How often does one associate burlesque with luxury hotels? Burlesque seems to be the latest thing, by the way – the Australian owned-run London Cabaret Club opened only last week. Well, here in UAE, the gal had a first, atop Shangri-La Dubai. Many staying in this 300-room luxury hotel have no idea that, Thursdays and Sundays only, a separate dinner show, run by Blue Marlin out of Ibiza, takes place on the top (42nd) floor of the building. There is a separate entrance, a dedicated elevator and, up at the 42nd floor, a burly security guard who must surely have been in Russia’s women’s martial arts team. Inside, it is SUCH fun, the best burlesque dance-behind-feathers ever. No wonder it is long lines to get in.
The hotel itself is pretty fun, too. Take the outdoor pool area, atop the four- floor car park block that is separate from the hotel, but reached by an air-bridge. Day-long, the octagonal pool – which has stunning fuchsia towels – is popular with hotel guests and local expats. Come dusk, October through to May, the pool bar evolves into iKandy, an outdoor bar-club-lounge. Locals lie back on sofas and enjoy (bright pink) shisha hubble pipes. Everyone enjoys themselves. What they do come May, when it gets too hot to be outside, even in the evening, is an unanswered question.
A lot of beer is drunk in this part of the world, where it is hot, by world standards, even in the so-called cool period. It is good to see, in the hotel’s 41st floor Horizon Club, that cocktail hour includes a healthy display of different brews. Club level is so popular that there are two floors of club rooms: if you are on the 40th floor, there is a glass-edged spiral staircase to save having to wait for the elevators. I loved end room 4005, with views looking out to sea plus, in the other direction, across Sheikh Zayed Road – yes, this thoroughfare again (as ubiquitous to Dubai hotels as Miracle Mile is to Chicago retail) – across the road to highrises and Burj Khalifa.
Far down at ground level is one of my favourite all-day dining areas. First it is actually part of the lobby so you can see who is coming and going, which saves time if you are specifically meeting someone. Next, its buffets include sushi at all meals, even breakfast, and the live cooking has a selection of steaks for grilling, even at eight a.m. If you want a health drink, no problem, here it is, and if you want sweet things, golly, there is a separate display for them. I am beginning, by the way, to see hints of a serious interest in health among locals in the whole area: the medical area around Raffles Dubai, for instance, offers not only cosmetic surgery but liposuction and all the other things to help you reduce that weight.
A voluminous robe helps. Who knows what shape is under a full-length black abaya? Guys, in their floor length dishdash, find it less easy to conceal the lack of a six-pack (oh dear, this brings us back to beer again, which is not a good analogy in this part of the world – if any expat is caught driving with even one drink drunk, bang goes the chance of extending their work permit). People keep fit in gyms, and with watersports, and the extreme horseback riding favoured by Sheikh Mohammed and his family. There is a tennis court on the Shangri-La’s fourth floor rooftop, and an indoor squash court, perhaps one of the many reasons, says hotel GM Gerhard Hecker, that professional sportspeople like staying here, when in town, on business or pleasure.
My final impression of Dubai, on this trip. Having breakfasted with friends, I look out of 4005’s windows, and wonder which of the few empty spaces will be filled by the time of my next visit, for the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference AHIC 2015. How many more luxury hotels will come up?