The alarm sounds at four in the morning. It’s going to be a big, exciting day filled with unexplored territory and new experiences. My journey will take me from Delhi, India to the City of Gold: Dubai. After spending just 18 hours in Dubai, headquartered at the stunning Oberoi hotel, it will be time to head back home to Orange County. So I intend to make every moment count.
After surviving the Indian airport experience, I find myself seated in first class on an Emirates Airlines plane; the closest thing to flying a Rolls Royce through the sky. The food, drink, service, and in-flight entertainment are so superlative, I almost don’t want to disembark. Almost. Yet, adventure awaits. The only question is how to maximize my brief time in this former sleepy Gulf port town, now a world-famous crossroads of business and pleasure travelers alike.
Dubai is located on the north-eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, the second largest city in the UAE after Abu Dhabi. Arabic is the official language, but English is the lingua franca of the city. Hindu, Urdu, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Tagalog, Persian, and Chinese are also spoken – an indicator of the multi-cultural melting pot nature of this international mecca. Dubai is known as the “shopping capitol of the Middle East” with modern sky scrapers, magnificent architectural buildings, luxurious hotels, and the world’s finest shopping malls. Other major attractions include: Palm Islands, Jumeirah Beach, the Dragon Mart, Dubai Museum and the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, standing at a height of 830 meters.
All the desert dreaming suddenly becomes reality, as I am whisked from the airport to the glorious Oberoi Dubai. After check-in, to get oriented I am greeted by hotel staff at the informal (yet sophisticated) Lobby Lounge. The Lobby Lounge is the perfect rendezvous for a meeting with business associates. We munch on light snacks, sip beverages and take afternoon tea. I’m trying to stay focused on the conversation, but activity swirls around us. The people watching is simply incredible. Women are dressed in contemporary, Western fashions. Was I expecting 100% traditional burkas? At any rate, the modern flair is a pleasant surprise. International cricket stars mill about, surrounded by throngs of autograph seekers. India’s richest man happens to saunter by with his massive entourage. Is this a Hollywood red carpet, or a hotel lobby? The Oberoi is apparently the spot to see and be seen, in this magnificent city; this miraculous mirage in the middle of the desert.
After lunch, to rejuvenate and keep the jet lag at bay, it’s time to hit the hotel’s recreation facilities, which include a state of the art gymnasium, outdoor pool and inside lap pool. The Oberoi Spa and Wellness Centre, a haven of peace and tranquility, provides a perfect escape; the only twenty-four hour spa service in Dubai. Seven therapy rooms, each offering a private treatment and relaxation area, are complimented by a special couple’s spa room equipped with its own terrace pool. Incense sticks and aromatic oils permeate the air with a delicate fragrance creating the perfect ambience for relaxation. The zen-like ambience, complemented by the rich marble, oak wood and earthy tones throughout the spa, sets the mood for a therapeutic and soul-nourishing experience.
The Oberoi overlooks the iconic Burj Khalifa and is within minutes from Downtown Dubai and The Dubai Mall. Completely refreshed after my spa experience, the next stop is a no-brainer – the aforementioned Brurj Khalifa, the top of the world. The lines are long for admittance, but the memory worthwhile, watching the sun set beyond infinite sandy horizons, as the city below begins to light up and sparkle like so many Arabian nights. After descending the world’s tallest elevator, the attached Dubai Mall is the biggest shopping center in the world, featuring high-end stores from Europe, Asia, and America. I’ve never seen anything like it. Right outside the mall, a water show on par with the Bellagio fountains in Vegas attracts a massive crowd of tourists and locals. Everyone is chatting, pointing, looking, laughing; families, teenagers, married couples, and what look like professional shoppers clutching multiple bags. The night air outside is warm, but not uncomfortable – think Palm Springs in early summer. After a few hours of exploring, barely scratching the surface of everything to be seen in the area, dinner at the Oberoi is calling.
Dining options span the complete culinary spectrum. A contemporary Pan-Asian restaurant, Umai, serves a wide range of Asian cuisines which includes Chinese, Thai, Indonesian and Japanese specialties. Umai offers guests an inventive culinary experience at two Teppanyaki counters and a stylish Sushi Bar. Nine7One serves food from nine countries, all-day, seven days per week. The specialities include Lebanese, Moroccan, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, French, and English dishes. Ananta is the Indian specialty eatery that features a show kitchen with traditional tandoors, offering a variety of North Indian Delicacies and a special daily selection of Indian coastal specialties. The Oberoi, Dubai promises to delight even the most discerning gourmands at its signature dining venues, while the casual dining and lifestyle venues offer an ideal retreat to unwind or socialize.
After stuffing myself to the gills and lingering too long over an incredible bottle of sake, I waddle my way up to the hotel rooftop bar, the most famous nightclub in all the UAE. The music is bumping and the party is just getting started, as the clock strikes midnight. I wish I could say that from there, I partied into the night, made dozens of new friends, and took a dune buggy tour through the desert at dawn. The reality being, my 43 year old body was ready for bed after a very full day, and anticipating an early departure in the morn. Retreating back to my elegant room, I take one last look out the floor-to-ceiling windows which afford spectacular views of the city’s skyline. The City of Gold twinkles below. From my cozy bed, with what feels like million thread count sheets, I drift off to sleep, realizing this was a day never to be forgotten.
By: Jesse Stirling