounge already promise with wood, marble and light fabric upholstery. With this clarity, the welcome ensemble of flowers is almost playful: Welcome and name made of flowers, plus a bottle of wine, dates, fruit and chocolates. All 294 rooms and suites look out onto the lush garden and have a balcony that is protected from view. A desk for mobile office is just as available as a multitude of sockets and USB connections. Here, as in the garden, bars and restaurants, the Wi-Fi works well.
German Tobias Pfister is the chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai. In Corona times, he stands with his colleagues at the breakfast buffet and fulfils pretty much all the à la carte wishes of the guests. Breakfast on the large terrace thus becomes a rather relaxed affair. Tobias Pfister and his team skilfully and silently serve nine restaurants, including one of the best oriental restaurants in the city: the Amaseena, a traditional Arabic outdoor restaurant with mezze, grilled meat and fish, plus music and dancing. Welcome to Arabia.
The pool remains with its floating bar, chill out music, cabanas in the Adult Only Beach Club. Plus the private beach and the spa for lots of bleisure. And if you bring your children or catch up with them, you can also use the children’s pools, one of the few places in this oasis of calm where there is also a lot of life.
Colourful contrast: The W Dubai – The Palm
The W Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah is relatively new (photo at the top). And one quickly wonders whether it still stands for Business or ONLY for Leisure. But it depends on what you need as a business traveller in these times. The hotel is located at the very end of the outermost palm tree, at least a 15-minute drive from The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, for example. Fans of W Hotels know that no two hotels are alike, each is a design icon. The W Dubai – The Palm is no exception. The combination of natural curves of the desert and coast, mixed with the geometric figures of the Dubai skyline, is the credo of the new hotel with 347 rooms and suites.
The hotel is located at the far end of the upper palm tree. The path leads past the Atlantis Hotel and such hotel sins as the Kempinski Emerald Palace. Colour-wise, however, you should also be stable as a guest at the W: Gold, blue, turquoise and earthy colours – but all with style. The atrium is five storeys high, outshone by a 30-metre-long pulsating light show of crystals.
The rooms are also temples of design. Mine is bathed in deep blue, with bright wallpaper, mosaics on the walls, curved walls and furniture, a viewable bathroom and a terrace overlooking the pool area and Dubai skyline.
The entire hotel offers (pun intended!) free Wi-Fi, plenty of USB and international charging options. Business is always possible here, even on the beach. For me, perhaps the only small negative point is the equally magnificent pool ensemble, arranged as cascades: Swimming lanes is not possible. So out into the sea, which here, at the end of the palm frond, has an amazing amount of movement.
The W also remains true to itself as a trendsetter in culinary terms: on the Wet Deck, the pool bar, hedonistic Friday brunches for the rich and beautiful will take place again after Corona. Pizza and pasta are served in the restaurant of Italian celebrity chef Massimo Bottura. But the big hit is Akira Back: Japanese-Korean fusion cuisine that you love to share at the table. Incidentally, it is arranged so that each of the guests has a panoramic view of the palm tree. Be sure to have a drink on the rooftop terrace before and after for the Dubai view, which you will enjoy even more after 2020.
Kai Böcking …
was thrilled by the current lightness of Dubai, while observing all due Corona precautions. The hotels allow safe business and leisure stays. He was also able to experience this in November 2020 during another business leisure visit to Fairmont The Palm and the brand new Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk. With these opportunities in mind, he is considering a longer remote work stay in Dubai in 2021.
Photos: © Böcking, The Ritz-Carlton-Dubai, Marriott International