It’s not simply the perfect juxtaposition of the crisp white alpine slopes on one side, teamed seamlessly with the hot yellow desert landscape on the other that sets the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates apart from its numerous Dubai peers, but the obvious paradox of Europe’s oldest and most luxurious hotel group opening a 398-room property in one of the most modern, vibrant and rapidly developing cities in the world.
The Kempinski brand dates back to 1897 and boasts a rich heritage of outstanding hospitality complemented by the exclusivity and individuality of its 75 top-end hotels in 31 countries. On the other hand, the world only really became acquainted with Dubai a relatively short time ago. A city that has inspired literally thousands of magazine articles (not all of which agree on the sentiment), Dubai could best be described in a similar vein to Marmite, in that you either love it or loathe it. But whatever your take on the sprawling and towering metropolis, it is without doubt a place that fascinates. The past forty years have seen this cosmopolitan destination, where expats make up 85% of the population, spring up from the desert to become the vibrant metropolis it is today.
In modern Dubai, tourists and resident alike gauge the desirability of their location on one thing and one thing only – how far away they are from Mall of the Emirates. The country’s best-loved mall opened in November 2005, and quickly became the place to be and be seen, but, more importantly, soon also came to define an entire city in so much as locals want to live close to it, and visitors want to stay in a hotel nearby. This is perhaps one of the reasons the five-star Kempinski rules the hotel roost in this fast-paced city, situated, as it is, on the edge of this shopping mecca.
Some may say that the word ‘luxury’ is banded around far too freely and too much. Many are right. But there is little doubt that the word is a fitting term to describe this unique suite where contrasting worlds collide in spectacular fashion.
It’s no secret that the UAE, and the Middle Eastern city of Dubai in particular, is saturated with uber luxurious hotels and resorts, some on the beach and some in the CBD, each trying to outdo the other in terms of services and facilities. But the truth is that few, if any, can compete with having a ski slope in their backyard, and that’s another reason for the luxury tag for you right there!
The Australian-owned 17-storey Kempinski opened its doors just a year after the biggest mall in the world outside of North America. In 2016, to celebrate its ten-year anniversary, the hotel completed an extensive US$100million renovation. The pinnacle of the ambitious four‑year refurbishment project? The addition of 15 Aspen Ski Chalets and 5 Aspen Pool Chalets that take stylish accommodation to an entirely new level.
As we step through the heavy wooden door into the wintery haven we are to call home for the next few days, we are politely and formally, yet genuinely warmly greeted by Mohammed, one of just a handful of personal butlers whose job is to make guests’ lives idyllic.
Set across three floors, our three-bedroom the Aspen Ski Chalet somewhat redefines plushness and comfort. Warm and natural tones fuse harmoniously with various well considered elements, to almost instantaneously put us thousands of miles away from the hustle and bustle of hot and dusty downtown Dubai, in a calm and tranquil place where being snug and cozy is key. Wooden beams and timber flooring, antler accessories, furry pillows and snowflake detailing add to the alpine illusion. The bottom two floors enjoy vistas of a snowy kind, whilst the top floor boasts beguiling views of the sparking blue sea and the distinctive silhouette of the Burj Al Arab.
On the ground, a well-appointed kitchenette (complete with all the usual mod-cons one would expect of such a suite) and spacious living room and dining area fill the space. A bank of floor-to-ceiling windows at one end make my youngest gasp as she presses her nose up to see what’s going on below – the glass is ice cold to the touch. We all stand mesmerised by the numerous subzero delights that Dubai’s famed indoor ski resort offers, some twenty metres below us: zorb balls, penguins, toboggans and snowboarding are just a few of the activities adults and kids can get stuck into once suitably attired in winter wear. My kids were literally chomping at the bit to don their salopettes and hit the slopes.
After dragging ourselves away from the chilly views, we nestle in front of a realistic-looking fire which ‘burns’ soothingly in the living room, complete with crackling firewood sounds for added effect. Here we plan our adventures, surrounded by gorgeous thick, soft faux-fur blankets in a range of muted tones, draped invitingly across various sofas and comfy chairs, all ideal for snuggling up in to watch a movie on the massive flat screen.
A huge dining table, fashioned from a single piece of cherry wood, is the beautiful focal point of the dining area, which enjoys the same views over the slopes as the living space. Three glasses are laid out on the table, each with an interior casing of chocolate – one milk, one strawberry and one white. Mohammed informs us, or rather the children, that whenever they’d like some hot chocolate, they just have to put in a call and he will arrive, steaming pot of hot milk in hand ready to fill each glass. I am reliably informed, even a few weeks later, that this is the best hot chocolate they’ve ever tasted, and asked repeatedly why I can’t recreate it at home.
A dual marble staircase, originating either side of the front door, sweeps elegantly up to the second floor where it meets effortlessly on a landing in front of the two double bedrooms, reached by passing through capacious bathrooms with inviting roll-top tubs and Hermès toiletries. Blackout curtains can be deployed at the touch of the button, night lights softly illuminate at floor level, and a recess next to the headboard is home to a lamp which is just perfect for nighttime reading. It’s these little touches that make the suite so user friendly and easy to enjoy, but it’s in the third bedroom where we discover the pièce de résistance – three mini dressing gowns, perfect sized for our children, each individually embroidered with their names. Simple yet delightfully unforgettable.
Lounging on the supremely comfy leather Chesterfield, hot drink in hand, gazing at speed skiers flying down the slopes, it’s hard to believe that I’m not looking at a mountainside European resort, the accommodation and tableau in front of me the perfect combination. This, of course, made checking-out difficult, not for any other reason than the fact that I just didn’t want to!
Undoubtedly, staying in an Aspen Ski Chalet at Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates is to be immersed in a world of stark hospitality contrasts: the white of the snow and the blue of the sea; the heat of the Middle Eastern sun with the cold of the frosty slopes; and the cosseted skiers with the swimsuit-clad swimmers. Yet whilst an Aspen Ski Chalet suite is attractive for so many things, what stands out above all else is the way in which it skilfully combines all of these opposites to successfully create an unfathomable wintery haven in the middle of the desert, perfect for both escaping the searing heat in the height of summer, and act as a heavenly sanctuary in which to spend winter vacations.