It’s the stealth appearance of a waiter sporting a grey linen hoodie, his hair casually knotted up in a man bun, that suggests the newest hotel in Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah complex is cut from a different cloth to its predecessors.
Twenty years after the Jumeirah Beach Hotel opened, kick-starting the Jumeirah Group’s development of 2km of beach-front along Dubai’s Arabian Gulf shoreline, Jumeirah Al Naseem is the hospitality equivalent of holding a mirror up to the vibe of the emirate today.
The buzz-phrase here is ‘contemporary, yet culturally-connected’ and that’s exactly what is semaphored throughout this 430-room low-rise property. Jewel-toned Malone Souliers mules peek from beneath the elegant swish of abayas as visitors glide through the lobby to take afternoon tea, passing a stainless steel sculpture created by Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej, which immortalises the words of a poem written by Dubai’s ruler His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. ‘Our civilisation is not valued by cement, words, actions and achievements, but measured and valued by our thoughts, our strategy and our minds’ reads the first line of the Arabic calligraphy.
The strategy that has seen Dubai become a watchword for the celebration of diversity and tolerance is made tangible at Jumeirah Al Naseem, where golf buggies decorated by Emirati artists ferry guests of every nationality to the neighbouring Madinat Jumeirah properties, Mina A’Salam and Al Qasr. Even the chocolates come infused with Arabic spices created by local chocolatier Mirzam.
These are light, sensual touches of Arabia, in what is otherwise an unprecedented contemporary environment. London florist McQueens masterminds the floral displays of white, muted pinks, blues and creams that highlight the hotel. Lining the corridors, distressed mirrors refract light, throwing modern abstractions of Arabic patterns across the walls. Subtle gold vine designs are intertwined in the cool white marble lobby, while the profusion of grey and white marble throughout makes every angle worthy of a ’gram. So far, so chic. And the upper-level adult-only pool, with its Sugarmash hangout where you can sip sundowners from louche chaises longues that look out over the Burj Al Arab, is indeed a sanctuary of sophisticated seclusion.
But all this elegance comes not at the exclusion of smaller guests. The beach-level family pool (there is also a wadi pool adjacent) is almost never-ending in size, with plenty of shallow nooks for children to splash around in. Order lunch for the kids poolside and it comes served on giant Lego-plates, which go down a treat with the under-12s. At breakfast in the hotel’s Palmery eatery a bounty of delights awaits, including iced donuts of every colour, cakes bursting with custard and fruity fillings and fruit-infused water offered alongside a rainbow of juices. Even the honey comes enhanced with rosemary. Buying you precious time for that extra coffee, children’s entertainers circle the restaurant, bending balloons into mind-boggling shapes. The fun continues at the epic Sinbad’s Kids Club, where a giant splash pad is framed by an adventure walkway. Inside, even adults will be tempted by the games projected onto the walls, encouraging children to jump around with abandon. More sedate arts and crafts stations are set up for little ones and there’s even the chance to learn Arabic.
If you can drag the children away, the beach beckons with its prime views of the Burj Al Arab helipad, where you can play guess-the-guest as helicopters come in to land. You know that service is good when your beach attendant offers to set up twice the number of beds required, offering sunny and shaded options for you to hop between at whim.
Come nightfall, Rockfish is primed to become one of those classic Dubai favourites that you’ll return to again and again, with its beach-front location which blends seamlessly into the restaurant’s sandy deck. Inside, you’ll feel like you’re on a chic black and white film set as inlaid black shells snake up the walls and giant white pineapples add a touch of the exotic. A celebration of the shared seafood tradition between Arab and Mediterranean cultures results in impeccably flavoured crudo and one of those main-course menus where you want everything on the list.
Now all that’s left is to collapse onto your bed, made all the more sumptuous with mattresses by Hypnos, official supplier to Buckingham Palace. All 387 rooms and 43 suites face the sea, so guests are lulled to sleep by the soft sound of waves lapping the shore as night falls over this haven of chic Arabia.
Low season rooms from Dhs1,100; Royal Suite, Dhs35,000 at Jumeirah Al Naseem
The article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia