Dubai’s ferociously air conditioned skyscraper hotels and turquoise pools can easily all blur into one but from the moment you turn into the lavish manicured gardens that surround the One & Only Royal Mirage it’s clear that this Arabian sanctuary is in a class of its own.
Approaching the refreshingly low-slung buildings, immaculately turned out staff are there at the entrance to greet my weary travel companion and I with big smiles, iced tea and juicy dates as we are ushered into the impressive domes of The Palace to check in.
The One & Only Royal Mirage is a sprawling resort set across 65 acres of private gardens and made up of three distinct areas – the elegant Arabian Court, intimate Residence & Spa and majestic Palace.
And so, to our room; as we are guided down gilded corridors and across beautifully tiled courtyards I try to take it all in. The Royal Mirage is a stately retreat of unadulterated Arabian glamour.
A thoroughly spoiling Superior Executive Suite provides not only a sea-facing balcony and spacious lounge but our very own bar too. The marble bathroom is bigger than my bedroom back in London and much more luxurious to boot; twin sinks, walk-in shower, bathtub complete with television and toiletries by cult British brand Penhaligons.
The decor throughout is sumptuous, flaunting a level of flamboyance that is fitting with the theme yet managing to avoid being garish. A welcome platter of fresh berries and rainbow-coloured macaroons sit temptingly on our dining table. Never mind not leaving the hotel, I could happily never leave the suite… but cocktail hour is calling.
After indulging in one too many macaroons, it’s a race against time to make it to The Jetty Lounge in time for sunset. As we scurry across the tropical gardens an attentive member of staff pulls up to offer us a lift in his golf buggy. It might feel lazy accepting but it’s also exemplary of the next-level hospitality the hotel offers, our every need anticipated – in we jump!
Thanks to our new friend we make it to the low-lit Jetty Lounge in ample time to order and enjoy a first sip of pink champagne as the sun starts to dip below the Gulf.
We take a stroll down the jetty itself, from which guests can catch the boat across to the sister property, One&Only The Palm.
Dubai might have the service and the sunshine to put it on a par with paradise destinations across the globe but more often than not the views it offers are spoiled by the neverending construction projects every which way you look. Yet here on the beachfront, overlooking the pristine waters of Palm Island Bay, not even the cranes in the distance could diminish the serenity at this well-executed oasis. It’s no surprise the Sheikh built his waterfront palace next door.
Sunset casts a peachey glow along the hotel’s kilometre of private beach and it’s a short walk along the golden sands to The Beach Bar & Grill for a feast of freshly grilled seafood. Blackened cod, giant tiger prawns and crisp Sauvignon Blanc tasting all the more delicious for the halcyon candle-lit setting.
There are eight restaurants dotted across the grounds and different cuisines and experiences to be had at each – from Middle Eastern to Moroccan, Mediterranean and Asian Fusion – in settings that vary from bling and bustling to cosy and casual.
As overindulged Executive Suite guests our stay is upgraded with the bells and whistles services of the Gold Club at our fingertips; from afternoon tea to a complimentary cocktail hour. Gold Club access also means we get to savour breakfast at the hotel’s chic signature restaurant, Celebrities. There are only a handful of other guests tucking into breakfast here and it’s at moments like this that it genuinely feels as though we’re tucked away at a boutique hotel – and not at a resort with more than 200 rooms edging into peak season – such is the smart design of the expansive grounds.
Celebrities is as showy as it sounds, a dramatic, chandelier-lit dining room which, come morning, offers a breakfast menu to rival none. From our table on the tiled terrace, with prime views of the majestic gardens and soothing water fountains, we deliberate long and hard over which eggs to order. And decisions don’t get any easier inside where you won’t just find honey but a menu of ‘The Top Ten Honeys in the World’ from which to choose. Homemade muesli, fresh yoghurts, cold pressed juices, European cheeses, there’s something here for all tastes – you can even find camel milk nestled between the almond and soya varieties. When in the desert…
There’s all manner of ways to spend your day at the Royal Mirage; which boasts no fewer than four swimming pools as well as tennis courts and the options to water ski, kayak or windsurf on the beach. And for those less energetically inclined, there’s also the internationally acclaimed One&Only Spa, compromising no fewer than twelve treatment rooms, Moroccan Hammam, fitness centre, mani-pedi studio and hair salon.
After indulging in an invigorating morning being rubbed, scrubbed and pampered to within an inch of my life, I float out of the spa feeling much less like me and much more like an Arabian Princess, which can only be a good thing. Then off I trot to meet my partner in crime for an alfresco lunch at Eau Zone, a relaxed Asian fusion restaurant at the furthest end of the palm-fringed private beach.
Stuffed full of salmon teriyaki and nasi goreng we head poolside for a postprandial snooze. As we laze by the water and staff bring us chilled towels, iced tea and fresh fruit I experience what can only be described as a pinch-me moment and try not to think about our impending departure.
The One & Only Royal Mirage opened back in 1999 when Dubai was at the height of its boom, yet almost twenty years on this ultra-stylish Arabian retreat shows no signs of aging. The hotel is more than the sum of its parts and unusually, its vast size actually works in its favour. I’m not usually one to stay within the confines of a hotel but the One&Only Royal Mirage provides a compelling reason to stay put – and that’s what makes it so truly, deeply, relaxing.
Rooms at One&Only Royal Mirage start at £240 per night. For more information and booking, please visit www.oneandonlyresorts.com.
More information on One&Only Resorts across the globe is available at www.oneandonlyresorts.com.