Who knew that hammams came in different styles? I had assumed Istanbul-style was universal, but how wrong could I be… and it took a visit to a spa in Dubai to get the Marrakesh experience.
This involved less lying down, but just as much scrubbing, water and warmth, with a nice deep massage and the delicious overall cleanness that only the hammam gives.
Having taken advantage of the Royal Mirage’s 1km of beach front for calf-tightening water’s edge walking and its ball machine for tennis drills, every muscle needed the heat, water and deft massage of Regine.
We were staying at The Palace, the original of the three hotels that make up Royal Mirage, one of Dubai’s earliest tourist developments. A resort hotel can sometimes feel like it’s anywhere, but not in Dubai – cloud-busting tower blocks are always on the horizon. However, the towers of the nearby Dubai Marina don’t interfere with the peace and luxury at Royal Mirage. There is undeniably a big nod to Morocco in its Arabic style. That makes for a truly atmospheric meal at the Tagine restaurant. Not only were we serenaded by Moroccan musicians but our taste buds were entertained by exotic flavours.
Budget or boutique?
In Dubai terms Royal Mirage is boutique – a mere 451 rooms (or suites) across three hotels on the beach facing the Palm, the first of Dubai’s iconic man-made islands. All Arabic in architecture, with great use of fountains, light, archways and niches, the hotels each have their own identity. The Palace is really comfortable in its own skin, while the Arabian Court looks a little more edgy – the younger sister making sure she is noticed. The Residence seems like a sheik’s palace, serene, elegant and exclusive.
All rooms have a sea view alongside super-sized comfy beds, widescreen TVs, a well thought-out layout and a quiet elegance. The Gold Club rooms at the Palace also have a haven where Portia and her concierge team will smooth your day. Cold drinks, advice on taking the Metro, plastic bags for wet beach shoes: nothing is beyond them.
Wining and dining
Dining out is a way of life in Dubai and hotel restaurants are destinations in themselves, so standards are high and the choice is wide. Royal Mirage has eight restaurants.
The Dining Room at Residence is fine dining in some style. The chef’s ceviche of seabass topped by tiny diced veg and caviar was the taste highlight, but the desserts were as visually stunning as they were delicious – sorbets, ice creams and a deconstructed pina colada were impossible to resist. The Palace’s Beach Bar and Grill is a sea front paradise where surf and turf steak-lobster combos allowed us to test its skills before heading back to the Jetty Bar, which became a magnet for us with its relaxed vibe and classy cocktails.
Worth getting out of bed for
All leisure activities are at your feet on the 65-acre Royal Mirage estate – spa, water sports, tennis, pools to laze beside, 1km of beach – so you really don’t need to leave. Then again what must be one of the busiest cities on the planet is on your doorstep.
Take a taxi downtown to Dubai Creek. Or go for the hyper-retail experience at Dubai Mall where shops rub shoulders with an aquarium, ice rink and musical fountain – all in the shadow of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
Dubai has some really amazing experiences, but the coolest has to be a seaplane flight over the city. The Palm and landmark buildings seem touchable from the nine-seater Seawings aircraft that took off from the water. It took an afternoon chilling by the pool to come down from that high.
The Gilchrist & Soames toiletries, multi-device chargers and hand-tooled leather decorations are all great, but it is the friendly yet efficient staff who make the stay such a success.
Don’t be surprised to find yourself chatting to the resort general manager, Olivier Louis, who will ask what you think of the resort that he helped establish 25 years ago: no need for a guestbook then.
• Palace Superior Gold Club Room at the One&Only Royal Mirage from 1,470AED (£275) per night in July and August; Traditional Hammam treatment in the One&Only Spa, AED 460 (£87), www.oneandonlyresorts.com. Dubai Silver Air Tour by seaplane with Seawings AED 1,695 (£319) per person, www.seawings.ae. Dubai Tourism (020 7321 6110) www.visitdubai.com