It’s hard to know what to expect when getting off the plane in Dubai. The images of this rapidly sprouting city of gold and glass in the desert are as diverse as its ethnic makeup. On one hand, there’s the old-school picture of bejeweled sheiks, camel caravans, and covered women, while on the other, a surfeit of glitz and glamour with ski-sloped shopping malls, shimmering skyscrapers, and bathtubs of Cristal.
At the newly opened Pullman Hotel in Deira City Center, it’s much closer to the latter. Stepping in the front door, the 4-star property masks its new-hotel smell with a flood of bamboo, lavender, and apple perfumes pumped through the air conditioning system. The olfactory stimulation is quickly followed by a physical one—a staff of mostly young, accented women draped in orange beauty contest-like sashes. Converging from the corners of the brightly polished main lobby, they espouse the hotel credo of “Anything, Anytime, Anywhere,” with equally polished smiles.
Escorting me to the elevator, they waved goodbye as I headed up to my executive suite on the 11th floor, one of 62 in the hotel. Slipping my key card into room 1129, I stepped happily into the suite, a welcome sight after nearly 14 hours of travel. I wouldn’t say the room was incredibly spacious, but certainly plenty for 1 or 2 people. The bathroom (perhaps a more welcome sight), also revealed the hotel’s French management with a bidet and products by Roger & Gallet, also orange in line with the hotel’s preferred color accent.
In the main room, the large queen size bed looked positively dangerous, at least if you want to readjust your body clock. It also sounded dangerous, with memory foam pillows, a Hypoallergenic polyester microfiber featherbed, and an Advance Pressure Support System mattress endorsed by the International Chiropractors Association.
However, as it was still just 10:00 am, I needed to go the other direction to stay awake. Step one was a serious dose of caffeine. Luckily, next to the window overlooking the roof of the adjacent Deira City Centre Mall, a Nespresso machine sat fully loaded and ready to go. Sugar stimulants were also good supply, with a selection of cookies, fruit-on-skewers, and three carafes of watermelon, green apple, and orange jus.
Suitably stimulated, it was time to explore the hotel, starting with the executive lounge, also on the 11th floor. As with everywhere in the hotel, intensely effusive greetings welcomed me as I stepped in. The staff rushed over, offering everything in the world while one began setting a table. My response of “just looking” seemed to disappoint them. “I’ll be back,” I assured them.
Next stop was the 7th floor, home of the gym, pool, and Soma Spa. To access the first two, you must step into the reception of the spa, effectively soothing in dark woods, lit candles, simmering ginger tea, and relaxing aromatic oils, all of which nearly knocked me out completely. Sensing the danger, I avoided the offered easy chair, but nonetheless scheduled an appointment for later in the evening—the delightfully sounding “Soma-Sensation Signature Ritual, which promised 90 minutes of massages, organic French green clay, and warmed healing honey. (And yes, it felt even better than it sounded).
The gym that lay beyond was remarkably big for a hotel, with one full room of cardio equipment and another of free weights and body building machines.
The outdoor pool was a flight up. Surrounding it, a number of cushioned lounge chairs and curtained day beds promised deep relaxation, plus a view of spiraling highway connectors and distant skyscrapers. Later, I took a dip, and was a little surprised to find the water heated to 84 °F (29 °C), making it a bit hard to find a cooling refreshment. Perhaps if I tried it during the 100 °F-degree summer months, I’d feel differently. For the time being, however, it was enough to cool down with a chilled passion fruit martini from the pool bar.
Now peckish, I proceeded to the hotel’s dining areas, most of which are on the second floor. Much like Dubai itself, the main dining room featured a cosmopolitan buffet encompassing nearly every major cuisine in the world, including classic eggs and bacon (turkey), French pastries, Indian curries, and Middle Eastern mezes. The great unifier was the dessert table is in the back corner, stacked with enough tortes, candies, and chocolate fountains to inspire Willy Wonka fantasies.
The hotel’s other notable restaurant, La Fabrique, also serves as the nightlife hotspot. By 11, the place fills up with a hodge-podge of global citizens, both from the hotel itself and outside (alcohol is legal in hotels). Part of the fun is picking out the nationalities of those around you. However, like most Euro-style discotheques, the high volume of live DJ, drives many (at least those who want conversation), to the back half of the room. Of course, after several cocktails, everyone is shouting anyway.
Much like Dubai itself, a stay at the Pullman Dubai Deira City Centre is an overwhelming experience—in attention, kindness, and service. If you’re someone delighted by the simple things in life, it might seem a tad much. However, if you’re like the businessman in the elevator with me, bitterly complaining about having to climb a single flight of stairs, it might not seem enough. But your average guest will no doubt leave with a smile as big as the greeters in the lobby. I know I did.