Why Dubai’s One&Only Royal Mirage is still its best hotel oasis


Part of my job as a travel writer is doing tours of hotels and resorts. Usually this involves visiting a few rooms, the spa and a restaurant or two – 15 or 20 minutes, then there is time for poolside ‘research’. (Just kidding, mostly.) At the One&Only Royal Mirage in Dubai, the tour lasted 90 minutes, and then my phone said I had almost done all my steps for the day.

It’s not because it was boring or ineffective. The property is huge — with more than a mile of private beach framing its 65 acres from end to end — and filled with stunning, lavish details, many of which have stories behind them. It was actually fascinating.

Amid all the gleaming mosaic floors, soaring arches, and perfectly framed bay views, one element stood out: a side-by-side photo exhibit of the resort in its early days — circa 2000 — and today. In today’s photo, of course, it is dwarfed by the towering Marina skyscrapers, those that define the modern metropolis. In the vintage, it stands there on its own, like the oasis in the desert for which it was originally designed.

This highlights two things: the place was well ahead of the curve. And the place has held up remarkably well. It’s Middle Eastern opulence, of course, but none of it looks dated or tired.

The underlying concept is a whimsical oasis – a mirage – which was a salvation for weary Bedouin travelers traversing the desert. Today, international guests arrive by Dreamliners and A380s, but they are still pampered in an imaginary land. The gardens are verdant and lush, dotted with pink bougainvillea. Trainers walk around with hawks and eagles, to keep the most irritating little birds away from outdoor breakfast tables.

The resort comprises three separate hotels, the 231-room Palace (the plushest), the 171-room Arabian Court (the most relaxed) and the 49-room Residence & Spa (the most intimate, with its restaurants and lounges open only to resident guests). It’s a celebration of Arabic design, a mix of traditional and contemporary – all arches, domes and towers interspersed with gardens and water features.

There are four pools, eight restaurants offering everything from Japanese to Moroccan to Indian cuisine, a fabulously hip beach club. a traditional hammam and plenty of branded offerings, including Bastien Gonzalez pedicure studio and Zouare hair salon.

The newest brand name is Marco Colagreco, the much-loved Argentinian-Italian chef who re-established his collaboration with the resort in November. He was the first non-French chef to receive three Michelin stars in France. Her restaurant Mirazur, on the French Riviera, topped the World’s 50 Best of 2019 list. Say what you will about that list, but here’s a clear big and talented one.

In Dubai, he oversees the resort’s “sleek and relaxed” French restaurant, Celebrity, and the recently redesigned Beach Bar & Grill. Here, its Latin American side is displayed, both in the Argentinian grilled meats and in the many varieties or ceviches and tiraditos à la carte.

While Dubai is a city where everything happens and nothing is surprising, its relaxed but elevated restaurants still stand out, part of a resort that was once an oasis in an open desert and is now low-rise. cozy oasis in a city that keeps pushing itself higher and higher.

Getting there: It is not necessary to take a direct flight. Turkish Airlines flies from many North American gateways to more countries and international destinations than any other airline, using a young fleet of aircraft (heavy on the very comfortable Dreamliners) and business class service that consistently wins prices. (Plus, the food in Istanbul’s excellent new airport lounge is worth a layover there.)


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