Over the past 20 years or so, millions of words have been written about how Dubai has transformed from a small fishing village to a skyscraper-filled metropolis. The construction boom in the emirate has seen the rise of many impressive structures, including the world’s tallest building and largest Ferris wheel, plus many huge shopping centres, one of which has an indoor ski slope.
Out of all of Dubai’s major developments, there’s one in particular that has taken construction and engineering feats to new levels: the Palm Jumeirah. Created from reclaimed land, this glitzy palm tree-shaped island has become home to residential buildings, a monorail and, of course, many five-star hotels.
Driving on the Palm’s roads you’ll see properties from almost every big name in the world of hospitality, including the Dubai-based Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts, which has the iconic Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Hotel in its portfolio. The group also counts the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray among its collection and it’s at the end of the Palm’s West Crescent where you will find this stunning resort.
Why stay here
As a two-time former resident of Dubai, I have visited Jumeirah Zabeel Saray on a number of occasions for dinner and drinks, but this is the first time I have ever stayed here. Opened in January 2011, the resort’s design is inspired by the Ottoman Empire and the exterior of the hotel is inspired by the city of Istanbul. When the resort was under construction it took a team of 45 designers six months to complete the interiors.
The imperial opulence of the era is evident as soon as you walk into the palatial lobby, with Ottoman-style tulips, stars and arches found throughout. The chandeliers, lamps and high ceilings add to the grandeur of the resort, while the stunning artworks and murals bring a splash of colour.
Built over six floors, the hotel has 379 rooms, 26 suites and 38 royal residences. There’s also the stunning Talise Ottoman Spa, more than ten restaurants and bars, two nightlife venues, a cinema, pharmacy, retail outlets and the outdoor pools and beach club. In fact, there’s so much to do here that it’s almost too hard to leave.
The room (and bathtub)
My one-bedroom suite, on the sixth/top floor of the hotel, features a balcony with amazing views over the beach and Palm, and some of the most grand furnishings I have ever seen in a hotel room. The lounge area has plush sofas, a widescreen TV, dining area and desk space, while the bedroom has a king-sized bed, another huge TV, plus plenty of storage and a mini-bar.
The Ottomans were well known for their love of bathing and even the most senior sultan would have been impressed with the tubs here. Made of marble, the bath in this suite is so deep that it could be mistaken for a small plunge pool. But while this tub is next level luxury, it’s just a puddle compared to the one in the grand imperial suite, which can hold 2,000 litres of water and fit approximately 20 people.
Things to do: spa, beach and cinema
If there’s one recommendation for your stay here, it’s to visit the Talise Ottoman Spa – one of the largest in the Middle East. Built over a space spanning 8,200sqm, the luxury facilities on offer include a Turkish hammam, Thalassotherapy salt-water pools, saunas, Jacuzzis and even a snow room. As is custom in Dubai, the facilities are separated for men and women.
I indulge in a one-hour Sultan’s massage which leaves me not only on the verge of a deep sleep, but in the perfect headspace to hit the snow room. As it’s 40C and humid outside, the chill is welcome.
As a family resort, there’s plenty for children to enjoy at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray. Outside, near the beach and swimming pools, you’ll find Sinbad’s Kids Club, which features a mini water park, climbing wall and playground. If the Dubai heat is too much, then families can watch films at the resort’s private cinema. Located on the ground floor, the cinema has showings at 11am, 2pm, 5pm and 8pm. Pre-booking is required via a QR code at the entrance.
As well as the main pools, hotel guests can also book a range of water sports activities. Motorised activities include flyboard and jetpack experiences, and banana boating, while non-motorised activities include kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and windsurfing. Other options include guided jet ski tours, yacht and boat cruises, and fishing trips.
Eating and drinking
With so many places to eat and drink at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, where do you start? A good kick-off is breakfast at Imperium, a grand dining room on the ground floor of the hotel. From Middle Eastern and Asian to Continental and full English, there are plenty of options here to start the day off right. Imperium restaurant is also open for dinner and weekend brunches.
If you are in the Middle East then you’re never going to be too far from Lebanese food. The resort’s Al Nafoorah restaurant serves authentic cold mezzeh, hot mezzeh, seafood and grilled dishes, plus a number of Lebanese wines. To get a real taste of Lebanon I would recommend the delicious hot mezze platter which comes with all the classics: spicy potatoes, sujuk (spicy sausage), falafel, cheese rolls, spinach fatayer pastries, and meat kibbeh.
Other F&B options at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray include Amala (North Indian Mughlai), The Grill (contemporary Japanese), Wazuzhu (pan-Asian), The Music Hall (international) and Plaj (beachside wood-fired pizzas and Mediterranean). For drinks, head to The Crown, a British-style pub which shows live sport, and, for Ottoman-inspired style, visit the Sultan’s Lounge for Turkish coffee, light meals or afternoon tea.
Out and about: visit Dubai’s original icon
Staying with the cuisine theme, Dubai has become a top international foodie destination thanks to its many world-class hotels, resorts and entertainment venues – so it’s definitely worth exploring some of the best F&B options in the city.
In July this year the Michelin Guide announced Dubai’s first ever Michelin-starred restaurants, and Al Muntaha at Jumeirah’s Burj Al Arab hotel was awarded one star. Located on the 27th floor of this “architectural masterpiece”, it is “fitting” that both the restaurant and the food at Al Muntaha is “sophisticated and refined”, the Michelin Guide said.
For guests staying at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, there is also an option to go on an exclusive 90-minute tour of the Burj Al Arab (prices from AED 249/£60). Described as “the world’s first seven-star hotel”, the Burj is, in my opinion, Dubai’s original and best icon and it’s recommended to venture inside and take a look around.
Room rates at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Dubai, start from AED 765 (£184) for a superior king room; jumeirah.com