Tur­tles and ho­tel guests are be­ing coaxed back to fit­ness in the re­cently opened Jumeirah Al Naseem, dis­cov­ers Do­minic El­lis

Business Traveller (Middle East) - - Contents -

Tur­tles and ho­tel guests are be­ing coaxed back to fit­ness in the re­cently opened Jumeirah Al Naseem, dis­cov­ers Do­minic El­lis

Ashort walk from the busy break­fast in The Palmery at Jumeirah Al Naseem, I’m in an al­to­gether more tran­quil spot watch­ing tur­tles glide up, down and around an 150-me­tre la­goon. They’re easy on the eye and large in­for­ma­tive signs pro­vide details of dif­fer­ent species. I’m alone in this re­treat within a re­treat, mar­vel­ling at the tur­tles’ range of ages and sizes; not even sea­soned divers may have seen adults this large (the big­gest is 110kgs).

The la­goon bridges Al Naseem and the rest of Mad­i­nat Jumeirah, which stretches out along the ad­ja­cent buggy-strewn path­ways, and the prime po­si­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate since the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion project is a linch­pin in Jumeirah’s CSR drive; it’s the first ho­tel glob­ally to fea­ture a sea fed and cus­tomde­signed tur­tle la­goon for re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing crit­i­cally en­dan­gered sea tur­tles.

We’re only stay­ing one night but after sev­eral vis­its to the Fam­ily Lounge, din­ner on the Rock­fish ter­race fac­ing Burj Al Arab (lit up tonight for Chi­nese New Year), deep sleep in an Ocean Su­pe­rior room, half-an-hour kayak­ing, spot of bad­minton, game of ta­ble ten­nis, and swim in two pools – rounded off with a warm Jacuzzi soak at sun­set – I’m ready to go again, and I’ve not gone any­where near the Talise Spa (the enor­mous bath­room, stocked with gen­er­ous Amouage toi­letries, felt like a mini-spa in any case). Through set­tings and ser­vices, re­sorts have this recharg­ing power that few city ho­tels can ri­val, and when it comes to the breadth of ser­vice of­fer­ing, few can hold a can­dle to Mad­i­nat.

For the tur­tles, it takes a lit­tle longer, any­thing from two to three months for the smaller ones to 18 months for the largest. The ma­jor­ity are ju­ve­nile hawks­bills, which are found washed up on the Gulf coast­line dur­ing De­cem­ber, Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary, suf­fer­ing from the ad­verse ef­fects of cold sea tem­per­a­tures, in­gest­ing plas­tic rub­bish and in­juries sus­tained from boats and wa­ter craft. Dur­ing the re­cov­ery process, they

are sub­jected to on­go­ing ve­teri­nary ex­am­i­na­tion and mon­i­tor­ing, with ap­pro­pri­ate med­i­ca­tion or surgery be­ing ad­min­is­tered as nec­es­sary.

The hard­back book, Mad­i­nat Jumeirah 10 years of

Her­itage at the Ara­bian Re­sort of Dubai (pub­lished by Mo­ti­vate), states: ‘Smaller tur­tles are gen­er­ally the fastest to re­cover. How­ever some are sim­ply too badly wounded to re­turn to the wild; they re­main at Mad­i­nat Jumeirah where qual­ity of life is en­sured’.

Jumeirah’s com­mit­ment to tur­tle con­ser­va­tion stretches back to 2004 when the Dubai Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Tur­tle Project (to­gether with Dubai’s Wildlife Pro­tec­tion Of­fice) first made waves, but this fa­cil­ity takes it to another level. To date, more than 1,090 res­cued tur­tles have been re­turned to Dubai’s wa­ters.

The project has three main goals: to res­cue, re­ha­bil­i­tate and re­lease back into the wild any sea tur­tles that are found sick or in­jured through­out the re­gion; ed­u­cate lo­cal chil­dren, cit­i­zens and in­ter­na­tional ho­tel guests about sea tur­tle bi­ol­ogy and the lo­cal and global plight of the sea tur­tle (since we’re re­spon­si­ble for two of the three main causes); and to un­der­stand the suc­cess of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and to re­search tur­tle move­ments through­out the re­gion and be­yond via a satel­lite track­ing ini­tia­tive (one trav­elled an as­ton­ish­ing 8,600km in nine months, al­most reach­ing the coast of Thai­land). Last year, a cou­ple of tur­tles were tagged and re­leased and the re­sort re­ports pos­i­tive progress.

I take one last look as two adults pop up for air, one re­veal­ing a beau­ti­ful brown-and-white pat­terned head and the other show­ing vast bul­bous eyes and small sharp teeth.

Tur­tle feed­ing hap­pens each Wed­nes­day at 11am and the first re­lease from the new re­sort will be in April.


Com­pared with Mina A’Salam, Dar Al Masyaf and Al Qasr, Al Naseem is a more con­tem­po­rary Ara­bi­anthemed ho­tel. Emi­rati artist Mat­tar Bin La­hej was com­mis­sioned to cre­ate a num­ber of state­ment art pieces such as the large stain­less steel car­a­van of camels run­ning on wa­ter, which is lo­cated out­side the ho­tel’s en­trance.

Another sculp­ture, be­hind the lobby, is a poem writ­ten in Ara­bic calligraphy by Dubai’s ruler HH Sheikh Mo­hammed Bin Rashid Al Mak­toum.

Burj Al Arab is vis­i­ble be­yond back­drop glass on ar­rival (or at least the lower half), although it’s not quite as open or panoramic as I imag­ined. You won’t find pots and pans sus­pended in thin air else­where in Mad­i­nat, but it seems to work at the en­trance to The Palmery, sim­i­larly the Be­douin camp etch­ings on the room walls lend a lighter Arabesque qual­ity. Two gal­lop­ing horses, painted deep blue, make for an ar­rest­ing sight to the right of the lobby as we walked to the rooms.

Al Mand­har Lounge makes for a pleas­ant af­ter­noon tea spot but we were es­corted on­wards to the Fam­ily Lounge (go­ing down to ground, the lobby level is 2), op­po­site a com­pre­hen­sive kids’ club, which served a range of re­gional and in­ter­na­tional light

bites, and com­ple­mented by a juice bar (wine in the evenings) in the cor­ner.

There’s plenty to sat­isfy ev­ery palate here; the Jumeirah-logo-topped sweets on the Moroc­can and Turk­ish tray made me smile and along­side the fresh­est moutabel were cu­cum­ber sand­wiches and later, de­li­cious mini-burg­ers, ac­com­pa­nied by a wide range of hot bev­er­ages. Black-and-white tra­di­tional Ara­bian prints hang on the walls, and the ter­race af­fords views of the Wadi pool. We spot­ted a fa­mous foot­ball man­ager with his young fam­ily, much to the ex­cite­ment of 10-year-old; such is the way with Jumeirah lounges.

An el­e­vated area above, ac­ces­si­ble via steps, con­tains the adult-only pool and Su­garMash but most will head to the huge one that dom­i­nates the back, com­plete with at­trac­tive wind chimes and sec­tions for Jacuzzi jets. None of the pools was es­pe­cially deep although safety wasn’t com­pro­mised with life­guards at ev­ery turn. The chil­dren’s pool had foun­tain jets but looked more suit­able for younger ones.

Our fourth floor rooms (#410/#412), left from the lift, were ideal for ex­tra dis­cre­tion while the other rooms lined up fur­ther along the cor­ri­dor to the right. The ‘bal­cony’ was just a rail, but it didn’t seem to mat­ter as the slid­ing doors had knock-out views of Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Ho­tel; the one caveat with the rooms this side is the con­stant traf­fic to and from the Burj, and sur­round­ing mu­sic, in the af­ter­noon (we stayed Fri­day), but I slept soundly in the evening.

For din­ner, we ate out­side on the Rock­fish ter­race where ser­vice was a cu­ri­ous mix of at­ten­tive and care­less with food ar­riv­ing promptly but there was no drinks menu; when we asked, we were given a white rec­om­men­da­tion which didn’t ar­rive, and half way through the mains we were poured a glass of Rosé. Around the ta­ble, the prawns were whole­some, sliced scal­lops fresh and my tur­bot wrapped in vine leaves and cous­cous fine, if a lit­tle dry, even with the sauce ac­com­pa­ni­ment – the same for my part­ner’s seafood mixed grill.

Four ex­ter­nal restau­rants, op­er­ated by in­ter­na­tional names, in­clude ar­ti­san burg­ers from New York’s Black Tap; Tus­can Il Borro by Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo(see video on face­­nessTrav­ellerME); the Philippe Starck-de­signed Ja­panese Kat­suya (work on­go­ing dur­ing our stay); and Dubai-based brand Flamin­gos by Tasha’s.

We rounded off the stay with lunch at the ca­sual Kalsa Pool Bar, whose menu in­cludes tra­di­tional Ital­ian street food, and I liked the pizza fritta Fiorentina (ri­cotta, spinach, pine seeds, AED50), ac­com­pa­nied by a Mar­rakech Ap­ples mock­tail (fresh lime, mint, ap­ple juice and syrup), which came in a cock­tail glass.

Right: Aerial view of re­sort show­ing main pool and Wadi pool Be­low: A tur­tle comes up for air in the la­goon

Top: Ocean Suite

In­set and right: Tur­tles are easy to spot and in­for­ma­tive signs are around the la­goon.

Be­low: Rock­fish prawns

In­set: Fam­ily lounge mini-burg­ers

Top: Kayak­ing after break­fast Left: Lobby level

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