From hotels located in the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, to desert camps, there’s something to fit everyone’s taste and budget.
You can have a different experience every time you visit the UAE, and that’s just as far as the accommodations go.
XVA Art Hotel, Dubai
If history, architecture and art got married, their baby would be this beautiful boutique hotel in Dubai. Opened in 2003 and located in the historical Al Fahidi district, the oldest community in Dubai, this intimate hotel is comprised of 15 rooms arranged around three different shaded courtyards. The property maintains its original three wind towers, an early form of air conditioning used in the UAE.
Not to worry though: All the rooms are air conditioned and have ceiling fans, so you won’t have to suffer during the humid summer months.
Each room is designed by different designers and artists with themes such as “henna tattoo.” In addition, the hotel is affiliated with an art gallery of the same name that happens to be one of the leading art galleries in the region, showcasing the work of contemporary Middle Eastern artists.
If you don’t have Emirati friends to impose upon, this is the closest you’ll get to staying in a traditional Emirati property.
Zaabeel House Al Seef, Dubai
At Zaabel House Al Seef, rooms include not just the standard bed but also a hammock for lounging, reading or napping.
Courtesy Zabeel House Al Seef
This hotel is only a five-minute car journey away from XVA Art Hotel and a popular spot for locals to send visitors. You’ll still get the traditional, local neighborhood feel here but with a quirkier touch and more affordable rates. Set on Dubai’s creek — historically one of Dubai’s strategic trade hubs — Zaabeel House has 200 rooms with a smart focus on design, and a modern, millennial vibe.
The space is full of personality with a hammock here, wall illustrations there and a free-standing bathtub over there — in the bedroom. Dinner on the creek at Skafos, where you get a view of the inimitable Dubai skyline in the distance, might include octopus carpaccio or a bucket of prawns served with a Bloody Mary cocktail sauce.
The ship, now a permanent (docked) fixture is located on Dubai’s Mina Rashid, a man-made commercial port. Tentative cruise-goers might start with a stay here.
Courtesy of QE2 Dubai
During its sailing career, the QE2 or Queen Elizabeth 2 was popular among the celebrity crowds. Rock icon David Bowie allegedly wrote songs on board the QE2, and Elizabeth Taylor and Buzz Aldrin also spent time on the vessel.
The celebrated ship may have been built in England, but now it’s permanently docked in Dubai’s Mina Rashid, a man-made commercial port. Building on its legacy as a former cruise ship, the QE2 offers myriad dining and entertainment options. It’s a good choice for tentative cruise-goers, wary of how they’d handle a true sea voyage.
The QE2 is also open for tours, and its restaurants — 13 in total — like those in typical dry-land hotels, are open to the public as well. Guests might even catch a glimpse of a wedding on the premises as the location is becoming a popular venue in the UAE.
Andaz Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
Located in the world’s farthest-leaning man-made tower, the Andaz offers panoramic city views. It’s near many of the city’s main attractions, such as Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Ferrari World.
Courtesy of Andaz Hotel
Just an hour away from Dubai is Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital city, which offers equally impressive hotel stays.
If you have a penchant for staying in record-breaking properties, then Andaz Hotel — located in Capital Gate, the “leaning tower of Abu Dhabi” — may already be on your bucket list.
It’s the world’s farthest-leaning man-made building: It leans 18 degrees to the west, an incline four times greater than the Pisa tower.
The views afforded by this hotel offer panoramic views of the city, and it’s close to many of the city’s main attractions, such as Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Ferrari World.
Even the standard guest rooms are spacious, offering the same panoramic view as the more upscale suites.
The hotel’s also technologically advanced: The concierge and front desk can be contacted via WhatsApp messenger instead of a call to reception.
The St. Regis Abu Dhabi
The two-story 11,600-square-foot suite includes a spiral staircase, a cinema and private library.
Courtesy of St. Regis Abu Dhabi
If you have money to burn, the St. Regis in Abu Dhabi is the place. For ultimate luxury and a truly otherworldly hotel experience, inquire about the Abu Dhabi Suite, with a starting price of $11,978 per night.
The 11,600-square-foot two-story suite is suspended more than 220 meters in the air between two towers, making it the highest suspended suite in the world; not exactly ideal for those who fear heights, but exhilarating for those who don’t mind them.
For this price point, expect all the amenities you can think of. Moustafa Sakr, the hotel’s general manager, says that the suite is typically booked for VIP stays “including heads of states, government delegations as well as international celebrities such as Diego Maradonna, Rio Ferdinand, Lewis Hamilton and Tamer Hosny.”
Guests who can afford to stay in the super luxe suite will be rewarded with four bedrooms, a private library, cinema, spa and a captivating 360-degree views of the city and the Arabian Gulf. Fortunately, all guests are treated to 24-hour butler server and sheer opulence throughout the property, regardless of room type.
Radisson Blu Hotel & Resort, Al Ain
A stay at the recently renamed Radisson Blu Hotel & Resort means staying in the oldest hotel in the country. Some rooms boast views of one of the highest peaks in the United Arab Emirates.
Courtesy Hotelier Middle East
Formerly named the Hilton Al Ain, this structure is older than the country itself. Since the UAE doesn’t exactly have a plethora of historical hotels like you’ll find in Europe or the United States (December 1971 marks the union of the country; the Hilton opened in March of that same year), this property promises a unique stay as the oldest hotel in the country.
Located in the oasis city of Al Ain, just an hour’s drive from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, it was one of the first concrete buildings constructed in the city. The inland oasis invites guests to enjoy the mountain backdrops, historical museums and a city adorned by forts.
The hotel was a popular choice amongst celebrities and royals such as Queen Elizabeth II and the late Muhammad Ali and has undergone numerous renovations over the years, the last of which was in 2012. Today, the hotel offers a Family Package to ensure that small travelers are well cared for.
Finally, the hotel makes a great base for exploring more of the UAE. Set in the region’s largest oasis, Al Ain, it borders Oman, making it a perfect location if you want to explore two countries at once.
Rosemont Hotel and Residences, Dubai
Set to open late 2019, this 53-story hotel will have its own rainforest on the roof of the hotel. Guests will be able to walk trails surrounded by trees, waterfalls, streams and marsh.
Courtesy of ZAS Architechts Dubai
If miracles happen anywhere, then they would have to be in the UAE. Where else would you have a rainforest in the middle of a bustling city?
Set to open later this year, this 53-story hotel will have its own rainforest located on the roof of its podium, along with an artificial beach, and a glass-bottom pool suspended over the busy streets of Dubai. Between the beach, waterfalls, streams and trees, you’re bound to forget that you are in the city, not to mention a desert.
“Few developments in Dubai offer year-round outdoor space that can compete with harsh summer temperatures. One of the project’s core amenity features — a massive 75,000-square-foot outdoor rainforest features lush vegetation and advanced sensory rain systems, creating a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience not found elsewhere in the region,” says DJ Armin, Managing Partner ZAS Architects Dubai — the hotel’s developers.
The air will be thick and humid, as recycled rain water will be used and sprayed to mimic the same rainforest weather, so make sure to not dress heavily for a walk in the forest.
But that’s not all that this property offers. The hotel will also have a bowling alley and trampolines, as well as residences available for long-term stays.
Manar Al Hinai is an Emirati journalist, entrepreneur and co-founder of “Sekka,” an online magazine dedicated to documenting her region’s stories.