“In Dubai, we do not wait for things to happen. We make them happen.”
This quote, written in Arabic, is displayed in the bustling Sheikh Zayed Road, along with the pleasant photograph of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Makhtoum. Far from the blank sandy canvas that it was years ago, Dubai continues to attract the world’s attention by its constant pursuit of the limitless and the improbable. True to its leader’s remark, the city successfully manages to surpass expectation upon expectation – from building the world’s tallest structure on its sandy grounds to housing the biggest flower garden amidst the dry climate.
It is a word that always comes to mind when asked to describe Dubai. Such term is appropriate in describing one of Dubai’s prized jewels, Raffles Hotel.
Strategically set in the heart of the city, the beauty of Raffles is hard to miss. With its pyramid-like structure adorned with intricate Egyptian architectural accents, the luxurious hotel’s ambiance is definitely a feast to one’s eyes.
Raffles is known for its excellent customer service worldwide. From its beginnings on Singapore grounds, the hotel chain has made a name for itself as an indispensable experience to the well-traveled.
‘The best bartender in town’
Call it subjective – call it anything you wish, but it is with utmost confidence that I say there is truth in the ever-so-positive reviews about Raffles on Tripadvisor, among other prominent websites of reference out there. There is something quite distinct and genuine with the hotel’s brand of service that makes a guest feel the warmth and sincerity resonating in every gesture shown, in every smile given, and in every extra mile exemplified.
From the courteous assistance of Ismail as we alighted from the car to the pleasant well-wishes of Natalie at the front desk, the staff sure has a way of making a guest feel welcome. All procedures were smoothly executed; good and effective training is evident in the way each personnel assumes his respective role. Up until the suite check-in with Lena, everything was hassle-free.
One may be quick to judge that people from the front of the house may have been extra caring simply because there is scrutiny in progress. I shall beg to disagree. Theirs is a kind of service that is felt, appreciated and enjoyed.
Come dinner time, it did not surprise me anymore to continually receive the same positive atmosphere from Ashu of Crossroads as soon as I got a glance of him from his workstation.
“It will be my pleasure to give you recommendations from our extensive menu,” he said, clearly going out of his comfort zone from the beverage section and ushering us to a comfortable seat in order to keep the good rapport going.
And then there is Dennis, a man of blending skills and bottomless stories. Displaying good product knowledge and inventive characteristics, he made the night extra special with his signature drinks and refreshing house blends.
The word ‘best’ may just be overdoing it a little, but truly no other superlative can come close to describing the awesome server that is Z.
“Don’t bother knowing the whole name, even my mother-in-law is having a hard time memorizing it,” he playfully remarked.
Take the hotel’s customer service excellence and top it with Z’s infectious zest for his line of work, and you have the best bartender in Dubai – and I am ready to be proven otherwise. He (along with his perfect concoction of the Singapore Sling) is reason enough to pay Raffles a visit when in the city.
Where I stayed: THE DIPLOMATIC SUITE
Overview: Space, elegance and functionality merge to create a suite well-apt for working travelers like yours truly. Upon entering the room, the spacious living area greets you with the breathtaking Dubai skyline as its backdrop. On to the bedroom, a private work desk is made ready for any business matters needed to be taken care of. Adjacent to the plush bed is a wardrobe area equipped with grooming tools and adequate space for personal belongings.
The bathroom is in itself divine. The bathtub – it invites you to a moment of pure peace and relaxation. Fragrant candles add a romantic mood to the elegant setting.
Perfect choice for: Business travelers
Notable features: The Middle Eastern and Asian vibe of the suite is ideal for guests wanting a simple yet elegant accommodation during their stay in the city. The view of downtown Dubai from the balcony promises a quiet sunrise and a spectacular sunset at the comfort of your own room.
What I viewed: THE PRESIDENTIAL SUITE
Overview: Raffles’ four Presidential Suites are themed based from the basic elements: earth, water, fire and air. An element is incorporated in all aspects of the room – from furniture pieces to wall accents.
Perfect choice for: Jetsetters traveling in style
Notable feature: The suite will be highly appreciated by the modern and sociable traveler, especially during the colder season where guests can maximize the suite’s outdoor area.
What I viewed: THE ROYAL SUITE
Overview: Regal is an adjective that comes to mind upon seeing the interiors of the Royal Suite and the pieces of furniture that complement the whole theme. It is made even grander by the gold accents found in every corner of the spacious suite.
Perfect choice for: A grand dream-come-true honeymoon in Dubai. The suite will add a touch of elegance to your holiday of a lifetime. However, the place is arguably too spacious for two. Alternatively, it is also suitable as a bride or groom’s wedding suite, especially if the celebration is to be held in Raffles’ extensive ballroom.
Notable feature: His and Hers bathrooms provide ample personal space for a well-deserved restart.
What I viewed: THE PENTHOUSE
Overview: A true work of art in gold and red, the Turkish-themed penthouse boasts of luxurious interiors and an expanse of nothing but pure creativity and functionality.
Perfect choice for: Gatherings of all sorts. The distinctive theme will surely make any festivity extraordinary.
Notable feature: A personal butler at your service – this is Dubai life amplified!
On Spotlight: Crossroads Cocktail Bar
Raffles hotel houses an array of dining establishments, among them is the Crossroads Cocktail Bar. Upon entering the premise, one is greeted by a cosy ambience of rose petals amidst the flowing water, fancy spirits lined up in the bar shelves, and beaming guests having a great time.
Highly-recommended if you want…
Something to Start
(Lamb kibbeh, Falafel, Spinach fatayer, Cheese sambousek, Meat sambousek)
Classic Cheese Burger
(served with your choice of patty: Angus beef, Wagyu beef or corn-fed chicken)
Make Your Own Pasta
(Penne, Spaghetti or Farfale with your choice of ingredients. Their pesto is a must-try.)
Mixed Gulf Seafood Grill
(Omani lobster, Calamari, Hammour, Marinated shrimps)
Warm Sticky Date Pudding
(served with Toffee sauce & Crispy almond tuille)
(Gin, Cherry Herring, D.O.M. Benedictine, Lemon, Pineapple, Gomme, Angostura, Cherries)
(Gin, Coriander chilli gomme, Fig preserve, Lemon, Soda, Angostura)
Something to End the Experience on a High Note
(with flavours like Honey and Cinnamon expertly crafted by Raffles’ shisha sommelier)
The Reopening of the Raffles Garden
Situated at the rooftop of Wafi Mall (and just across Crossroads Cocktail Bar) is a cosy garden-turned-dining area offering probably the best view of the hotel, especially at night time when the lights illuminate the pyramid-like structure of this true Dubai icon. The Raffles Garden has recently opened its doors to guests after being closed for the whole duration of summer.
The garden features comfortable private cabanas perfect for a night of good food, refreshing drinks and speciality shisha.
During the recent reopening of the Raffles Garden, selected guests were given the exclusive opportunity to cook with Executive Chef Tuomas Heikkinen alongside Chef Mohamad right in the middle of the rooftop.
One of the best parts of the experience is the deeper appreciation for the food served in the table shortly after the demonstration. Having seen the passion being put in every dish, the activity makes your senses feel more engaged with the food you are taking in. This indeed is quite far from your usual straight-out-of-the-menu dining experience.
Some amenities of the hotel include the Raffles spa, a place where you can find time to pamper yourself after a long day of tour. For those maintaining an active lifestyle, the hotel has a gym equipped with basic fitness equipment. The gym area, I must say, is quite small compared to other luxury hotels.
Overlooking the gym is an outdoor swimming pool. Other amenities include the hotel library with meeting rooms for private functions and the ballroom with ample space for big events.
When visiting Dubai…
Take into consideration the weather during your stay. As with other destinations, it will highly influence the activities that you can do (and the enjoyment that you will feel). You will surely not like to walk under the scorching 45-degree heat during June!
Be mindful of the do’s and don’ts in the city. While Dubai is considered to be one of the most open Arab destinations, it does not mean that restrictions do not apply, especially when it comes to clothing, display of affection, and public transport usage.
Learn how to use and maximize the metro system. The city has efficient modes of transportation. Use it to your advantage.
When staying at Raffles Dubai…
Opt for a room with a view. Although this may be trivial to others, I highly suggest requesting for a room with the best view of downtown Dubai. With the majestic city skyline as your background, it is a perfect way to say ‘you have arrived.’
Take time to look around. The hotel’s marble structures and intricate accents are all worth laying eyes on.
Be in the loop of the current promotions happening at the hotel. Fashion-themed high teas and Happy hour by the pool – these are just some of the staple offerings you will want to check out. Browse through their guide and see what they may have in store for you.
To make the most out of your stay in Raffles and in Dubai, try visiting and experiencing the popular destinations within the hotel vicinity.
If you are looking for…
Cultural appeal – Visit Bastakiya and experience Old Dubai. The area is about 15 minutes away from the hotel. Alternatively, you can head to the Dubai Museum in Al Fahidi. The museum is home to different artefacts and age-old heritage.
Adventure – Book for a Desert Safari experience. Drive across the dunes, watch the famous sandpit sunset, interact with the camels and try your skills in belly dancing – all 45 minutes away from the hotel.
Shopping destinations – Some prominent malls are a short distance away from the hotel. Wafi Mall has a connecting entrance from the hotel lobby, while Dubai Mall is a convenient 10-minute ride from Raffles.
For the ultimate gold experience, visit The Souk to find the best bargains for jewellery. While at the area, ride the abra and explore Dubai Creek.
A Note of Gratitude: Thanks to the whole Raffles Dubai team for the warmest service. A well-deserved appreciation goes to Sara for being an accommodating host and for making this worthwhile experience possible.
Note: The hotel stay is sponsored by Raffles Dubai, but the opinions in this review are my own.
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