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Elisabeth Rushton, our luxury spa reviewer visits two opulent resorts on Dubai's The Palm. In the first of the series, she reviews the palatial Jumeirah Zabeel Saray.

Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, The Palm – Dubai


Dubai 1Located at the tip of the West Crescent of Palm Jumeirah, one of the two artificial archipelagos overlooking the Arabian Gulf, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray oozes opulence and money-no-object luxury. Dubai itself is a watchword for majesty and extravagance, but even by the high standards of this Emirati city, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray is grandiose. The resort’s lavish decorations – think Hieronymus Bosch meets Harpers Bazaar photo shoot – echo the exquisite artistry of the region, showcasing spectacular hand-painted ceilings, crafted marble, sparkling crystal chandeliers and fine art. At the same time, the Arabic tradition of inimitable service and hospitality pervades throughout.

The iconic beachside resort is comprised of 405 rooms and suites, 38 sumptuous Royal Residences and 10 restaurants, bars and lounges. The award-winning Talise Ottoman spa is one of the region’s largest and finest, and includes 42 individual treatment rooms, with separate male and female areas. There are a plethora of leisure facilities available, including a pristine private beach, scuba diving, and a theatre with a private screening room.

oudoor pool JZS copy

Upon arrival, we entered the breathtaking lobby – a riot of shimmering gold, jewel-like lamps, a marble fountain and huge spiraled columns supporting a lofty ceiling adorned with an elaborate hand-painted dome, exuding the majesty and grandeur of an Ottoman palace. The front desk area showcases intricate geometric patterning, traditional zellige tile floors, and sumptuous furnishings, all moodily lit with tasseled lampshades and lavish chandeliers. Just off the lobby, the cavernous Avenue of Indulgence – with over a dozen luxury boutiques – speaks for itself.

The rich décor was replicated in a slightly subtler form in our bedroom – an Imperial One Bedroom Suite. Silks, brocades, high ceilings, parquet floors, a private balcony and a vast bathroom with a rectangular marble bath tub, big enough for a sultan were the standout features. No detail is overlooked – for instance, the toiletries are from Penhaligon’s Quercus line, which features topnotes of citrus and basil alongside base notes of sandalwood, amber and musk, complementing the environment perfectly.

One of the features of Jumeirah Zabeel Saray that sets it apart from the several similarly swanky resorts on the Palm is the Talise Ottoman Spa, which, at 8,000 square metres, is one of the largest spas in the Middle East. Containing a staggering 42 treatment rooms, eight hydrotherapy rooms, steam and snow rooms, and three beautiful Turkish hammams, it is beyond impressive. The spa is unlike any other I’ve set foot in – a true feast for the senses; paintings of sheet-draped harem girls adorn the walls in the Turkish bath, and rich incense permeates the cavernous corridors. Not for nothing has this spa been the recipient of multiple awards, including The World Travel Awards ‘UAE’s Leading Spa Resort’ three years running since 2014, amongst many other accolades.

As I was in my second trimester of pregnancy during my visit, I opted for the 60 minute Mother To Be Massage, which was utterly divine, and featured gentle yet insistent pressure, and focus on key reflexology meridians.

Talise Ottoman Spa, Dubai

Besides the palatial spa, there’s a large outdoor pool surrounded by tropical gardens, cushioned loungers, and umbrellas. Next to the pool is the beautiful private sandy beach lined with loungers, butler service, and a volleyball court. For those of a more active disposition, there are multifarious activities, both on site and further afield. Facilities within the hotel grounds include an outdoor pool, a salt-water lap pool, state-of-the-art fitness centre, two tennis courts and biking. Child-friendly facilities include the Sinbad’s Kids Club, which has two pools (one with a waterslide), and an adjacent playground, trampoline, and rock climbing wall. In addition, all guests enjoy complimentary unlimited access to Wild Wadi Waterpark and private beach. The property provides complimentary shuttle service to Wild Wadi, Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Burj Khalifa/Dubai Downtown and the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

Evening dining at Jumeirah Zabal Saray

Dining options are numerous and varied, offering everything from Northern Indian to Lebanese cuisine as well as Dubai’s first Anatolian restaurant, Lalezar. Breakfast is served in the grand Imperium restaurant, complete with rows of crystal chandeliers and neoclassical columns. All 10 eateries include the option of alfresco dining on outside terraces. In addition to the restaurants, guests can grab a cocktail at the sleek Voda Bar, while the Music Hall theatre provides evening entertainment on select nights. Spoilt for choice, we decided to dine in sympathy with our Ottoman environs at Lalezar, which offers authentic Anatolian cuisine. The restaurant is decked out in shades of brown, cream, white and of course, gold, giving it a regal finish, evocative of the 17th century Ottoman style that it seeks to emulate. We visited in December, and the ambient outdoor temperature made the outside terrace the perfect spot for our evening meal.

Whilst the restaurant is visually spectacular, the food more than lives up to its surroundings. The menu is authentic Turkish and everything is prepared to perfection. The waiting staff was especially knowledgeable, and helped me and my husband to select some of the restaurant’s specialities. The Iskender Kebab comes highly recommended; the meat is tender and the entire dish bursts with flavour. The seafood platter is also fresh and perfectly grilled. The baklava my husband and I enjoyed for pudding is the best I have tasted outside of Istanbul.

Jumeirah Zabeel Saray is the very epitome of the unabashed, lavish luxury for which Dubai is famous. It is undeniably impressive, and immaculate in its presentation, from the gold and marble entrance to the meticulously tended gardens that slope gently down to the private sandy beach. Its relatively remote location the tip of the Palm lends the place an exclusive and secluded feel, but it’s admittedly not the best choice for sightseers. However, with the countless on-site activities and onsite dining options described above, there’s little reason to leave.

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