By Julia Wheeler
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.
Winter sunshine and Arabian hospitality await you in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. More self-assured and less frenetic than neighboring Dubai, largely due to oil wealth, it has taken a more leisurely and measured approach to tourism. The result is a considered, confident city that melds traditional with state-of-the art, luxury with tranquility and full-on excitement with an evolving restaurant scene. The city is made up of dozens of islands (not man-made like Dubai’s) and this geography is being used cleverly to focus on the different aspects the city has to offer.Whichever you choose, you are assured of a warm welcome – as the locals say bayti baytak (my house is your house).
PALACE SUITE, Emirates Palace
This hotel is the fairy-tale place to stay. The three-bedroom Palace Suite is decorated with 24K gold leaf, luminous silkwalls and Swarovski crystal chandeliers. It evokes a calm opulence (see above). A favorite spot for pop royalty, Sir Elton John, Bon Jovi, Shakira and Michael Jackson have all checked in. There is a majlis living area and private dining for 12 within the suite’s 7,319 sq ft, as well as an extensive private terrace with Gulf views. A private butler will fill your tub and attend to dietary and other requirements: “There is no wish that cannot be granted at Emirates Palace.” Arrive by helicopter, yacht, seaplane or limousine.
From $18,000 per night, Mohammed Alaoui, public relations manager, +971 2690 7928, email@example.com, emiratespalace.ae
ROYAL SUITE, The Ritz-Carlton
As the view through the calming oval windows of this suite takes in the full arc of the newly named Grand Canal, the Venetian keynote is inevitable. Six people can be accommodated in this two bedroom suite over 2,691 sq ft, with its one king and two queen beds. Crisp Egyptian cotton bed linen, a pillow menu and Asprey toiletries set the tone, assisted by a personalized butler service. It is plush throughout but lavish takes over in the golden-mosaic bathroom with its marble bath, rain shower and oversized Jacuzzi. The flower motifs are inspired by the carpets and columns of the nearby Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which was built at the same time.
From $16,320 per night, Khaled Al Jamal, general manager, +971 2 818 8888, ritzcarlton.com/abudhabi
PRESIDENTIAL SUITE, Four Seasons
This urban-chic suite with its tall ceilings, ivory furnishings and huge images of pale wading birds in the bedroom is 1,884 sq ft of pure calm on the 12th floor (see above). The Four Seasons is one of the newest hotels in town and perches in a superb location on Al Maryah Island, an area that is billed as the future city center. The hotel offers a private concierge shopping service at a nearby luxury shopping mall. The suite’s full-length windows reveal both exciting city and soothing water views. Natural light streams into the spa-like marble bathroom where there are Ferragamo amenities, and you can customize the famous Four Seasons king-size bed. There are lavish living and dining spaces in which to entertain. The suite sleeps two, but there are two adjoining rooms that can be added to create a three-bedroom suite if your guests don’t want to leave.
From $10,000 per night, Morgane Eiden, reservations supervisor, firstname.lastname@example.org, +971 55 841 0531, fourseasons.com/abudhabi
ROYAL ETIHAD SUITE, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
With 360 degree views taking in the Corniche, sweeping views of the cobalt Gulf and the Abu Dhabi skyline, this suite on the 60th floor is a stunner. Light and airy, with floor-to-ceiling windows, it has just the right weave of traditional design and modern luxury. Its 10,548 sq ft sleeps eight with a king-size bed in each of the four bedrooms. There are three living spaces and the sunlit bathrooms have walk-in rain showers and private dressing rooms. As well as dedicated butler service, this suite has the high-spec tech you would expect with an iPad-controlled environment and Bose sound system.
From $18,000 per night, Stefan Fuchs, general manager, email@example.com, +971 2 811 5555, jumeirah.com/jumeirahetihadtowers
PRESIDENTIAL SUITE, Yas Viceroy Hotel
In a hotel that straddles the Grand Prix race track who would you expect as fellow guests but Hollywood glitterati and F1 legends? The double story, 4,305 sq ft space has original artwork and exclusive furnishings from MoMA in New York. There is a dedicated elevator, full chef’s kitchen and room for 16 to dine. The large terrace has a private lap pool and there is direct access to a personal treatment lounge in the ESPA spa. A fleet of Audis is available on request.
From $6,575 per night, yas.reservationsviceroyhotelsandresorts.com, +971 2 656 0700, viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/abudhabi
OUT OF TOWN
Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life? Try the desert, an island or just surround yourself with lush landscaped gardens…
Zaya Nurai Island
With a far-away-from-it feel, but located only minutes by speedboat or helicopter from Saadiyat Island, are the 32 beach villas of Zaya Nurai. This is a boutique island resort with turquoise water and a vibe more Maldives than Middle East. Choose between a one-bedroom retreat villa or a four bedroom water villa. No expense is spared here in concept or design. Beyond the edge of your private infinity pool you will find water sports, fishing, yoga and tennis. The spa menu is available in-villa or in the stunning private pavilions, which protrude over the waves. A circuit of the island, beneath the hundreds of imported palm trees, takes a couple of hours. Return to sip something smooth beneath a lanai or at the seafront lounge. Arrival by yacht is possible by arrangement.
From $1,300 per night for beach villa, Adbi Moukheiber, general manager, firstname.lastname@example.org, +971 2 5066 212, zayanuraiisland.com
Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai
An hour and a half from the city over the dunes into Dubai, the tranquility and beauty of the desert await. Al Maha sits in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve and the individual suites have a Bedouin tented feel, with views over the sandscape. Each sleeps between two and six and comes with its own pool and sundeck. The romance of the desert is at the forefront, but there are off-the-beaten-track activities, on which this eco-luxury retreat prides itself, ranging fromcamel trekking, plus a desert safari to see the Arabian oryx and gazelles. Two activities a day are included in your stay. For the less adventurous, there are cocktails on the terrace and the Timeless Spa with its Rasoul chamber plus options of couple and in-suite massages.
From $7,000 per night for the three-bedroom Presidential Suite, Mira Radic, director of guest services, email@example.com, +971 4 832 9900, al-maha.com
Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat al Beri
If you are looking to entertain in Abu Dhabi, consider Signature Villa Four at the Shangri-La, its designated “party villa.”With 6,458 sq ft set over two
floors, it can sleep up to 20 guests in four bedrooms. The decor is Asian inspired and the villa comes with its own swimming pool (heated to your favored temperature), cinema and bar. There is butler service, a fully equipped kitchen, a private entrance and personal garage. You will find Bulgari amenities in the bathroom. Five other – quieter – signature villas are available with Arabic or contemporary interiors and room combinations which include a majlis, dining room, lounge and study.
From $4,900 per night, Thomas Guss, general manager, firstname.lastname@example.org, +971 2 509 8301, shangri-la.com/abudhabi