As if you couldn't build anything else in Dubai, the rapid-growing city -- the most cosmopolitan in the Middle East -- is on a development spree, serving up a host of new royal amenities for its affluent travelers. Dubai has reason to be bullish. While the global financial crisis delivered a strong blow in 2009 (when hundreds of expats fled the city due to grim prospects), Dubai has fully bounced back. Hotel revenue reached $3.18 billion for the first half of 2013, in addition to an 11 percent increase in visitors from 2012. The city projects 20 million annual visitors by 2020, with an upsurge in visitors from the U.S. Additionally, award-winning Emirates, Dubai’s flagship airline, now offers three daily nonstop flights between New York and Dubai, and the inaugural 489-seat A380 out of Los Angeles debuted December 2.
An estimated 56 million passengers passed through the international airport in 2012, and major tourism projects that were left on hold are now complete, like Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali, two of the three manmade islands in Dubai. Here’s what’s happening in the top Middle Eastern city, where upcoming events include the Dubai World Cup horse race, Art Dubai fair and Middle East Film and Comic Con.
Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts officially opened Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah this past month. The 319-room hotel has a prime beachfront setting, six restaurants and bars and two temperature-controlled outdoor pools. Rooms start at $680.
Opened last September, the 293-room Anantara Dubai The Palm is on the eastern crescent of the Palm Jumeirah and has the first glass-floored over-water villas in the UAE. The resort features floating market-style boats to take guests across the lagoon. Over-water villas from $1,238.
The iconic Raffles Dubai unveiled the Dubai Floor last May, an ultra-luxe, 21,500-square-foot residential sanctuary on the 14th floor. There are only six rooms and suites, a spa, private kitchens, private elevator, dedicated chauffeur with limo, butler and a cinema. From $23,100 for the floor.
Inaugurated Nov. 4 by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum (CEO/chairman of The Emirates Group), The Oberoi Dubai opened with 252 rooms overlooking the Burj Khalifa. Chef Nakagawa, the head chef at Umai, is one of very few in the UAE licensed to prepare the fugu blowfish, and the spa is open 24 hours, the first of its kind in the city. Rooms from $325.
Speaking of spas, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, the Ottoman-inspired resort on Palm Jumeirah, debuted the bespoke Margy's Facial in the Talise Ottoman Spa. The 24-karat gold chain mask facial is $6,800, the most expensive facial in the world.
New York City’s famed institution Clinton Street Baking Company opened its Dubai outpost (following Tokyo) this past January. Diners wait up to two hours at its original Lower East Side location for a table, thanks to its fresh-baked breads and hearty breakfasts.
Sass Cafe, a popular celebrity haunt in Monaco (frequented by guests like Lady Gaga, Elton John and Penelope Cruz) opened last month. The piano-bar restaurant will feature its Mediterranean menu and views of the Burj Khalifa from the terrace.
The trendy nightlife/fine dining establishment Supperclub (with spots in Amsterdam, Istanbul, San Francisco, L.A. and London) made its debut last summer at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray. Meanwhile, celebrity chef Richard Sandoval’s Maya relaunched last February at Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa. There are approximately 20 celebrity chef-helmed restaurants in Dubai.
Dubai World Cup, the world’s most expensive horse race with prize money totaling $27.25 million, returns March 29. Races started this past November.
Art Dubai, showcasing various galleries from 30 countries, returns March 19-22 with modern and contemporary artwork.
The region’s most anticipated event, Middle East Film and Comic Con, returns April 4-5 with actors (Seth Green), artists (V for Vendetta’s David Lloyd), art and exhibitions.