When you hear ‘Dubai’, the vision is all majestic – cloud-hugging towers, sun-kissed landscapes and manicured lifestyles. While some move to live here for the sun, others come here for the gigantic malls and retail therapy. But most predominantly, people come to Dubai for its jet-set lifestyle sandwiched between sun and fun.
However, when you are living it daily, the glamour gets clouded occasionally; and this is where a staycation comes shining like a stairway to heaven. Staycation is a vacation you take while staying put at your own home or in your home country. And with Dubai being a fertile ground for mushrooming hotels and resorts, life is undoubtedly sunny-side up in this golden land of smiles.
Where I live in Dubai, the distance to any hotel or resort is long enough to match a weekend getaway. During one particularly stressful week, while my son took his blessed afternoon nap, I got the sudden urge to take a staycation. As if on cue, an invitation dropped onto my lap to check out the legendary Oberoi hospitality in the GCC – The Oberoi Dubai.
I had stayed at The Oberoi Dubai in 2014, a year after its opening in the emirate. The freshness of the place was inviting, like the feel of a crisp new bank note. Tradition was sprinkled in modern yet modest interiors. The Oberoi Dubai is a business /leisure luxury hotel in the heart of the UAE. Unlike properties set in one of the man-made shorelines of this golden nation, The Oberoi is tucked in a formal and quiet neighbourhood, in the upcoming, upmarket Business Bay.
The hotel is relatively young in the vibrant tourist market of Dubai. However, in two years of its operations it has already established a strong foothold in the UAE and is highly popular amongst both business and leisure travellers. The hotel has also hosted several interesting functions and events including a big, fat Indian wedding!
While much of the hotel was accessible at the time of our stay then, the rooftop bar Iris was still under construction, but is currently open and already receiving great reviews. It was a shame we missed it yet again due to a tight schedule and my 18 month-old perched at my waist. I wasn’t ready just yet to expose him to the fine world of winery and high spirits.
It was particularly warm on the day we checked in, the last traces of humidity drying up for this year. And the aimless streets in the locale, where the hotel is located did not relieve the flustered nerves. Luckily, when we finally made it out of the nightmare maze and into the hotel’s main entrance, our rogue moods calmed a bit when a really tall, turban-clad man took control of valet and guided us kindly into the hotel.
The exteriors are not too flattering, and especially so during the day while the cursive font of The Oberoi lettering stands out at night giving the hotel some leverage amidst the empty buildings sprouting across all sides.
The interiors are a far cry from its drab exteriors. Both at night and during the day, two tall glass chandeliers which falls over two levels will capture your attention. Staff members dressed in the traditional Indian saree, neatly and elegantly draped, welcome you to the reception desk.
We were happy to be greeted by smiling faces and prompt assistance. Though, after a while, it got too overwhelming. The staff was trying to make us feel completely at home, but after a point it appeared like they were trying too hard.
Check in was quick and efficient and we were guided to our room without any delay. Room, did I say? I meant suite, the Luxury Suite. By the sounds of it, you would imagine an overwhelmingly loud, Arab opulent suite almost fit for a sheikh. But the name is deceiving. Luxury means extravagance, and our suite was not extravagant. It was spacious, comfortable and designed in contemporary elegance. If I were to name the suite, I would categorise it to Premium Deluxe.
Relatively speaking though, the room is luxurious because of its space (a sprawling 183 sq m) and its floor-to ceiling windows which poured in natural light. The suite is tastefully done up in whites, beige and reds. Like the beige walls burst into life with blue and red canvas of in abstract art by an Indian artist named Mrinmoy Barua, and the inviting white bed sheets with striking red cushions. The bed, by the way, was our favourite spot in the room. It is so important to have a good night’s sleep, and integral in a hotel stay. Almost as if saying that bed was … well, luxurious.
Another charm of our suite was the attention to detail. While making reservations, I mentioned a total number of guests as 2.5. My husband and I were pleasantly surprised to find a pram next to our dreamy bed, as well as a tray of baby toiletries in the bathroom, next to essentials for us. Our bedroom also had a balcony with seating and had the weather been slightly more pleasant, between November and February ideally, you could enjoy some great weather and watch the daylight fading into nightfall.
The Oberoi Dubai has 252 guestrooms, including 28 suites and fall across seven room types including Deluxe, Luxury, Family and the Presidential categories. Our suite was on the 12th floor, and we had a partial view of the Burj, with tall cranes taking up our direct view. The crème de la crème is the regal presidential suite, of course. It has housed the ‘who is who’ of Indian glitz, glamour and eminence including the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who spent a few hours at the hotel after his Abu Dhabi visit and before taking his flight back home; Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan and a list of other celebrities.
Daytime is ideal for pampering sessions. On level 3 is a temperature controlled Olympic-sized swimming pool which is positioned in clear view from every room/suite in the hotel. It would be a shame to miss a dip in this (not so) little beauty. The day we checked had unfriendly humidity and so refrained from basking under the sun… which you must do in the cooler months.
And then the spa. The traditional Oberoi touch remains unmistaken in its seductive spa treatments. The brand is very serious about ensuring its guests feel completely relaxed and at home in their care. I did – not once, but twice – including at my most overwhelming second trimester pregnancy period. The spa therapists are well-prepared, accommodating and professional in their approach and treatment. And very committed – Ms Bimo, the spa manager, who was equipped with magic fingers, stepped in to lend a hand at an hour of staff-crunch. Soft oriental music almost lulled me to sleep, and room smelled of healing oils.
It is best to try out the breakfast spread after your spa treatment as you would be hungry enough to indulge in a global spread at Nine7one, the all-day dining outlet. The breakfast spread is a global treat featuring cuisines from all four hemispheres. I am the sort that likes to explore new things and so I chose to try out something of everything. Well, almost everything. Not surprisingly, that was a bad idea and I ruined my breakfast. Thankfully I had chosen a spa slot after breakfast, and my worries were soon smoothened.
A good idea for lunch is to step out of the hotel, and explore the bountiful Dubai gourmet districts. If lunch and shopping is on the mind, then don’t think twice. Just hop-scotch and you will reach The Dubai Mall. The hub of anything and everything you will need in entertainment, food and retail. From generalized food courts to fine dining gourmet hubs, the Mall and its vicinity is a grand idea – not to forget, the chance to dine with the dancing fountain!
Back at the hotel, reserve the evenings to indulge in unique culinary adventures at two exciting dining venues – the Indian restaurant Ananta and Asian Umai, or enjoy a drink toasting up to the silhouette of Dubai from the hotel’s roof top bar Iris. The restaurants are both equipped with a centre grill/tandoor (oven)/sushi counters.
On our first stay, we got to enjoy Umai and had the chance to experience the scientific molecular food bites. It was done so intrinsically with chilled fumes of liquid nitrogen, that at one point I felt like a lab rat waiting to be injected. There is a regular menu where you can try a less experimental option of dining and opt for rolls of sushi or jasmine rice with seasoned fish.
The kind lady at reservations had booked us for 9pm as we requested. Fifteen minutes prior, we were given a reminder. Dressed in our evening best, the three of us left for the reception floor, where Ananta is located. At the entrance, we were warmly welcomed and with a swift glance to the wriggly toddler in my arms, the staff was quick to offer assistance and asked us if we would want to leave our son with a babysitter while my husband and I enjoyed a cosy meal. My eyes lit up, and I felt all ‘aww-y’ as I found the gesture genuine. Also, it was the first time that the three of us were having a staycation at a luxury hotel after our son was born. It was an emotional moment for me, you see.
But he remained with us. As I clasped him onto the rather complicated baby seat inside the restaurant I understood why they offered us the nanny option. The spaceship-looking high chair was not comfortable and so my husband and I took turns in having our food, as usual. I highly recommend using the nanny/babysitting service if you would like to have an undisrupted evening. Between the peculiar chair and the dimly lit interiors, Ananta did not seem very friendly for babies and toddlers.
However. it is an absolute pleasure for adults. My husband agreed a cent percent with me that Ananta is one of the best things of The Oberoi Dubai. Especially so, for those who enjoy their curries and spices. The food was lip-smacking brilliant. The kitchen is headed by Chef Saneesh. He is young, friendly and so full of life, that it is obvious where the food gets its zest from. We thoroughly enjoyed his creations (read all about it in an upcoming food review of Ananta at The Oberoi Dubai) and have become ardent fans. We were so engrossed in relishing the food in between keeping our boy entertained, and chatting up with Chef Saneesh that we went an hour past the close time of Ananta. The staff were very tolerant and bid us a good night with tired, smiling faces.
They are a friendly lot, the staff at The Oberoi. A tad much, you may feel at times, though. They try to make you feel at home and could sometimes come across as trying too hard.
Back in our room, all we could think of was sleep. I missed the one thing I had been keenly looking forward to throughout the day – a bubble bath with a crisp view of the Burj at a distance, a bubbly in hand perhaps (or sparkling water for feeding mothers to give the same effect) and watching a movie on the television screen facing the tub. It would have been perfect to wind a long day of doing nothing but reveling in the finer things of life.
Address : The Oberoi, Dubai
The Oberoi Centre – Al A’amal Street,
Business Bay – Dubai – United Arab Emirates