A change is as good as a rest they say, and often it’s a change of pace that the soul craves most, writes Scott Armstrong.
And for those living in Muscat, with its relaxed way of life by the sea, a beach holiday doesn’t really hit the spot. Instead it’s something more bustling, something more hectic, something more cosmopolitan that brings about the much needed change of gears, even if only to make one appreciate the slower speed in Oman after the invigoration.
What luck then that five hours drive away lies the gleaming towers, five-lane highways, luxury hotels and shops, lots and lots of shops, of Dubai. Especially fortunate for those who were forced to work over the festive period and now have a little time to take off during the Dubai Shopping Festival, which essentially means bargains galore as mega sales are in full-swing until January 28 (I’ve heard up to 70 per cent off).
Planning a city break in Dubai can sometimes be daunting due to the overwhelming choice in the Emirate, but if proximity to shops and luxury accommodation are two items on your checklist, I can narrow your search down to a single hotel. Welcome to the Ritz-Carlton DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre), a hotel that consistently over-delivers, particularly for the city break shopper from Oman.
Well, to begin with, its location could hardly be better. Situated in the chic DIFC district five minutes’ drive to Dubai Mall and (without getting too nerdy about this) it sits in a location that to and from the mall is easy, even at peak traffic times so you’ll find yourself happily leaving the snarls within seconds.
Also, when driving from Oman, not only is it super simple to navigate to, but also it is in the first district on the main road that comes in from the Sultanate, meaning you can do door-to-door to the hotel in under five hours without getting stuck in traffic at the end of your journey. Of course I suppose you could fly, and happily, the hotel is a mere 15 minutes from the airport.
Coming from Oman we’re used to ample room in our accommodations, with living space (if not hotel space) a little more affordable over on our side of the border. Thankfully, the Ritz-Carlton has you covered, for not only does it obviously have rooms and suites to satisfy the most demanding of claustrophobics, it also has its Executive Residences, which aim to provide that home-away-from-home feel.
These huge spaces are ideal for anyone travelling with a family, especially young children, and our two-bedroom (both with impressive en-suite bathrooms) apartment, complete with an open-plan lounge and kitchen and washing machine was the perfect solution. There’s plush, deep carpet everywhere, in the rooms and in the corridors. While something shinier would obviously be easier to maintain, this lush décor choice creates a warm, welcoming environment and is a welcome change from the tiles and stone we all live with. This works on a sub-conscious level to reinforce that sense of luxury (and a practical one too when you have a toddler who falls to the ground frequently).
Most notably, the smart televisions with YouTube are a small detail, but a real blessing (BabyTV songs to the rescue). Leave aside the fantastic dining options, how ginormous and comfy the beds are (big, very comfy indeed), and how spa-like the en-suites (all gorgeous marble and monsoon showers), let me linger for a moment on that internet television, for it is a small and seemingly insignificant detail, but it’s details like that which matter and when you walk through the doors of the Ritz-Carlton DIFC, they add up to a great experience.
Perhaps the hotel’s best-known dining option is Café Belge, which ‘celebrates the vibrant spirit of 1920s Brussels’. It’s an eatery that oozes charm and easy sophistication with a casual crowd and a convivial buzz. Here we found Riyaz, our affable waiter whose service was that elegant mix of attentive, but not intrusive. He knew his menu by heart and his recommendation of the Belgium Waffles was not to be ignored — they were sensational (we almost wished we’d skipped the main course and just order three helpings of that).
He also proved that though it had been two years since I’d visited the property, the same quality of service that wowed me previously continued to thrive and charmed me all over again. It’s not Ritz-Carlton’s carpets, beds or televisions that make a stay with them so satisfying, it’s not the exquisite food (also try Centre Cut restaurant and breakfast on the terrace in Cara), nor is it the sophisticated and tasteful décor. It’s their people. From the lobby staff who smile as you enter, the efficient and warm check-in team (ready with a teddy bear for your child), or the restaurant crew, they all work hard to make your stay effortless, leaving you free to concentrate on more important things, like chasing down the metropolitan change you came looking for in the first place.
Book Your Holiday Escape
Gate Village, Difc, off Sheikh Zayed Road – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Call: +971 4 372 2222
Delight in the Journey
Valid through April 30, 2017,
Starting at AED 1700++ per night
Exclusive welcome amenity
Experience credit of AED 500 for hotel journeys at The Ritz-Carlton Spa or a choice of exclusive dining options
Buffet breakfast at Cara
Bed and Breakfast
Valid through end of December 2017,
Starting at AED 995++ per room per night
Daily breakfast buffet in Cara