There are two ways to get an aerial view of Dubai and the gal is about to try one. The luxury hotel Palm Tree Court is part of the 128 acres of Jebel Ali Hotel, convenient both from Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The complex includes a marina and nine-hole golf course, and two hotels and the Dubai office of Seawings Dubai, which flies its Cessna 208A Caravan seaplanes from a water jetty at the hotel. We are all ready for the 40-minute trip.
Other passengers flying with me today are actually Europeans living in Dubai, for whom the excitement at seeing ‘their’ city from up above is evident. There are maps in the plane’s seat pockets showing how we will loop around artificial islands, and the Burj Al-Khalifa area and the Creek. After a good safety briefing, off we go – I notice from the boarding card, later, that I would get 20 percent off food and drink at the Dubai Golf Creek and Yacht Club.
We go over Palm Jumeirah, the first of three man-made islands designed by HHCP architects in the shape of palm trees and a crescent. Overall 3.1 by 3.1 miles, it is linked to the mainland by a bridge, and the crescent has a subsea tunnel connecting it to the top of the Palm. In the photo, Atlantis can be seen at the centre of the crescent – gosh it looks so small. We fly over The World, the useless collection of more man-made islands, each in a kind of shape of, say, Australia or Greenland: once, all were going to be sold and become rich men’s play areas, but today all but one are barren, with nothing going on.
The circuit gets pretty near to Burj al-Arab and its flanking hotels, Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Madinat Jumeirah complex. We see how built up Sheikh Zayed Road is becoming, and how small the world’s tallest tower, Burj Al-Khalifa, at 2,716.5 feet (I am sure those extra six inches are vital!) seems. Flying back to Jebel Ali Hotel, we go over the giant Jebel Ali Freeport, and, lush in its green gardens but surrounded on three sides by desert – the fourth side is sea – how splendid is a palace that belongs to a member of Dubai’s ruling family.
Palm Tree Court, the luxury sibling at the Jebel Ali Complex, has so many things to commend it. Its 208 rooms are all sea-facing, and the space around is just awe-inspiring. No wonder Brits and Germans and (at this May Day time of year) Russians, in particular, love it. Come from tiny Moscow apartments and you feel life suddenly becomes real, here. I am told there are just under 15,000 seats a week on flights from Moscow to Dubai, and of course there are other cities that you can fly from as well (Dubai’s buy-food-onboard budget airline, flyDubai, serves Kazan, Mineralnye Vody, Samara, Ufa and Yekaterinburg and it adds Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don and Volgograd this September).
Stay in block nine at Palm Tree Court for special privileges, like airport transfers, and a concierge lounge, and ten items of clothing laundered free every day. You can also opt for all-inclusive, which means a good supply of different wine labels as well as food in any of the restaurants. But stay anywhere in the hotel for Dubai’s only professional crèche, managed by London-based Worldwide Kids. They look after anything from four (months) to 18 (years), and for the teenagers there is also Watercooled activity, say windsurfing, wakeboarding, paddleboarding, sailing, catamarans, kite surfing, zap cats, powerboats, stand up paddleboard yoga – and kayaking (OMG, kayaking again, gal!). This does seem to be the perfect family hotel for kids. Even room service takes care of little ones, with such offerings as Robin Hood arrows (caprese skewers) and Pasta Marco Polo (spaghetti with tomato sauce).