Royal Island Beach Club is open for business on Lebanon - the only one of the islands in Dubai's The World project currently in use
A day trip to Lebanon? It's closer than you might think
The Royal Island Beach Club is now open for guests on Lebanon, the only island in use on Dubai's The World project. Alex Ritman grabs his trunks and passport for Stranded, the island's new Friday beach party
Seems like a long way to go for a day at the beach
Let's put a stop to this right now. No, it's not a long way. It's on the "Lebanon" island, the only sandy land mass currently in use in The World, Nakheel's huge man-made island project off the coast of Jumeirah.
I see. And which airlines fly there?
None, you get there by boat from the The Palm, Jumeirah. They go at various times on Fridays, cost Dh200 return per person and take roughly 20 minutes, a rather interesting journey which will see you sail past the deserted islands that make up South America, North Africa and Southern Europe.
So I don't need a visa?
Not at all. You're still in the UAE, silly. But you do need to email ahead for your boat as Stranded is strictly "guest-list only". Also, if you want to book one of the cosy private chalets (which feature their own bathroom and living room) or cabanas, you should book in advance.
And what is there to do on Lebanon? I hear Byblos is a must
Quit it. Well, it's a beach club, so expect beach clubby things. There's a pool, a volleyball net, table tennis, a few palm trees, changing rooms, a small stage with a DJ (playing the obligatory chilled-out beats), bean bags, plenty of sun loungers (with more arriving soon, apparently), restaurant, bar - oh, and some very nice stretches of sand. It's nothing new really, but its location on a man-made island in the middle of a miniaturised rendition of the world map makes the whole thing a rather unique experience.
What about the prices once you're there? I was once ripped off by a barman in Gemmayze
Are you going to keep this up all day? They're actually surprisingly reasonable, with drinks and food from the a la carte menu and barbecue no more expensive than beach clubs on the mainland. If you want a private chalet or cabana, things - obviously - get a bit more pricey, with a minimum spend on each (Dh5,000 for the chalet, Dh1,000 for the cabana).
Is there any trouble with the islands nearby?
Relations with Lebanon's neighbours are on the whole good, probably because all the other islands are completely empty.
So can I swim across and colonise these untouched lands for myself?
Sadly not. While they are tantalisingly close, Lebanon's life guards are on hand to blow on their little whistles should you venture into international waters. You'll actually be surprised how small the islands look from up close.
Finally, do they accept dirhams or will I have to change my money into Lebanese pounds?
I give up.