Dubai gives you ample reasons to return. A few months after the culmination of Expo 2020 Dubai, Travel +Leisure India & South Asia travels to the emirate to take stock of its brand-new offerings. By Adila Matra
It is my first trip to Dubai after the pandemic. It has been three years; the expo has ended and so has the mask mandate. The airport is relatively empty when I land. I take a deep breath; it is always exciting to land in the glitzy emirate.
First stop: Habtoor Palace Dubai. It is located in Al Habtoor City on the banks of Dubai Water Canal on Sheikh Zayed Road. Within Al Habtoor City are three hotels rebranded in July 2018 to Habtoor Palace Dubai, LXR Hotels & Resorts; V Hotel Dubai, Curio Collection by Hilton; and Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City, offering more than 1,600 elegant rooms between them. The façade of Habtoor Palace reminds me of Paris’s opera venue, Palais Garnier. The Beaux-Arts architecture style extends to the lobby as well— marble floors, elaborately topped columns, two grand stairways with balustrades, and a chandelier instill awe.
At BQ – French Kitchen & Bar on the first floor of the hotel, I accidently sample oven baked escargot—snails cooked in garlic butter and herbs topped with puff pastry—and am pleasantly surprised. After lunch, I retire to my Ambassador Suite that comes with a view of the water canal. In true Dubai style, the resort has a Bentley Suite that is inspired by the bespoke craftsmanship of Bentley Mulsanne and boasts leather finishes, and wood veneers. I also get a tour of the Sir Winston Churchill Suite, the hugest of the lot with a 12-seater dining area, study, lounge area, and an in-room staircase that connects to the rooftop plunge pool.
Stepping out into to the balmy weather, I make my way towards the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library that opened to the public on June 16, 2022. Needless to say, it is an architectural marvel, shaped like a book stand, and spans more than 54,000 square metres, with seven floors and nine thematic libraries. I am greeted at the entrance by a massive floor-to-ceiling bookshelf; there are books as far as my eyes can see.
I saunter through its freshly carpeted halls to find teens curled up in corners smiling at their books, and students and academics poring over study materials at tables and smart scanners. It is a world that I envy, one I wish I was a part of. So even if only for an hour, I pick Modern Love by George Meredith from one of the shelves and sink into a chair nearby.
Next stop: Museum of the Future (MOTF). One of Dubai’s most famous landmarks, this brand-new marvel has immersive exhibits that explore how the world could look like 50 years from now. Designed in steel and glass, the museum’s exterior sports Arabic calligraphy that doubles as glass windows. When I reach at 4 pm, the structure is glinting in the golden hour.
Inside, a metal room simulates a space capsule; it is to take me to OSS Hope Station, home of the humans among the stars, in the year 2071. Soon, the floor under my feet shakes, and the voice of Aya, the digital resident of the museum crackles from a microphone as the shuttle launches into space. The floors and windows of the room are projected with aerial views of Dubai, and later the calmness of the earth’s atmosphere. The museum is spread over seven levels. Each floor deals with topics such as the future of space travel, climate change, health, wellness, and spirituality. My favourite among all is The Library, a part of The Heal Institute on level four.
Suspended around me are 2,400 colour-changing glass canisters each laser-engraved with the image of a species on earth. It is a future lab that will help scientists heal the ecosystem through bioengineering, and inspires hope in its present day visitors.
After the Nolan-esque experience at MOTF, I head to The Yellow Boats in Dubai Marina, in the hope that a 90-minute tour across the waters of Dubai will help me process the prognosis of the world. The speedboat cuts through the man-made water body. Once we leave the city behind, and the twilight turns the water crimson, the boat slows down, bobbing up and down on the furrows it created. An occasional dhow playing Bollywood songs sails by. I recall one of the exhibits at MOTF—a projection of Dubai 50 years from now— with flying taxis navigating structures taller than Burj Khalifa. I scan the skyline; steely skyscrapers with blinking red lights and a dozen construction cranes rule it. Dubai is the future, I surmise.
Getting To Dubai
Emirates offers direct flights from Mumbai and Delhi to Dubai.
Habtoor Palace Dubai, LXR Hotels & Resorts has 182 guest rooms and 52 suites. Doubles from INR 41,670.
V Hotel Dubai, Curio Collection by Hilton is home to Dubai’s premier stage show, La Perle by Franco Dragone. Doubles from INR 20,229.
Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City houses eleven restaurants with cuisines from around the world. Doubles from INR 21,048
World Cut Steakhouse in Habtoor Palace Dubai offers a collection of American steakhouse classics. INR 12,783 for two.
Ribs & Brews in Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City is a modern take on an American bar. INR 8,971 for two.
Gonpachi Dubai in Al Habtoor City is one of your best options for authentic Japanese food. INR 8,442 for two.
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