Spas and shopping in the land of luxury

Marina district in Duba
Marina district in Duba
A Ryanair plane. Picture: Wiki Commons (labelled for reuse)

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As I look up at the beautiful mosaic ceiling, I sigh indulgently as the masseuse pours silky suds all over my freshly exfoliated skin.

I’m having my first ever Turkish hammam and I like it a lot.

Afterwards, as I’m given a fluffy bath robe and tucked into a cosy alcove, I think to myself: ‘This is the life.’

In Dubai, where historical landmarks are in short supply, the spa takes centre stage as part of the daytime activities in a girls’ getaway.

I’ve come to the emirate with a group of friends to discover whether or not a long weekend here is worth the six-and-a-half-hour flight.

Almost immediately, I discover the stories I’ve heard about Dubai’s excess and luxury are true.

Home to the seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel, this is a destination that takes both customer service and grandeur very seriously.

But I also learn that a lot of the preconceptions people have about supposed strict laws in this man-made city aren’t entirely accurate.

In fact, I find the blissfully serene experience at the Talise Ottoman Spa in the gold-encrusted Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel on the Palm Island, to be the calm before the hedonistic storm.

On arrival at the hotel – where Hollywood stars including John Travolta and Susan Sarandon have stayed – we are instantly made to feel like VIPs.

My fancy hotel room has a view across the sea, and in the morning, speedboats and yachts float past my balcony .

In the bathroom there’s a marble tub that would easily fit four people and a gold sink. But the ultimate display of tailored luxury is the dressing gown folded up on my bed which has my name sewn on.

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Travelbag (travelbag.co.uk; 0845 543 6615) offers two nights at the five-star Jumeirah Zabeel Saray on The Palm (half-board) and two nights at the five-star Jumeirah Emirates Towers (half-board) from £779 per person, including direct flights with Royal Brunei from London Heathrow.

Book by June 30 for travel in July 2014.

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One of Dubai’s key attractions is undoubtedly the 
variety and quality of the food – with truffle and foie gras a daily offering.

In pursuit of memorable eats, we book into the famous Friday brunch at the hotel’s Imperium restaurant.

Lebanese dishes, sushi, trays of roast meat, oysters, pies, breads and a whole lot more take pride of place on beautifully decorated tables in a huge dining room lit by chandeliers.

As digestion sets in, we struggle across town to get a taste of the city itself, moving into the Jumeirah Emirates Towers.

Here, from my bed, I have the pleasure of looking out at the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, through an enormous floor to ceiling window.

Now we’re in the city, it’s time for some retail therapy and we visit the souks.

After haggling for a good price, I come away with a cerise pink pashmina and a very cool handbag.

To get a feel for the more traditional side of Dubai, we go on a Platinum Heritage desert safari and have breakfast with a Bedouin man.

We travel in an open-top vintage Land Rover through the Arabian sands, before arriving at a camp where we’re served noodles with oregano-soaked bread.

After a quick puff on the strawberry-flavoured shisha, it’s time for the obligatory camel ride, with all of us in Arab headscarves, taking to the animals two by two, prompting giggles aplenty.

But if the trip had a theme tune it would be Madonna’s Material Girl, because there is no doubting Dubai’s worship of materialism, money, exclusivity and luxury.