Kenwood Travel’s destination specialists have a mantra. ‘We know because we go’ is more than a catchy phrase; it’s the cornerstone of what we stand for. Each and every recommendation we make – from the best Barbados resorts for crèche facilities, to the best dates for surfing in Mauritius – comes from personal and professional experience. And it’s this first-hand knowledge of the holidays we sell that separates our trusted service from the faceless comparison sites out there.
At Kenwood, our friendly team of destination experts are on the other end of the phone seven days a week to answer your travel questions and seamlessly craft every detail of your holiday package. To find out how they do it, we like to sit down with our globetrotters each time they visit one our destinations. This time we caught up with Arabia specialist Sophie, back in the office following her recent trip to the UAE. Turns out there are a few secrets we didn’t know about this ever-changing region. So here are six new things we learned about holidays to the Middle East.
1. There are even more luxury hotels than we thought
On her six-night stay in the Middle East, not only did Sophie visit six out of the seven United Arab Emirates, she also conducted detailed inspections of 40 different luxury hotels. Sophie was particularly impressed with: The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai; The St. Regis Abu Dhabi; InterContinental Fujairah Resort; The Oberoi Beach Resort Al Zorah, Ajman; and Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah.
2. Football legends pop the question there
Ex Man United and England defender Rio Ferdinand chose the helipad on the roof of The St. Regis Abu Dhabi as the location for his proposal to fiancé Kate Wright earlier this month. Maybe it’s because Rio knew that all room categories at this stunning hotel come with a personal butler. So no matter what level of accommodation he booked, he’d be guaranteed that extra touch of romance. Sophie didn’t make it up to the roof (255 metres above the Abu Dhabi streets), but said the interior of The St. Regis was suitably impressive.
3. You can take your time with your tipples
Speaking of St Regis Abu Dhabi… There’s a cigar lounge at the hotel with a novel approach to glass collecting. Come last orders, there’s no need to rush your drinks. If you order a bottle of whiskey but don’t have time to finish it, they will keep it for you in a little glass cupboard where it will be waiting for you on your next visit. Cheers to that.
4. They can literally make it rain
From manmade islands and beaches (Palm Jumeirah Dubai, we’re looking at you) to manmade weather. That’s right. Nothing stands in the way of Middle Eastern ambition to control its natural assets. ‘Cloud seeding’ is the UAE’s unique approach to weather modification, whereby substances are dispersed into the air via plane to control the amount of rain that falls. Now for the science part: silver iodine serves as cloud condensation or ice nuclei which affect the microphysical profile in the cloud. More rain is usually the aim, but the process can also be used to reduce hail and fog.
5. Pan-Asian food has arrived
For a holiday destination with its fair share of Michelin-star restaurants and world-famous brunch spots, it takes something a bit special to cause a stir in the Middle East’s hotel kitchens. Enter the pan-Asian cuisine at Li Jiang restaurant, Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi. With the colours and aromas of a bustling Asian market, the Li Jiang experience centres around an open kitchen where diners can witness their dim sum and pad thai being deftly created before their eyes. There’s a backdrop to match too: head to the olive garden and grab a table on the terrace for Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque views. Sophie listed her meal here as the best food of her entire trip. (Don’t be fooled though; this may have had something to do with the amount of green tea martinis she accompanied it with 😉
6. Dubai isn’t the only emirate with the WOW factor
Move over Dubai, there’s another destination taking Middle East holidays by storm. Ras Al Khaimah is the lesser-known emirate currently wowing the Kenwood crew, with its upscale beach hotels drawing particular attention. Top of the pile is Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, says Sophie. for its effortless elegance, fine dining (a whopping 10 restaurants in total), and spotless white beach. Honourable mention going out to Ajman holidays too, and in particular the aforementioned Oberoi Beach Resort Al Zorah. Not least for its personal butlers and bespoke beach cabanas that correspond with your particular room category.