JEDDAH: I’ve frequently visited the busiest emirate of them all, Dubai, with my family, and specifically my mother. When my superiors came up to me with this trip to Dubai, I was enthusiastic, yes, but I felt there was nothing left for me to discover in Dubai. How terribly presumptuous of me.
I checked into the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, which left us — I treated my mother to an impromptu trip — completely in awe. We spent the rest of the day wandering around The Dubai Mall and devouring some Lebanese food at Al Wafi Gourmet, something that had become a ritual of ours on countless Dubai visits.
Bright and early the next day, I was treated to an insightful tour of the Kempinski hotel’s facilities by Marketing Director Bianca Cartin, starting with the Aspen Chalets overlooking the indoor ski ramp, Ski Dubai.
The suite, or mini-cabin, transported us into a city in northern Europe with its sophisticated yet cozy ambience. I was fairly impressed with the electronic fireplace running, as I settled down on the sofa and observed families enjoying the slopes.
Later, we were shown the tennis court, swimming pool, in-house spa and the hotel’s Brazilian restaurant, Texas De Brazil, which garnered a noticeable drop in enthusiasm from the entire team as, frankly, nothing could top the chalets.
We then headed to City Center Mirdif and the mall’s managerial duo took us on a round trip across two stories of easy, accessible shopping, before leaving us in front of iFly Dubai.
To experience skydiving without the complications and distress that comes with jumping off a plane is breathtaking. iFly Dubai is the first to offer that inside a 10-meter wind tunnel in a shopping mall, where an instructor — Julie, in my case — helps adjust your form and signals for her partner to adjust the airflow depending on the guest’s adaptability and how safe they feel within the tunnel. To be able to let myself go and watch the ground diminish before me while being sure Julie was an arm’s length away in case anything went wrong was liberating and absolutely empowering.
Our evening was spent strolling around City Walk — an outdoor urban retail complex, with restaurants and a central fountain, and exploring Hub Zero: Home to a plethora of hyper-reality experiences for children and adults.We started out with a Final Fantasy VII spin-off where we join Cloud Strife and his party to save the fictional land of Midgar from a monstrous Behemoth, and then moving on to Double Agent where I got to act out my favorite scene from 1999’s “Entrapment,” in which Catherine Zeta-Jones avoids laser beams to steal a Chinese mask from a museum.
Our last leg at City Walk consisted of a stop at the award-winning chocolate store, Boutique Le Chocolat (that has the chocolatier world’s equivalent of an Academy Award, pictured below), where we were spoiled with all kinds of flavored chocolate. We were also swept into Le BHV Marais, “the Parisian’s favorite department store,” before finally dining at Cocoa Kitchen, where every recipe is accentuated with cocoa.