Feature Want a taste of what it's like to have everything you could possibly wish for? Spend a night in the Imperial Suite at the Fairmont in Dubai.
Fairmont Dubai: Robbie Williams stayed here once
After a certain age it is tough to come up with original ideas for your birthday. Once you've grown out of ice cream and karaoke (actually does one ever grow out of karaoke?) you're left with rather dull choices like going out for dinner or possibly seeing a film. So my husband, Rupert, and I were rather relieved, as neither of us can sing and we're sick of having dinner with each other, when the Fairmont Hotel in Dubai asked if we would like to try out their newly refurbished Imperial Suite. And it just happened to be free on Rupert's birthday. What better way to forget one's age than be surrounded by luxury and loveliness?
"There are three bedrooms," we are told. We think (very) briefly about bringing the children. "It's probably not a good idea," says Rupert. "I agree," I say. Good start. We are only going for one night but I pack about 17 outfits because you never know what might happen to you when you're in an Imperial Suite. Also the choice of outfits is tricky. Having never been in an Imperial Suite, I am unsure of the dress code. I imagine a long, flowing pure silk La Perla dressing gown and ivory satin slippers would be appropriate. Sadly, last time I looked I didn't have either, so I pack just about everything else instead.
We almost get divorced finding the Fairmont Dubai (no change there, the same thing happened on the first day of our honeymoon) but we decide we will stay together when we are introduced to our personal butler, Jamal. Much more effective than a marriage counsellor, he ushers us into our suite and shows us around. "Robbie Williams stayed here once," he tells us proudly. The suite is indeed imperial. It is vast, luxurious, and has a view that I think could be outdone only by the Burj Khalifa.
It is one of six exclusive penthouse suites on the 34th floor of the Fairmont Dubai, combining, according to the press package, "contemporary cool mixed with Arabic classicism and a splash of colour". I'm not sure what all that means but it is certainly one of the more opulent places I have ever stayed in. For a start there is a Jacuzzi, which is set in a room with murals depicting desert scenes. So you can lie there and pretend you're in an oasis.
The whole hotel has recently undergone a whopping Dh35 million refurbishment. I try to work out how many nights you would have to let out the Imperial Suite for at Dh30,000 a pop in order to recoup that, but it's too exhausting. Instead I focus on Jamal my personal butler, who is asking me what I would like to drink. I ask for a green tea; he reels off a list of about 20 green teas I can choose from. On the table in the dining-cum-drawing-cum-sitting room (which is bigger than most apartments) is enough fruit to feed a family for a week as well as a beautiful chocolate birthday cake and small perfect chocolates on china plates.
For a moment I regret not bringing the children. They would have loved it. But I manage to console myself by eating half the chocolate cake. There is just time to fit in a massage before dinner. We go for a double aromatherapy stress release massage with two therapists at the Willow Stream Spa. Well, we need some stress release after a couple of hours of being waited on hand and foot and struggling to get in and out of the Jacuzzi.
We change for dinner and head off to Spectrum on One for dinner. Obviously as we are in the Imperial Suite we aren't just given a normal table but a private dining room, with a chaise longue. I long to ask the waiter what the longue is used for, but guess it must be for a little rest between courses. In case I am asleep the staff politely knock before they come in with our delicious dinner, chosen from six different great cuisines.
Back at the suite we head to one of the three double bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. This is quite clever, because if you were sharing with another couple, they are all pretty much the same so none of you end up feeling you've drawn the short straw while the other couple lives it up in the master bedroom. "Goodnight, darling," says my husband. "I had a lovely birthday." Then he starts snoring. Oh blast. I suppose as it's still technically his birthday I can't hit him over the head with a pillow. So instead I get up and move to one of the other two rooms. I wonder which one Robbie Williams slept in?
I make my way to one and get into bed. The lights are still on. Where the hell is the light switch? It seems to be controlled by some complicated contraption on the wall and it makes no difference whether I stroke it, bash it or even swear at it in Italian. I go to the other room and find it is the same story. Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned light switch? After a full 40 minutes of trying to work it out I concede defeat and call for help. A maintenance man arrives and I am relieved to report he can't switch the lights off either. He has to take the bulbs out. I bet Robbie Williams didn't have this problem.
We leave the following morning. I am rather sad to be out in the real world and robbed of my "princess" status. But it was nice to see what it's like to have everything you could possibly wish for in life, except possibly a light switch, even if it was only for a few hours. A single night's stay in the Imperial Suite at the Fairmont Hotel in Dubai costs US$8,168 (Dh30,000), including the services of a personal butler. For more information or reservations, call 1 800 441 1414 or visit www.fairmont.com