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Exploring Dubai, Versace style
FLY Yes, Emirates is every bit as good as you’ve heard it is. Service is top-notch with this luxury airline: A ticket booked in business or first class includes chauffeur service to and from the airport and five-plus-course meal extravaganzas that the chef tailors to the destination. (South Asia, for example has eight different meal profiles and dishes depending on the city being flown to or from.) And the most popular beverage consumed in first-class and business-class cabins is champagne. (That’s Dom Pérignon and Veuve Clicquot, respectively.)
STAY In a city where outrageous opulence is a compulsory lifestyle element, how does a luxury hotel like Palazzo Versace Dubai stand out from the competition? For Versace, a fashion house known for its confident embrace of sexy statement dressing, you start with the visuals. Donatella Versace (who led the design of all the marble-filled rooms and suites in the Palazzo herself), forwent the more obvious glass-and-steel-skyscraper option and instead chose a neoclassical building inspired by a 16th-century Italian palace. Set overlooking the Dubai Creek, the Palazzo oozes regal exclusivity. The cavernous lobby — its floor a mosaic reproduction of a Versace scarf — is the gateway into a well-heeled fashion fantasy. Ceilings are hand-detailed in gold. All the furniture is made by the House of Versace, right down to the rich turquoise silk bed linen. In fact, the iconic Versace Medusa adorns everything from your espresso cup at breakfast to the gold-embossed notepaper in your bedroom. It’s surprising how quickly one succumbs to the Italian designer’s over-the-top approach to hospitality here. (Happy hour is three hours long, and 24-hour butler service is standard.) The hotel is also home to the first-ever Versace spa, which has a treatment package — appropriately dubbed The Ultimate— that lasts over seven hours and includes champagne and a chauffeur along with a two-hour massage, a mani, a pedi, a blowout and a facial that uses 24-karat gold dust.
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SHOP Bigger is definitely better at the Dubai Mall, where an aquarium, an ice rink, a 3-D candy printer and over 1,200 stores beckon locals and tourists alike to get their steps in exploring the many high-end boutiques (Valentino, Harry Winston, Gucci). And just over a bridge, you’ll find an abundance of lavish fabrics and handcrafted goods at the many retailers in the Souk Al Bahar. Pop by the Margaret Dabbs Sole Lounge, which is tucked away inside the 8,920-square-metre Shoe District, and book in for the Ultimate Luxury Foot Therapy, an otherworldly medical pedicure (conducted by a podiatrist) combined with oxygen therapy and lymphatic drainage — the perfect antidote to the stress of retail-overspend justification.
TOUR For an authentic taste of local food and culture, we recommend having the delightfully knowledgeable hosts at Frying Pan Adventures Middle Eastern Food Pilgrimage walking tours introduce you to the best green falafel and spicy Emirati meat you’ll ever eat. Tip: Wear loose pants. Stop at the Spice Souk in Deira to stock up on rose petals, camomile flowers and, of course, saffron. Cash only.
This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of ELLE Canada.