ES­CAPE

Elle (Canada) - - Story Board - By Noreen Flana­gan

There’s lux­ury—

and then there’s the OTT

in­dul­gence found in Dubai.

Dubai’s sci-fi mod­ern scene re­de­fines the jet-set life­style.

n Dubai, you quickly dis­cover that if some­thing isn’t the first, the big­gest or the most ex­pen­sive, it doesn’t be­long here. This is a place that lives up to its billing as “the city of su­perla­tives.” The sky­line—with its grandil­o­quent collection of glass sky­scrapers—has a Jet­sons-like fu­tur­is­tic vibe. But in­stead of fly­ing cars, the high­ways are lined with Lam­borgh­i­nis and Fer­raris. The Dubai po­lice even cruise around in $300,000+ McLaren sports cars. As one of my taxi driv­ers said: “You have to be re­ally rich to not feel re­ally poor in this town.” To com­mem­o­rate my week-long ad­ven­ture in this Arab king­dom, here are five per­sonal records that I racked up.

1. MY FIRST FIRST- CLASS EMI­RATES A380 RIDE

I smiled when I re­cently read David Owen’s “Game of Thrones” ar­ti­cle in The New Yorker about how air­lines cater to the 1 per­cent. He re­counts his in­au­gu­ral ad­ven­ture in first class and how he didn’t want to look like a “front-of-the­p­lane rookie.” I know what he means. When I learned that I was be­ing up­graded from busi­ness (I know, cry me a river) to first class, I had to re­sist do­ing a fist-pump­ing vic­tory dance. The fact that I was trav­el­ling with my new boss—who wasn’t get­ting an up­grade—also tem­pered my OTT enthusiasm for this un­ex­pected glimpse of life as a 1-per­center. Owen writes that it’s not un­usual for people who travel long dis­tances in high style to con­sider the flight the best part of the trip. I couldn’t agree more. When I think of my time in Dubai, it’s the 15 hours I spent on the flight get­ting there that tops my list of mem­o­rable mo­ments: the cock­tail bar, the on-board Wi-Fi and the suites—I mean first-class seats. Owen de­scribes them as “bed­room­like mi­cro-palaces.” When I blogged about the ex­pe­ri­ence, I de­scribed my fluffed and feath­ered nest—with its shut­tered doors—as “an adult bassinet with ul­tra-luxe gold and mar­ble fin­ishes.”

Then there’s the on-board shower. Yes, shower. Emi­rates is the only pas­sen­ger air­line that of­fers such rock-star in­dul­gence, and I was only too game to ex­pe­ri­ence a five-minute shower at 40,000 feet. The spa­like set­ting is the size of a small gal­ley kitchen, com­plete with heated floors and luxe Time­less Spa prod­ucts on dis­play. When I emerged, there was an at­ten­dant wait­ing out­side to of­fer me fresh fruit and hot gin­ger tea. Only then did I no­tice a woman, wrapped in a blan­ket, stand­ing against the wall at the bot­tom of a flight of stairs that were cor­doned off with a vel­vet rope. She had that

dis­tinc­tive—oh, I know it so well—econ­omy-class look of a poor wretch who hadn’t slept a wink. I slipped back into my gilded oa­sis, know­ing full well that I was an in­ter­loper on bor­rowed time.

2. MY FIRST DUNE- BUGGY + CAMEL RIDES IN THE DESERT

I’ve rid­den a snort­ing, snot-fling­ing ele­phant in Nepal and, more re­cently, a feisty mule as part of a four-hour ex­treme ad­ven­ture in the Mex­i­can jun­gle—but it took only a brief ride on a one-humped un­gu­late to reac­quaint me with my long-dor­mant oblique mus­cles. #ouch. Ac­cord­ing to my Jeep driver, a “Be­douin mas­sage” would work out the kinks. For those of you who haven’t been on a desert-dune-buggy ride, that’s the jolts and jabs you ex­pe­ri­ence as the Jeep lands on two wheels af­ter catch­ing a lit­tle air. I had signed up for the “hard ride” be­cause the “soft ride” was for wimps. When I asked him where he learned to drive, he laughed and said, “In my bed­room...on Nin­tendo!” A few days later, my obliques, quads, tri­ceps, glutes—you name it—were put through the paces with Burj Club trainer Thomas Woolf. I tried to dis­tract him by get­ting him to talk about his crowd­sourc­ing site for char­ity (just­giv­ing. com), but he saw through that ruse fairly quickly. “I know what you’re do­ing, Noreen—get mov­ing.” Busted!

Af­ter our ses­sion, I headed to the Ar­mani Spa to ex­pe­ri­ence my first (and quite likely my last) Thai mas­sage. My ther­a­pist was lovely and tal­ented—it was my body that wasn’t in­ter­ested in be­ing bent out of shape or walked on. “You should stick to deep-tis­sue mas­sage,” she said, clearly flum­moxed by the hu­man two-by-four ly­ing on her mat.

3. MY FIRST HENNA TAT­TOO

I had re­quested some­thing “min­i­mal” and “ar­chi­tec­tural” with straight lines. The artist looked at me, paused and then started to draw in­tri­cate swirls, dots and pais­ley shapes. Less is more—Mid­dle East­ern-style.

4. MY FIRST TIME BE­ING 124 STOREYS IN THE AIR

Only Sheik Mo­hammed bin Rashid Al Mak­toum and his in­vited guests have been to the very top of the 828-me­tre (163-floor) Burj Khal­ifa tower. How­ever, on the 122nd floor— in­side the h

At­mos­phere lounge dur­ing high tea—you still get an im­pres­sive view of the desert and the nearby Ara­bian Gulf. You can also spot some of the world’s most ex­pen­sive hand­bags on the arms of women wear­ing black abaya robes and hi­jabs. There are Birkin bags (yes, plu­ral) and Chanel 2.55 flap bags too nu­mer­ous to count. Af­ter tea (and bub­bles), I went two floors above to the out­door Ob­ser­va­tory Deck (the high­est in the world) and asked a guide whether they re­ally had vi­o­lent dust storms like the one that en­gulfed the tower in Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble: Ghost Pro­to­col. “Only in the movies!” he said, laugh­ing. “You mean this city was trumped by Hol­ly­wood hy­per­bole?” I replied. Af­ter snap­ping some ver­tigo- in­duc­ing pho­to­graphs, I made my way to the el­e­va­tor. Five men, dressed in im­pec­ca­ble long white tu­nics and equally pris­tine white kaf­fiyeh head scarves, joined me. “They must have fixed the noise prob­lem; it’s qui­eter now,” one of them com­mented to his friends as we whizzed to the bot­tom in the fastest dou­ble-decker and long­est el­e­va­tor in the world. “Was it very noisy?” I asked. “Oh, yes, it used to sound like wire be­ing cut.” Gulp.

5. MY FIRST TRUF­FLE- THEMED CHEF’S MENU

Stay­ing at the Ar­mani Ho­tel in Dubai is a stark re­minder of how a min­i­mal­ist aes­thetic is such a Western sen­si­bil­ity. Gior­gio Ar­mani, in par­tic­u­lar, is a mas­ter at un­der­stated el­e­gance, whether it’s his fash­ions or his posh ho­tels. “When we first opened, people weren’t sure how to re­act,” ex­plained Shona Mac Sweeney, di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the ho­tel—which is lo­cated at the base of the Burj Khal­ifa. “Guests kept ask­ing us if it was fin­ished. When they pay for lux­ury, they ex­pect golden op­u­lence. It has taken some time— and some ed­u­ca­tion on our part— to ex­plain why this is lux­u­ri­ous in its sim­plic­ity.” The meal I had that night in Ar­mani/Ris­torante, how­ever, was any­thing but sim­ple. The sev­en­course truf­fle-themed menu was a de­li­ciously com­pli­cated, un­ex­pected med­ley of flavours with earthy black and fra­grant white truf­fles as the star in­gre­di­ents. The high­light? The Mont Blanc sphere with mar­ron con­fit, caramelized pear, meringue and white-truf­fle ice cream. The next day when I was check­ing out, the door­man in­formed me that they would be bring­ing the Bent­ley around to pick me up. I’m prac­ti­cally car il­lit­er­ate, but even I know that a Bent­ley is a posh ride. “What a beau­ti­ful car,” I re­marked to my driver. “Yes, it’s only for beau­ti­ful women to ride in.” (These wheels may cost more than $200,000, but flat­tery at 6 in the morn­ing is price­less.) h

If you’ve never seen a desert sun­set, you should add it to your bucket list.

The set­ting for Noreen’s truf­fle show­down at Ar­mani/Ris­torante, where dessert (left) came with white-truf­fle ice cream—#del­ish; Noreen’s ride (be­low)

The view from the 122nd floor of the Burj Khal­ifa tower

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