The gal knows Raffles’ luxury hotel in Dubai so well it is almost like going home – see the welcome, above, and the smiles are so genuine. I immediately note how well turned out all the staff are – this is undoubtedly led by the hotel’s Lebanese GM, Ayman Gharib, and the property’s asset manager, Mr British Gent, also known at Peter French. I went upstairs to my room and this visit the view out of end-suite 1030 is somewhat different as the forthcoming Sofitel construction soars higher and higher. Sofitel Dubai Wafi, which will eventually have 501 rooms and 97 residences in its 50 floors, is owned, like Raffles Dubai, by a fascinating Sheikh. He is an Egyptologist, hence the fact Raffles is shaped like a pyramid. He is a horse lover, and a passionate organic farmer.
My time here had a specific purpose. Sheikhs are not the only men in the Middle East to wear the full-length white shirts that are variously called dish-dashes or thobes. Knowing that the more sartorially-minded change dish-dashes at least three times a day I wanted to see how a hotel laundry copes. Well, the 248-room Raffles Dubai, which has a separate seven-man laundry specifically for guest clothing – for which read at least 50 dish-dashes a day – takes this all very seriously. Men fly in and need a packed dish-dash pressed ‘immediately’ but in the main the business is full washing and pressing. First timers will sometimes give specific instructions, in Arabic, on the laundry list. How much starch? How should the minute pleats down the arms, and perhaps the front of the garment, lie (these details are later put into guest-preference records).
A typical dish dash is washed for 40 minutes at 60 degrees C, and dried for 40 minutes. Then an Indian who spent a year learning how to iron dish-dashes takes over. Using a steam iron supported on an overhead rack, he does cuffs and sleeves first (about one in five garments needs a cuff or front button replaced, or sewn on more firmly). Sleeves done, it is shoulders and front opening, then main body. This takes at least 20 minutes, and then, to keep the garment clean, it is put in a freshly-ironed fabric cover and hung on a six-foot rack before being taken up to the appropriate bedroom (the cost for this service is $20 versus $14 for a Western shirt). I did ask if any male guests, or their lovely ladies, used the irons and boards in rooms but the Egyptian laundry manager merely laughed.
I also wanted to try the hotel’s very-friendly Italian restaurant, which replaced a steakhouse – since the original design had brick internal walls the transformation to trattoria was not that difficult. Hotel guests, it seems, are happy: the number of diners each evening has gone up from average 20 to average 50. I had caprese with Roma tomatoes and basil sorbet and then, what a joy, minute cutlets from six-month lambs from the Sheikh’s farm, and a glass of Santa Margherita Chianti Classico 2013. I did have time to pop into the tenth floor Club lounge, where the wines included a South African Nederburg Winemasters Shiraz 2014 and foods, enough for dinner, were sensibly strong on such local dishes as hummus, some beetroot flavoured. No wonder this hotel is so popular: its repeat factor is 38%, boosted by ‘real’ and organic foods, really lovely staff, and its proximity to the airport – a mere 15-minute drive is quite a bonus when you have a flight departing 0225. NOW SEE SUITE 1030 – AND ALSO WATCH A DISHDASH BEING IRONED