SHINY, HAPPY CITY
WORDS HARDIKA PANCHAL
PHOTOGRAPHS SAMEER MANGTANI
GREAT FROM India
GREAT FOR A luxury, do-nothing holiday
Looking at the Burj Khalifa sitting on your bedside table at home, you realise the sight doesn’t quite have the same effect as it did from your room at the Taj Dubai. Being one of the few hotels located closest to the tallest building in the world, you have the privilege of watching the iconic skyscraper twinkle silently just outside your window at night as you fall asleep in your big, fluffy bed. You also have the thrill of waking up to the sight of the sun rays bouncing off the steel- and-glass surface, then turning the other way and going right back to snoozeville.
If you’re in Dubai on a business trip or for a shopping spree, the Taj Dubai is a great base from which to explore this city thanks to its proximity to the malls, restaurants and the older, more atmospheric parts of Dubai (yes, those exist). Explore these areas by evening when it’s cooler, on the Dubai Heritage Tour, where you can learn about the roots of this city that’s moving ahead at a dizzying pace. Learn about Dubai’s origins as a humble pearl-diving centre, and see its traditional architecture, where natural materials like palm leaves and mud were used, with wind tunnels built into homes to keep them cool in the blazing summers. Wander through the maze-like, century-old spice market, where produce still comes from Iran via dhows like it used to all those years ago, and sniff at sacks of unrecognisable spices sitting outside shops. End your evening with a short but very enjoyable ride on a traditional abra across Dubai Creek at sundown and ramble through streets where people live a simpler life far from the sparkle of modern Dubai. And when you return to the said sparkle, the Taj Dubai has much in store for you. Yes, it’s hot, but that’s why you park yourself by the pool, shaded by trees, or lounge in the air-conditioned bliss of the hotel. Walk the corridors, flooded with natural light filtering in through jaali screens, and take in the Indian artwork on the walls. The hotel sports a mix of Arabic and Indian styles in its decor and its menus. Food takes centre-stage here, and, from Arabic, Lebanese and Indian to continental, you’ll find it all. Start with an Emirati breakfast at Tesoro, a happy, sunny space with potted plants, which serves local food, including fatayer (a type of pie), lamb kibbeh (meatballs), sambousek (samosa), hummus, labneh and falafel alongside good ol’ eggs and toast. The Byzantium Lounge, with its plush purple couches, is a great place for tea- and coffee-lovers. Try the traditional Arabic kahwa, which is a little different from Turkish kahwa, the former being less bitter. Then there’s the acclaimed Bombay Brasserie, the Indian restaurant that started in London. Why would you travel to Dubai from India to eat Indian food, you ask? Because this place does it with a twist. The flavours are familiar yet different, and the menu is full of surprises. Think tandoori avocados and kebabs with cranberry chutney.
And when you’re are not eating or lounging by the pool, there’s the Jiva Spa, where you can get the Vishram massage that focuses on every single muscle in your body, making you want to crawl right back into bed again.