Hi, I’m Georgia! If you’re like me and you didn’t manage to get away in between lockdowns and shifting restrictions you’ll be absolutely craving a holiday. My behaviour patterns in the past 12 months have been oscillating wildly between weeping at my beachy Windows screensaver and going for very long walks in the park trying to convince myself it’s sort of like a holiday. It really isn’t. So when the opportunity to fly out to Dubai arose, I physically leapt at the chance. Read on to find out what a holiday to Dubai looks like at the moment and why (although we’re admittedly a little biased) you should definitely have one.
Dubai is not only an awesome destination with what has so far been an exemplary reaction to the pandemic, it’s also currently on the UK travel corridor list. That means no self-isolation before or after travelling. The only thing other than the usual prep was a valid PCR covid-19 test. I scrambled for my laptop with all the grace that you’d expect from a holiday-starved travel professional and began to set the plans in motion. The PCR test needed to enter Dubai must have been undertaken 96 hours or less before your flight… and obviously the results need to be negative. You also have the option to take a free test on arrival at Dubai International Airport if you’d prefer. I opted for an in-clinic, pre-flight test and so a mild tonsil tickling and a very well received email later, I was ready to get myself in the holiday mood.
Leaving for Heathrow Airport fully armed with masks, passport and printed negative test results, I tried to savour that long-missed sound of my suitcase rolling along the pavement. The airport was awash with eager, half-covered faces and a smooth check-in at the Emirates desk quickly smoothed out any lingering worries. As if by magic, sanitising stations have cropped up everywhere, as well as social distancing reminders and alternating blockades on banks of chairs. The upgraded health & safety continues on the flight itself with (actually pretty cute) sanitisation kits for every passenger, and an introduction to the anti-viral HEPA air filters on the planes – the same quality as those used in hospital operating theatres.
Arriving late into Dubai Airport, we followed the signs for those that had already been tested before meeting our ground agents for the transfer to One&Only The Palm. Here we found the warm welcome invaluable. After having our temperatures checked and using the anti-bac provided, we waited in the lavish lobby with a lemon ice tea as our luggage was sanitised and taken to our suites. It’s worth noting that everything in this hotel is done with five-star finesse and that nothing is too much to ask. The suites themselves were capacious (the largest in Arabia!) and full of fancy features – from the free-standing bathtub, chandeliers, and extensive terrace, right down to the Ortiga bathroom amenities and personal sanitisation goodies left out for guests. First thoughts: wow. Second thoughts: I am really going to struggle to readjust to my normal day-to-day life when I get home.
A night of sound sleep ensued and I managed to tear myself from the plush king bed in the morning only with the prospect of breakfast at Zest. After some superb eggs Benedict and freshly squeezed juice, we hopped straight on the resort’s golf buggies to tour the facilities, including a scenic boat ride over to One&Only Royal Mirage. This stunning, 65-acre resort is home to peaceful gardens, exceptional dining, and a killer skyline-meets-sandy-beach combination. We stopped for a long lunch at Drift which, with its fresh décor and buzzing poolside atmosphere felt distinctly Mediterranean. Fit to burst with succulent lamb chops and chargrilled octopus, we toddled back to The Palm via boat to catch the last of the sun sinking below the horizon…and a few more glasses of chilled rosé by the pool naturally.
Something magical happens at One&Only The Palm by night as candles are lit around the hotel swimming pool, the resident rabbits hop around (yes, you heard correctly) and the smell of flowers hang in the air. We take the buggies to the waterfront 101 Dining Lounge & Bar, where we were met by Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno, who is currently supervising culinary developments across the board for restaurants at One&Only The Palm. Rabbit, thankfully for most, was off the menu, but we happily sampled a selection of specialties, including seabass ceviche, octopus carpaccio, melt-in-the-mouth soy-marinated salmon and oriental baby chicken.
The following morning, we had the opportunity to take a city tour – a chance to see the sights, get under the skin of the local culture, and to ask how Dubai is dealing with covid -19. We’re picked up by our enthusiastic and knowledgeable local guide, Tareq, who breezed through the city’s highlights, including Dubai’s sparkling gold and spice souks; the towering Burj Khalifa; the Dubai Mall; the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, and a trip across the Dubai Creek on a traditional Abra boat. Needless to say, there were plenty of photo opportunities but most of mine seem to be of this adorable baby goat.
After filling our heads with fascinating facts from sheikhs and shaykhahs to skyscrapers, it was time to fill our stomachs (I know, more food!?). We made a beeline for Eauzone at One&Only Royal Mirage with our tour guide in tow. Over expertly prepared beef tenderloin, we asked how Dubai has adapted to the changes and challenges presented in the past year. The answer? To put it simply: rather well. As Tareq noted, it’s not in the Emirati culture to rebel against rules and protocols, so their lockdown was very definite and very effective. Also in such a rapidly, constantly developing destination, it makes sense that Dubai would adapt easily to mask wearing, hand sanitising and social distancing.
To conclude, Dubai is still beautiful, still outlandish, and still welcoming visitors. It’s all about luxury resorts, an ever-changing landscape, and indulgent experiences with a gold-plated cherry on top. Amongst all these inherently impressive traits is the legendary hospitality Dubai has become known for. Names are remembered, preferences are noted, the warm smiles and kind words from hotel employees feel genuine. But then, we’re also living in times where resorts are extra pleased to be able to welcome you back – maybe not with open arms, but with an elbow bump and a spritz of hand sanitiser. Regardless, Dubai is open and ready when you are.
Our Middle East experts are fully up-to-date with the latest information and inspiration if you’re thinking of booking your very own holiday to Dubai in 2021 or beyond. Get online and see our incredible Arabian offers, or simply call 020 7749 9276 to speak to a friendly member of our team directly. It’s an exciting time for travel as we look forward to returning to our favourite destinations again, so please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. At Kenwood Travel, we’re dedicated to helping you book with confidence, providing flexible booking and payment options, deposits from just £99 per person, and the direct email address and phone line for your personal travel specialist. Let’s make your next trip worth the wait.
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