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Dubai’s Anantara The Palm and Desert Palm Per Aquum

Dubai: the most expensive city in the Middle East, with the tallest building in the world, and also the largest shopping mall.

But when it comes to history, this cluster of gleaming skyscrapers has almost none. I ventured to Dubai – which in its modern state is little more than 50 years old – interested to see how it was carving out its culture as a city without a past.

What I found – in two short days – was an Oriental-themed resort with a Turkish spa on a man-made island; and a lavish polo estate with an American burger joint nestled in a vast English-esque garden.

Annabel ventured to Dubai – which in its modern state is little more than 50 years old – interested to see how it was carving out its culture as a city without a past. Pictured, Anantara The Palm, one of the two resorts she investigated 

Dubai feels very much like a theme park for adults airdropped into the Arabian desert, which essentially it is. Not until oil was discovered here in 1966 did the building works even begin. Between 1968 and 1975 the city’s population grew by over 300 per cent. 

Since then, it’s become one of the most thriving tourists spots in the world. Hotels here cost more than anywhere else in the world, bar Geneva.

My first stop? Anantara, The Palm – which borrows Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Turkish influences.

Layout-wise, it’s a giant swimming pool sliced into a maze configuration and dotted with hotel rooms that look like oriental temples. Wherever you are in the maze, your back door opens right into the vast-stretching turquoise water.

Wherever you are in Anantara's maze of pools, your room's back door opens right into the vast-stretching turquoise water

Wherever you are in Anantara’s maze of pools, your room’s back door opens right into the vast-stretching turquoise water

Like most of Dubai's most lavish hotels, it’s located on the Palm Jumeirah - a cluster of man-made islands off the coastline built from scratch using only sand and rocks in the early 2000’s

Like most of Dubai’s most lavish hotels, it’s located on the Palm Jumeirah – a cluster of man-made islands off the coastline built from scratch using only sand and rocks in the early 2000’s

The rooms, which cost from £152 per night, are modern, spacious and impeccably clean, with glorious views over the water

The rooms, which cost from £152 per night, are modern, spacious and impeccably clean, with glorious views over the water

Like most of Dubai’s most lavish hotels, it’s located on the Palm Jumeirah – a cluster of man-made islands off the coastline built from scratch using only sand and rocks in the early 2000’s.

Why? Because the Prince of Dubai announced he’d like a landform in the shape of a palm tree, please.

Guests in pairs – some blonde and scantily clad, others dressed in full Islamic robes – glide around on noiseless golf carts

Anantara’s whole compound is eerily futuristic.

The walkways are obsessively clean and manicured. The abundant palm trees are wrapped in geometrically perfect layers of fairy lights. The staff are so glazed, ethereal and peaceful looking, you feel like you’re in the presence of angels – or maybe robots.

Guests in pairs – some blonde and scantily clad, others dressed in full Islamic robes – glide around, wordless, on noiseless golf carts.

The air is thick with that sort of lazy haze that lets you know, at all times, despite the architecture, that you are not in New York or Shanghai; you are in a desert.

I managed to pack a lot into my 24-hour stay here – highlights being an astoundingly good meal at the Mekong restaurant, a Turkish Hammam bath, and a tour of the city’s skyscrapers from a traditional Thai longboat which departed right from Anantara’s private beach.

Annabel enjoyed dinner in a Far East-themed on-site restaurant called Mekong (pictured) where the food and decor was sublime

Annabel enjoyed dinner in a Far East-themed on-site restaurant called Mekong (pictured) where the food and decor was sublime

A major highlight was the experience of Turkish Hammam bath, during which she was massaged on a heated marble centerpiece 

A major highlight was the experience of Turkish Hammam bath, during which she was massaged on a heated marble centerpiece 

She also took a traditional Thai longboat for an hour-long spin along the coastline right from Anantara's beach - all alone, but for the captain

She also took a traditional Thai longboat for an hour-long spin along the coastline right from Anantara’s beach – all alone, but for the captain

During the boat trip, there were mega yachts, honed men slicing through the waves on jet skis, and cranes and building works along the shore

During the boat trip, there were mega yachts, honed men slicing through the waves on jet skis, and cranes and building works along the shore

My second and final stop was the Desert Palm Per Aquum.

This unusual hotel feels like its located in the depths of the wilderness, but it’s still only a 15-minute drive from Dubai’s busy metropolis.

Its rooms are vast and modern, and its elegant on-site restaurants provide guests with yet another cultural mash-up.

There’s steak and burgers cooked on a South American style wood fire grill at Rare; English afternoon tea at Jewel; and Brasserie-style poolside dining at Epicure. 

The Desert Palm is trimmed with fragrant gardens and lush polo lawns – I really felt I was in the midst of an English summer – yet a mere stone’s throw from rolling sand dunes as far as the eye can see.

Annabel's second and final stop was the Desert Palm Per Aquum, an eclectic property with an equine-themed entrance

Annabel’s second and final stop was the Desert Palm Per Aquum, an eclectic property with an equine-themed entrance

The Desert Palm is trimmed with fragrant gardens and lush polo lawns and feels like its on another planet, but it's still only a 15-minute drive from Dubai's busy metropolis

The Desert Palm is trimmed with fragrant gardens and lush polo lawns and feels like its on another planet, but it’s still only a 15-minute drive from Dubai’s busy metropolis

Its rooms (pictured) are vast and modern, and its elegant on-site restaurants provide guests with yet another cultural mash-up

Its rooms (pictured) are vast and modern, and its elegant on-site restaurants provide guests with yet another cultural mash-up

There's steak and burgers cooked on a South American style wood fire grill at Rare; English afternoon tea at Jewel; and Brasserie-style poolside dining at Epicure. Pictured, one of the hotel's outside lounging areas

There’s steak and burgers cooked on a South American style wood fire grill at Rare; English afternoon tea at Jewel; and Brasserie-style poolside dining at Epicure. Pictured, one of the hotel’s outside lounging areas

This called for a desert safari, one of the most popular pastimes among foreign visitors.

Tearing up and down sand dunes in a 1950s open-top 4X4 with the odd gazelle posing gracefully in the distance as the light faded was pretty marvellous. 

As the sun went down, we pulled into a makeshift candlelit desert camp spread with cushions, canopies and crackling fires, which served an evening meal.

There were camels, too, which you can ride – a practice I don’t approve of.

My one gripe? The lack of grapes. Wine wasn’t served with dinner at the camp; nor was it, or any other alcohol, to my utmost dismay, available anywhere at the Desert Palm resort that evening. 

It was a religious holiday, and the whole of Dubai was to be dry – even more than it usually is – whether they liked it or not. 

One long-held tradition, at least, that this futuristic municipal is holding onto firmly as its own.

The hotel was a mere stone's throw from rolling sand dunes as far as the eye can see - and that called for a desert safari

The hotel was a mere stone’s throw from rolling sand dunes as far as the eye can see – and that called for a desert safari

Tearing up and down sand dunes in a 1950s open-top 4X4 with the odd gazelle posing gracefully in the distance as the light faded was, according to Annabel, pretty marvellous

Tearing up and down sand dunes in a 1950s open-top 4X4 with the odd gazelle posing gracefully in the distance as the light faded was, according to Annabel, pretty marvellous

 Dubai feels very much like a theme park for adults airdropped into the Arabian desert, which essentially it is. Not until oil was discovered here in 1966 did the building works even begin. Pictured, two children play on its still-barren surrounding desert

 Dubai feels very much like a theme park for adults airdropped into the Arabian desert, which essentially it is. Not until oil was discovered here in 1966 did the building works even begin. Pictured, two children play on its still-barren surrounding desert

Between 1968 and 1975 the city's population grew by over 300 per cent, and since then, it's become one of the most thriving tourists spots in the world. Pictured, a falcon in action during the desert safari drive

Between 1968 and 1975 the city’s population grew by over 300 per cent, and since then, it’s become one of the most thriving tourists spots in the world. Pictured, a falcon in action during the desert safari drive

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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