Jumeirah Zabeel Saray’s signature dining portfolio consists primarily of Lebanese, Turkish and Northern Indian restaurants, with further casual dining, bars and nightlife options also available. A varied selection by anyone’s standards. But when customer feedback concluded that what the hotel perhaps lacked was a meatier, heartier dining experience, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray reacted emphatically: The Rib Room. This is the hotel’s traditional British steakhouse, specialising in dry-aged grass-fed Irish beef and Australian 1824 & Master Kobe Wagyu pure breed cuts, plus a royally recommended choice of Loch Fyne seafood.

We learn these mouth-watering facts during a hosted tour of the property (together with other titbits like: Mission Impossible 4 was filmed here, and onsite Talise Ottoman Spa is one of the world’s largest with a whopping 42 treatment rooms) and by now I can hardly wait to tuck into The Rib Room’s fare. Finally we’re escorted to the mezzanine level and through the restaurant to our seats at a private table where ever-attentive waiting staff hand out beer-batter crust bread with lobster butter while we select our drinks.

madinat abra

Madinat Jumeirah is unique for its ‘three levels of water’. As well as beach and pools, waterways wend through the complex served by a charming abra boat water taxi free to all guests.

Then comes the set menu special of cold water prawns with gem lettuce and cocktail sauce to start followed by the John Stone beef duo of braised short ribs and grilled tenderloin, truffle potato puree, seasonal beans and sauce béarnaise. Dessert is Eton Mess with coconut meringue, white balsamic, strawberries and champagne rose sorbet. It is all utterly unforgettable, and joins a very short list of my all-time favourite meals.

At Jumeriah Zabeel Saray they say the golden age has returned, and with dining of this standard I’m inclined to agree. (There is also the minor detail that the décor here contains three times as much gold as the Burj Al Arab!) But as I transfer hotels to Madinat Jumeirah I encounter an altogether different kind of treasure.

safari 1

Dubai’s Al Habab desert – myth, mystery and the echoes of a Bedouin past.

Whereas Jumeirah Zabeel Saray is all about interior splendour, at Madinat Jumeirah it’s all about the external appeal. Don’t get me wrong; the Madinat Jumeirah decor is gorgeous, but its gardens, adornments and architecture are veritable jewels on the skyline.

Taking design cues from the Moroccan rihad style, including elements of Arabic charm with a contemporary twist, Madinat Jumeirah’s summerhouse villa wing – Madinat Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf – is a masterclass in luxury accommodation and visual beauty.

Companies of rose-ringed parakeets gathering in the tall palm-trees; the call to prayer echoing through the Moorish arches and canal ways; a watercolour quality to the dusk light – an evening stroll or abra ride around the grounds of Madinat Jumeirah is an atmospheric occasion. Approaching the lobby from the drive, mourning doves hop between the Maseratis. Discerning guests in long dresses and sharp suits tip bellboys and speed off in sports cars.

safari dancer

A tamoura dancer entertains revellers at the bedouin camp. The whirling, illuminated display is an almost hypnotic experience.

But after all that delicious dining and appreciating architecture, the time for adventure had arrived; we were going dune bashing in the Al Habab desert. We led a jeep safari in convoy to the Al Maha Bedouin Camp for an evening of barbecued shuwarma, of shisha and sandboarding. Of tamoura dancing, henna tattoos and camel rides. Of watching wild Arabian gazelles forage in the milkweed shrubs just metres from our 4X4 as we navigated the sand tracks in the fading light of another day discovering the culture & cuisine in Dubai.

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