Naim Maddad is quite a lad. He’s a dad, commuting every month from his home in Dubai to see his family back in Brisbane. He’s one of Dubai eating’s three kings, the sage of trends and restaurants, and, right now, the organiser of sustenance for the thousands of delegates to the biennial COP-28, which opened at Dubai Expo City two days ago.
He and his company, Gates Hospitality – food opens metaphorical gates to anything and everything – are in for a nonstop two-week marathon. All his 127 servers, hired specially, have undergone super-and more security. There are nine pop-up restaurants, from liquor-available Michelin-level to grab-n-go packs. 3,500 sandwiches are freshly made each night. All supplies, from Champagne to packages of crisps and toothpicks, have to be delivered in one truck, at 3 a.m.
And yet – he had time to host 30 Dubai-based members of the UAE’s Australia Business network on Friday 24th November, at a dinner that night that ended at the magic hour of 3 a.m. And by 10 a.m. the following day he was (almost) as fresh as a daisy to start the two-hour cross-border drive from Dubai to SIX SENSES ZIGHY BAY in Oman’s incredible Musandam Peninsula. He’s a co-owner and visits once a week.
Girlahead was already there, back at the resort that feels like home. This time it was villa #19, right on the beach (see the Youtube video). This time she realised many of the ‘hosts’, staff who do everything from conciergerie to driving buggies, are locals, so rare in this part of the world. And they are all, without exception highly professional and charming. Funnily enough Virtuoso’s visionary leader, Matthew Upchurch, has just been talking, for a New Year podcast, about the desirability of fulfilled staff and the role that plays in driving more, and repeat, business – and rates.
Honestly, staying in #19 was near-perfect. Being able to close the reeds-held-by-twine gates to the near-white beach gave the privacy that allowed nude laps in a pool that is heated or cooled as necessary. The bed was really comfortable, there were indoor and outdoor showers. Password-free WiFi and a hardback on tales from the sea. A screwtop Minity Rosé was actually more appreciated than Champagne. The gym has an elliptical that moves in straight lines rather than bone-jerking arcs, and the therapist did a really fab deep-tissue Thai body-over.
Every Saturday the main family beach switches from a forest of loungers to a neat military array of sand-set tables, and buffet stations specialising in local crudo through to seafood over-kill. Aussie tomahawks the size of their fighting namesakes had a station all to themselves. There was live music and the most gorgeous lumps-intended chocolate icecream, one of 50 made here (there’s a new Turkish pastry and sweets chef as well as a very keen English main chef).
No, this party did not go on until 3 a.m. but it perfectly fitted the phrase that enough is as good as a feast, even when the ‘enough’ is itself a feast.