How many modes of transport can a luxury traveller encounter? There are planes and seaplanes – and helicopters. There are fanatics who cycle around the world. Lovers of classic cars (say my friend Anton Mosimann) might drive the length of South America. Any Aston Martin enthusiastic who can will be in London on July 20th, 2013, for the centenary of that marquee (an Aston Martin Vanquish was helicoptered to the cantilevered helicopter pad of Burj al-Arab, Dubai, the other day – see it on YouTube). What the gal would like, actually, is a flying carpet, to take her from one luxury hotel to another. Ah, here is just such a carpet, in fact a pink resin artwork by Halim Al-Karim, from Baghdad. It weighs 1,500 kilos and it is 43 feet from top to bottom.
It hangs in the concrete and glass lobby of Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, Dubai. This is an extraordinary structure, owned by Dubai Duty Free, again rather extraordinary. The lobby, designed by RMJM, soars up through nine floors and you can see the flying carpet from glass-sided panoramic elevators. Get out at your floor and you find something else extraordinary. David Moore and Sheena Abraham of Magus Designs, here in Dubai, have come up with a unique idea. The carpeting looks rippled, like sand dunes, but integral in the design are ‘oriental carpets’, set higgledy-piggledly as if they have been just thrown on the sand. This is so clever as you immediately know where in the world you are.
But who is this woman, crying? The flying carpet has five male faces behind it – all part of the art work. Is she unhappy that she is not part of that group? She, also set against concrete, is part of a collage of ‘body parts’, The Ruins, by Zoulikha Bouabdellah, Moscow-born daughter of Algerian film director Hassen Bouabdellah and the former head of Algiers Fine Arts Museum, Malika Dorbani. Zoulikha Bouabdellah is another of the 51 artists represented in the 482 artworks, all by contemporary Middle Eastern artists, chosen to embellish this 292-room hotel.
At ground level there is a charming Art & Culture corner, with a splendid array of books. The hotel has its own art curator, Camelia Esmaili, who offers tours of the hotel’s collection, plus she will guide you to other great collections in Dubai. If you would prefer to educate your stomach, the chef suggests cooking classes in Nomad restaurant, its name somehow going so well with the flying carpet.
My room at this art hotel is ruby, black and cream. I like the way even the nighttime slippers have ruby edging, to match satin clothes hangers and a box in the bathroom holding things like cotton sticks. Someone has thought all this through. The whole hotel is very clever. It is part of a complex that includes the long-established Dubai Aviation Club, with the tennis stadium used for the annual Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (this year’s winners were Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic). Hotel guests can use the club’s pool and serious gym, and enjoy the lake, with its ducks.
Klaus Assmann, the German boss of the hotel, has had lots of fun. Some of his creative staff have just suggested decorating the concrete wall next to the kids’ club – this is another hotel that is ideally suited to families with small children. Good idea, he said. A graffiti artist is being brought in to do a stylized map of the resort, on said wall. This will then be used as the ‘hotel map’, for people like the gal coming to stay at this luxury hotel.