World Traveller December 2018




Mexico calls

Dreamy days in Riviera Maya

Produced in Dubai Production City






SEASON’S GREETINGS @jatheresort @jatheresort

JA Jingle


Get ready to ho ho ho and spend a

magical festive season with us

Christmas Tree Lighting: 13 th Dec | 6pm – 8pm

Winter Wonderland: 13 th Dec – 9 th Jan 2019 | 4pm – 10pm

Christmas Eve Dinner: 24 th Dec | 7pm – 11pm

Christmas Lunch: 25 th Dec | 12.30pm – 3.30pm

Sunset Pool Party: 28 th Dec | 7pm – 11pm

New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner: 31 st Dec | 7pm till late

New Year’s Resolution Brunch: 1 st Jan | 11am – 3.30pm

Eastern Christmas Dinner: 6 th Jan | 6pm – 11pm

For bookings or more information please contact us on:

+971 4 814 5604 |








As another year draws to a close – how time flies! – the places we've

visited and the people we've met along the way have shaped us,

which is what makes travelling such a valuable experience.

The World Traveller team has ticked a fair few travel goals off

the list, from a family-friendly holiday in Seminyak to a luxurious

Managing Director

Victoria Thatcher

Editorial Director

John Thatcher

General Manager

David Wade

Managing Editor

Faye Bartle

Content Writer

Habiba Azab

Art Director

Kerri Bennett

Senior Designer

Hiral Kapadia

Senior Advertising Manager

Mia Cachero

Production Manager

Muthu Kumar


summer city break in the UK capital and a solo adventure to

vibrant Thailand. We've enjoyed sharing a selection of our best

travel stories – and those of our contributors – with you, and we

hope that we have provided plenty of food for thought when it

comes to organising your next trip.

If you're looking to get away for holidays, turn to page 21

where our travel insider Emily Williams highlights the best

places to welcome in the New Year. If Edinburgh appeals, be

sure to read our locals' guide (page 26), in which three insiders

reveal the must-see sights and experiences. If you prefer to stay

closer to home, our mini guide to Abu Dhabi (page 58), inspired

by UAE National Day, highlights everything we love about the

capital, including a few new discoveries. See you in 2019!

Happy travels,

Faye Bartle

Find us at…


FACEBOOK @worldtravellermagazine

INSTAGRAM @dnataworldtraveller

TWITTER @WT_Magazine

p22 Toro Toro's


shares his best eats

p24 Interior designer and


opens her travel journal


tells us how to explore

Edinburgh on foot

Photography credits:

Getty Images and Phocal Media

Reproduction in whole or in part

without written permission from

HOT Media Publishing is strictly

prohibited. All prices mentioned

are correct at time of press

but may change. HOT Media

Publishing does not accept

liability for omissions or errors in

World Traveller.

Tel: 00971 4 364 2876

Fax: 00971 4 369 7494


Hotel Esencia


Find out how you can

win a three-night stay

at Reethi Faru Resort

in Maldives, on

page 79


of Travel Junkie Diary,

shares her great escapes

World Traveller 3


December 2018


Velaa Private Island


8 15 21 22





From the Abu Dhabi desert to

Wild travel experiences, feel-

dnata Travel’s Emily Williams

Richard Sandoval transports us

a frosted lake in Hangzhou and

good breaks and new adventures

selects the best places to

to his favourite restaurants in

the forests of Karnataka

on your doorstep

welcome in the New Year

Miami, Mexico City and New York

24 26 80


Interior designer and author Leyla

Uluhanli shares the trips that

inspire her, in work and in life


Three insiders share the best arts and

culture spots, foodie delights and mustsee

sights of this vibrant city


Get into the bohemian vibe of the

Left Bank at the boutique Hotel

Montalembert in Paris

World Traveller 5






Ancient temples, mystic caves, weird

critters: Mexico’s Riviera Maya serves

up surreal, unforgettable adventures




In revisiting Istanbul, Nick Redman

finds himself reunited

with his old flame



With futuristic architecture and

mountains all around, Innsbruck is a

city break and a ski holiday in one


58 63 64 73



We shine a light on the UAE

capital’s enduring appeal


Michelle Karam, founder

of Travel Junkie Diary, shares

her best adventures


Enjoy a well-deserved

weekend away at these

luxurious hotels and resorts


Take advantage of

our exclusive deals for

your next adventure

6 World Traveller

Inspiration. Expertly crafted.

Comprising two iconic towers, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, the world’s tallest 5-star hotel,

is centrally located beside the Dubai Water Canal and offers a spectrum of facilities and services for

a seamless experience. The hotel features: 1,608 luxurious guest rooms and suites,

over 15 award-winning restaurants and lounges, Saray Spa featuring traditional hammams,

a Dead Sea Floatation Pool and 17 treatment rooms, state-of-the-art health club and fitness facilities,

as well as 8,000 sqm of spectacular meeting spaces.

JW Marriott® Marquis® Hotel Dubai

Sheikh Zayed Road, Business Bay, PO Box 121000, Dubai, UAE | T +971.4.414.0000 |

8 World Traveller




The world's largest sand desert, on the outskirts of the

emirate, is the place to live out your Arabian dreams.

Journey to Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, which

appears like a mirage amid the dunes, but don’t be fooled

by the stillness of the landscape. This luxurious oasis is

an adventure-seeker’s playground, offering thrilling fourwheel

drives across the shifting sands, the chance to fly

down the dunes on a sandboard, or saddle-up an Arabian

stallion for a gallop along the winding trails. Sequester

yourself away in a Royal Pavilion Pool Villa, set in a

secluded spot, with golden hues as far as the eye can see.

World Traveller 9

10 World Traveller




This serene freshwater lake in Hangzhou is

mesmerising at any time of year but in the winter,

when the snow falls, it is transformed into a

wonderland of icy delights. The magical dusting is

a novel draw for locals, who eagerly await a seasonal

deluge of snowflakes, although the lake's classic

beauty means it can become crowded at the best of

times. Avoid the throngs by venturing out early in the

morning. Simply walking or biking around the bank

is the best way to appreciate its allure, including the

picturesque gardens dotted with pavilions. No wonder

the city once captured the heart of Marco Polo.

World Traveller 11

12 World Traveller




A vehicle weaves its way along the track that bisects the

dense forest of this small temple-town situated at the

foot of the Western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage

Site. Usually 50 shades of green, this infrared photograph

(taken by drone) washes the landscape with a purple haze,

highlighting the array of hues of the foliage. It’s a popular

spot for hikers. Indeed, there are many trails established

in the national parks and sanctuaries of Karnataka, where

groups led by a Forest Department guide are offered an

education in the area’s rich flora and fauna, with the option

to stay overnight in the rest houses of the jungle.

World Traveller 13



Be informed, be inspired, be there



Inspired by the new Mary

Poppins Returns film, The

Kensington hotel in London

is offering parents some

well-deserved respite with

its new Imperial Nannies

package. Check into a top

suite and you'll be matched

with a multilingual au pair

who’ll swoop in to look after

your children for 12 hours a

day, complete with a carpet

bag full of surprises and fun

excursions included. It’s

practically perfect in every

way. Available to book from

21 Dec 2018 to 31 Mar 2019.

World Traveller 15



Be a wild one

Tick these amazing animal experiences

off your bucket list…

Anantara Golden

Triangle Elephant

Camp & Resort


Walking with elephants

If you’ve always dreamed

of walking with elephants,

Anantara Golden Triangle

Elephant Camp & Resort,

located on a jungle ridge

in the Golden Triangle in

northern Thailand, will deliver

an encounter to remember.

Home to a herd of rescued

elephants, you can take part

in the Walking with Giants

experience, which includes

two hours spent with the

majestic mammals in their

natural surroundings with their

mahouts (keepers) and a vet

or biologist. Wander with them

through the jungle and learn

more about their habitat and

habits, or simply enjoy their

peaceful presence.


Step into The Jungle Book

Would-be Mowgli’s can trek

deep into the jungle that

inspired the original The

Jungle Book thanks to Taj

Safaris’ dedicated Wildlife

Escape. Be among the first

to venture into the recently

re-opened jungles of Central

India: the aforementioned

Baghvan in Pench National

Park, Mahua Kothi in

Bandhavgarh National Park,

Pashan Garh in Panna National

Park and Banjaar Tola in Kanha

Mahua Kothi in


National Park. Take an early

morning four-wheel drive tour

with a resident naturalist to

spot the wildlife that inspired

Rudyard Kipling’s characters,

including the famous Sher

Khan – the Royal Bengal Tiger

– followed by high tea at the

lodge and evenings spent

around the campfire listening

for animal calls. Available at all

Taj Safari lodges in India.


If you rarely leave home without your canine companion, a glamorous trip to Monaco

may just win you over. The tourism board has unveiled bespoke itineraries for pooches

and their owners, with seven of its nine hotels offering dog-friendly services and

packages. From Monacair’s direct helicopter transfers from Nice airport (it takes just

seven-minutes, so is ideal for restless pets) to Hotel de Paris, which welcomes you with

a plush dog bed, food and toys, and the decadent pet-friendly menu at Le Méridien

Beach Plaza, your fur baby will be chasing his tail with excitement.

16 World Traveller

Wellness Haven at Saray Spa.

Renew for the journey ahead.

A relaxing realm of quiet luxury, Saray Spa at the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai is an authentic wellness Spa, where ancient

healing techniques and locally sourced natural ingredients are combined to enhance the well-being of each guest.

The Spa features 17 treatment rooms, inclusive of two private Hammam rooms, one Dead Sea treatment room boasting

the UAE’s only Dead Sea Floatation Pool found within, and two Private Luxury Spa Suites.

Experience the wonders of the Middle East through Arabian Body Rituals or Hammam Rituals, or benefit from

the results-oriented facials. An exclusive retail boutique offers luxurious gifts and spa products for every occasion.

JW Marriott Marquis Dubai | Sheikh Zayed Road, Business Bay, PO Box 121000, Dubai, UAE

T +971 4 414 6754 | |




Why these destinations are peaking…



Now until March is ski

season in Azerbaijan.

You’ll find the best

resorts at Shahdag

and Gabala but, for

more challenging

pistes, try the black

runs at Tufandag

Resort. Stay at Qafqaz

Tufandag Mountain

Resort Hotel, which

has a rope-way

passing by that’ll take

you straight to the

mountain ski centre.



Thrill-seekers can get

their kicks at Meraas'

new Hatta Wadi Hub,

where you can test

your skills at ziplining,

mountain biking, wall

climbing and even

axe throwing, among

other activities before

braving the shoots at

Hatta Drop-in (Asia’s

first water jump park).

Stay the night by

glamping at Hatta

Damani Lodges.



There’s a mega meteor

shower this month.

To view the shooting

stars, head to Alila

Jabal Akhdar in the

Al Hajar Mountains,

where astronomer

Mike Dalley is

hosting stargazing

masterclasses leading

up to and during the

peak of the big event.

The best days to see

it are 14 and 15 Dec at

around 2am.


Bluewaters Dubai

What’s it all about? The site of the

world’s largest observation wheel,

Ain Dubai, this oasis off the coast of

Dubai Marina has opened the drawbridge

to visitors.

What’s the vibe? For a small island,

it has an edgy urban buzz, with

residences, hotels, and plenty of shops

and restaurants to keep you busy, all

connected by pedestrian-friendly areas.

How do I get there? By car, boat or foot.

There’s a direct road line to Sheikh Zayed

Road, pedestrian access from The Beach

opposite JBR, and an RTA-operated water

taxi service.

How shall I explore? Head to shopping

and dining hub The Wharf to check out

the eclectic mix of cafés, restaurants and

bistros. Next, stroll along Central Avenue,

which borders the landside of The Wharf,

before heading to North Walk and Wharf

Avenue, which edge the waterfront,

circling Ain Dubai Plaza beneath the

observation wheel.

Can I stay there? For sure. The island’s

trio of non-gaming resorts – Caesars

Palace Bluewaters Dubai, The Residences

at Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai

(serviced apartments) and Caesars Resort

Bluewaters Dubai – offer a luxurious

experience. Dine at Gordon Ramsay's

Hell’s Kitchen, be pampered at Qua Spa,

and chill at private beach club Cove Beach.


Velaa Private Island is celebrating its

fifth anniversary this month, with a

wow line-up of activities and events,

including sports tournaments and a

party taking place on 20 December,

featuring Czech violincellist Tereza

Kovalova and a gourmet food journey

courtesy of Chef Gaushan de Silva.

Happy Anniversary!

World Traveller 19









IN 2022, AN 11.8%


ON 2017*

Kneipp path hydrotherapy treatment area,

Clinique La Prairie



Family-friendly staycation

favourite, JA Jebel Ali

Golf Resort, has been

renamed as JA The

Resort, Jebel Ali Beach,

Dubai. Home to three

properties – JA Beach

Hotel, JA Palm Tree Court

and JA Lake View Hotel

(opening in September

2019) – there’s plenty

to keep you occupied,

including an 800-metre

private beach, four

landscaped swimming

pools, over 16 restaurants

and bars, and the David

Leadbetter Golf Academy

where you can learn this

coaching master’s simple

philosophy for teaching

the golf swing.

Feel-good trips

Replenish your end-of-year energy reserves with a restorative

break away at these leading wellbeing destinations…


Team mind-clearing scenery

with a holistic approach

to wellbeing at Clinique

La Prairie Switzerland. Its

Winter Boost Program,

available until March 2019,

helps combat the winter

blues with five nights of

expert pampering, including

daily winter infusions and

deep tissue massages.


Not catching enough zzz’s?

The new Bedtime Rituals &

Sleeping Therapy stay package

at Mandarin Oriental, Milan can

help you get a good night’s

rest. Unwind with the inroom

Oriental Sleeping Ritual

massage and, with a spritz

of your sleep-inducing pillow

spray, settle in for a stretch of

undisturbed shut-eye.


town of Druskininkai in

Lithuania, known for its

mineral waters, curative

mud and squeaky clean

air, takes a family-friendly

approach to wellbeing,

with yoga for kids, lots of

nature-based experiences

and child-friendly facilities,

such as the steam bath at

Druskininkai Aquapark.

Featuring handy to-do and packing lists, curated

itineraries, space for travel notes and full colour

world maps to doodle on, the cross-grain lambskin

Smythson Off the Beaten Track Travel Journal is a

great stocking filler for adventurers.

*Source: GWI’s Global Wellness Tourism Economy report

20 World Traveller



Party hats on: dnata Travel’s resident

globetrotter Emily Williams knows

the best places to welcome in 2019

Travelling to Scotland’s historic capital

has never been easier with the launch of

direct flights from Dubai to Edinburgh

with Emirates. In winter, when the nights

are longer, the city bursts into life with

festive market stalls and a torch-lit

procession that kicks off its famous

Hogmanay celebrations for New Year’s

Eve, culminating in a vivid finale that

illuminates Edinburgh Castle. Turn to

page 26 to read our locals’ guide.

The weather is perfect in Hong

Kong in December, the last month of

its traditional high season, making it

a great time to go hiking in the hills

and valleys. Its dramatic city skyline

attracts visitors to see its spectacular

countdown to the New Year, which

concludes with a dazzling pyrotechnic

dragon dancing across the sky.

New York City transforms into a

magical winter wonderland at this time

of year. Take a walk through Central Park

where the frozen lake becomes an ice

rink – you can even go sledging there.

More than one million people gather at

Times Square for its atmospheric New

Year’s Eve celebrations. A boat ride

on New York Harbour is an alternative

experience, offering the best view of the

firework display at the Statue of Liberty.

It’s summer in Sydney and therefore

a great time to enjoy the beach life

with the locals. To fully appreciate the

scenery, try the coastal walk from the

beaches of Bondi to Coogee. Due to

its location, Sydney is one of the first

major world cities where the clock

strikes midnight to mark the New Year

and the firework display at the iconic

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney

Opera House is sure to impress.

World Traveller 21



Chef, restaurateur and TV personality Richard Sandoval heads restaurants across the

globe, including Dubai's Pan-Latin favourite Toro Toro

On my

wish list…

Gaggan, in Bangkok. Chef

Anand Gaggan is known for

his experiential progressive

Indian tasting menu and for

offering his guests a warm

Thai welcome. It was recently

voted 'Asia's Best




I really like this place, an upscale

Asian-American eatery employing

sustainable cooking techniques in

the heart of eclectic Wynwood in

Miami. The chef, Michael Lewis,

is well travelled and he uses those

experiences to influence his woodgrilled

cuisine. Here, he applies the

Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi

– the art of finding perfection in

something imperfect.


with fermented chili and citrus.


Mexico City

Chef Eduardo García’s Máximo

Bistrot, which he runs alongside

his wife, showcases local

ingredients from farms around

Mexico City, including the famed

floating gardens of Xochimilco.

Their devotion to all things local

extends to the furniture, while the

menu (the likes of crab soup with

creole corn) changes daily based on

what's in season and available.


prawn with chicatana.



New York

In a city where dining trends

change frequently, Eleven

Madison Park is always among

the top tables – it's the current

holder of the 'Best Restaurant in

North America' title. It serves an

8-10 course, modern European

seasonal tasting menu that draws

inspiration from New York to add

a touch of the inventive.


sturgeon cheesecake with caviar.


Toro Toro, a play on the Spanish word for bull, sets the stage for an artful blend of Pan-

Latin flavours and features amazing cuts of beef cooked in our churrasco grill. I invite you

to sample my unique spin on South and Central American ingredients and flavours, as

you taste your way through an array of savoury small plates.

22 World Traveller





Standing tall in the heart of

Dubai Marina, featuring

incomparable panoramic views

of the city, combine the best

of all worlds with luxurious

accommodation, three

contemporary dining

destinations and a blissful

caravanserai-inspired, Saray Spa.





Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites






The interior designer and author

lays open her travel journal

I consider myself very lucky to have

grown up in the ancient city of Baku.

Some of my earliest memories are

of the grand architecture of the old

palaces and sacred mosques. I also had

the chance to experience the exquisite

décor of some of the best private

homes in the city. In many ways, the

city continues to speak to me now and

is largely reflected in my work.

I constantly draw inspiration

from the amazing spirit, people and

architecture of Moscow, where I live.

I love working on interiors projects

there, especially in the older parts of

the city, filled with historic buildings

so deeply intertwined with the lives of

artists, poets and actors.

I spent eight years capturing the

mosque photography for my book,

visiting a selection of world-renowned

mosques and discovering their

intricate patterns and ornaments.

Córdoba in Spain impacted me the

most – its Grand Mosque is an exquisite

and rare gem of Moorish architecture.

The materials and patterns used for

the decoration are out of this world,

and the place presents an amazing

example of a harmonious union

between East and West.

I’m a citizen of the world, so I don’t

have a favourite destination, but I love

the sea and the ocean. These places

bring me calm and bliss, allowing me

to recharge and get ready for my next

work marathon.

A place that’s still on my wish

list is Polynesia. It’s somewhat of a

childhood dream to visit an exotic

place so far away; something you have

only seen or read about in books. Plus,

it seems like a great vacation spot.

Leyla’s book, Mosques: Splendors of

Islam, published by Rizzoli New York,

is out now

Photo © Cristina Mittermeier

24 World Traveller




Revel in the history, culture and creative energy

that gives Scotland’s capital its vibrant character

26 World Traveller



Gareth Davies runs

Edinburgh Expert

Walking tours,

taking visitors

under the skin

of the city

Historic Victoria Street. Photograph

© VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

Visitors are often surprised to learn that

Edinburgh’s New Town is more than 250

years old. They are even more intrigued

when I tell them that the Old Town was

largely rebuilt in the 19th century, so much

of it is more recent than the New Town.

But that’s Edinburgh. It's a city of contrasts

that’s very different throughout the year, so

there’s always an element of the unexpected.

The site was first settled around 3500

years ago and much of the city’s layout harks

back to earlier times with narrow lanes,

cobbled backstreets and bridges that can

be a challenge to navigate – something the

guidebooks don’t prepare you for. Although

I've walked some of the streets hundreds of

times, I still notice new features, and can

find new stories to tell.

The areas I most enjoy showing off are

around the New Town. Many visitors never

look beyond the Royal Mile and Old Town,

so this feels like a whole other side of the

city that people don't expect – it has its own

character and style, a host of history and

culture and some fantastic Georgian-era

architecture. It’s something of a hidden

gem, hiding in plain sight.

My favourite stop-offs? The Scottish

Parliament building, due to its weirdly

wonderful sense of style, as well as

Advocate's Close, one of the narrow lanes

off the Royal Mile, for its spectacular views,

mixture of ancient and modern buildings,

and stories of the historical figures who

have lived there. There's so much to see and

talk about on that single alleyway.

If you have more time, head north of the

New Town to Stockbridge to check out its

independent shops, cafés and restaurants,

before making your way along the Water of

Leith to the historic Dean Village to view

its picturesque 17th-century buildings.

South of the Royal Mile is George Square

and Bristo Square, home to some of the

historic buildings of Edinburgh University,

including the iconic Old College quad

designed by Edinburgh's greatest architects,

Robert Adam and William Playfair.

World Traveller 27

Scottish National Portrait Gallery interior views

© Keith Hunter & National Galleries of Scotland

Literary fans can

sip a brew at The Elephant

House tea and coffee shop

in the historic quarter,

which authors including J.K.

Rowling and Ian Rankin

have used as a

writing den



Shona McCarthy,

chief executive

of the Edinburgh

Festival Fringe

Society, talks art

and culture

1The Edinburgh Fringe Festival,

which takes place every August,

brings together acts and audiences

from all over the world to create an

international melting pot of arts and

culture, from theatre and comedy to

circus, opera, children's shows and

spoken word performances. There’s

nothing quite like wandering through

the city when the Fringe is on and

soaking up the electric atmosphere.

2The impact of the festival is

felt keenly through the year,

with many Fringe artists and

companies adding to a thriving local

creative scene that has transformed

the city into a bucket-list

destination for anyone who

is passionate about the arts.

There are events all year

round, from the Edinburgh

International Science

Festival in April through to

Hogmanay, which rounds

off the annual cultural

offering at the turn of the

New Year – it's always a hive of activity.


There are lots of amazing

galleries featuring all kinds of

art and exhibitions, both past

and present. Some favourites include

the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

and the Scottish National Gallery. The

former tells the story of Scotland and

its people with portraits of historical

figures such as Mary Queen of Scots

and Robert Burns, while the National

Gallery has an outstanding fine art

collection, including masterpieces

by Botticelli, Rembrandt, Monet and

Van Gogh, among many others.

The Elephant House

Photo © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

4The National Museum of

Scotland is another must-see,

with fascinating permanent

exhibits from nature, science, art,

design, fashion and more. Here, you

can find out more about the history

of the area, from pre-history to the

present day, in the Scottish galleries.


People often talk about there

being a sense of an artistic

community in the city, one that is

not bound by geography or nationality,

but can give a real sense of belonging

in a different way. What better reason

to visit Edinburgh this winter?


28 World Traveller




Matthew Korecki,

owner of popular


restaurant New

Chapter, unravels

the foodie scene

Local flavour

There’s a huge number of independent

restaurants in Edinburgh. People

here tend to seek out hidden gems

– the tucked-away places that serve

incredible food with personalised

service – rather than going for what they

already know with chain restaurants.

New and noteworthy

The restaurant scene is growing rapidly,

with new venues opening every week, so

the quality of the produce, dishes and

service is constantly on the rise. There

has also been an uplift in the number

of dining destinations serving fantastic

global cuisine, be it Swedish, Hungarian,

Nepalese, Filipino or Caribbean food.

Scottish classics

Our elegant sister restaurant Otro,

in the West End, is very popular with

those who want to taste Scottish

ingredients. The Kilted Lobster in

Stockbridge is perfect if you’re in the

mood for seafood, and if you needed

convincing, all profits go towards the

Cooking Up A Storm project to fight food

poverty. For fine dining, I recommend

Restaurant Martin Wishart on The

Shore for a Michelin-star experience.

Quirky cuisine

The Full Moon Dinners at the Secret

Herb Garden on Old Pentland Road are a

magical experience where diners eat in a

beautiful greenhouse by the light of the

moon. Six By Nico on Hanover Street is a

great option too, with themed six-course

tasting menus that change every six

weeks, serving wonderfully creative food.

Market fare

For coffee and cake, The Stockbridge

Market is always a treat. For street food,

head to The Pitt in Leith, which has great

vibes and innovative street food vendors

serving amazing bites every weekend.

Secret Herb

Garden's Full

Moon Dinners

World Traveller 29


Life on the edge

For an urban escape in a lush lagoon setting,

Anantara Eastern Mangroves leads the way

Situated on the outskirts of

central Abu Dhabi, along a scenic

stretch of protected mangroves,

this coveted hotel is ideal for those

who want to team outdoor pursuits

with a spot of city sightseeing.

It’s just a 10-minute drive from

downtown, yet Anantara Eastern

Mangroves feels a world away from the

hustle and bustle of the city, with its

waterfront location lending a tranquil vibe.

Make the most of the views by booking

a suite with a view of the lagoons so you

can soak up the surrounds from your

private balcony. Plump for an Anantara

Mangroves Pool Suite, which can

accommodate up to two adults and one

child, and you'll wake up to lush lagoon

views. Make the most of the winter sun

by unwinding on your private terrace

before taking a dip in your plunge pool.

If you’ve got energy to burn, take

a kayak out to explore the mangrove

reserve. Guided tours are available to

ensure you don't miss a thing – herons,

foxes and turtles can usually be spotted.

Stand-up paddleboarding is also on

offer, and there’s a promenade bordering

the waterway (the city’s old corniche)

that’s ideal for jogging and cycling.


Dedicated spa-goers are sure to be

impressed by the traditional treatments

on offer at Anantara Spa, which is

especially well-known for its signature

hammam rituals. Inspired by the ancient

Turkish bathing tradition, the journey

begins on the warm stone, with time to

bask in the heat, followed by a body buff

with a traditional kese mitt to prep the

skin for receiving the hydrating suds.

After rinsing, you’ll receive a

circulation-pepping scrub followed by

a purifying clay mask. Even your hair

and scalp are given the royal cleansing

30 World Traveller


Anantara Spa

A room with a mangrove view

treatment, with a pressure point face and

head massage to lull you into a deep sense

of relaxation. An olive foam massage and

coffee body polish followed by a cooling

rinse complete this blissful 60-minute

pamper session. However, we highly

recommend that you upgrade with a full

body massage using argan infused oil for

an additional full hour of relaxation.


Another draw card is the hotel’s dining

credentials. Its popular Thai restaurant,

Pachaylen, invites you to taste authentic

cuisine in a refined setting. A traditional

kim player sets the tone as contemporarystyled

delights, such as aromatic curries

and spicy salads, are brought to your

table. If you’re unsure what to choose,

simply go with the enduring favourites

of tom yam soup and pad Thai noodles.

For sunset views, head to Impressions

on the rooftop, which serves signature

drinks from 7pm to 2am daily. And if

you’re keen to boost your cooking skills,

you can take part in a Spice Spoons

Middle Eastern and Thai cooking class,

which will take you to Al Mina Fish

Market and the vegetable market across

the road to shop for fresh ingredients.

Back at the resort, a top chef will guide

you with step-by-step instructions

for preparing delicious dishes, giving

you a new skill to take back home.

To find out more, call +971 2 656 1000

or visit

World Traveller 31

32 World Traveller


Take me to to the river

Ancient temples, mystic caves, weird

critters (in the water and on the menu:

Mexico’s Riviera Maya serves up surreal

unforgettable adventures – mere footsteps

from the Caribbean’s most dreamily

relaxing beaches, says Ed Grenby

this is where they were beheaded,

their lifeblood cascading down the

steps of the pyramid in front of you.’

I’ve been to the Caribbean a few


times – hell, I’m the kind of loser

who even goes off on those half-day historic tours of

dockyards and distilleries and other such thrillers – but

I’ve never heard those words from a tour guide before.

That, I suppose, is because I’ve never been to

Mexico’s Riviera Maya before, contenting myself

instead with circuits of Barbados, Antigua and

Jamaica (‘... and this is where the barrels would

be stored before bottling and labelling ...’).

This year, though, looking for something a little more

exciting – a little less ‘barrel warehouse’, you might say

– I strayed one swipe further down the ‘Caribbean’ page

of the tour operator’s website, and ended up here,

on the eastern edge of Mexico, where the sacrificial

altars of the ancients and the otherworldly natural

wonders of the Yucatan are bordered with beaches

that are every bit as good as Barbados’s and are

washed by the self-same calm Caribbean Sea.

And, truth be told, I didn’t leave those beaches for

the first four days of my fortnight. Well, why would I?

Cloud-soft sand shelved at a perfect 10-degree angle into

waters as warm as a mother’s welcome; and, even with

my shades on, the sea’s blue and the sand’s white and the

fringing forest’s green were literally, squintingly dazzling.

Frigate birds soared and searing-yellow kiskadees

chirped, their high, ringing song as exuberant as the

frigates’ flight. Sea turtles, too, showed their appreciation

of the place, their nests bulging in the sand; and behind

the beach, around my hotel’s two elegantly understated

aquamarine swimming pools, iguanas lazed on the

paths, lordly and unmoving, as if to say, ‘My kind

World Traveller 33


has been around since the dinosaurs,

hombre. You can make way for me.’

I wanted my adventure to have a big

dollop of ‘easy’, and Hotel Esencia delivered

on both. It’s a sprinkling of cool, white,

slightly hacienda-style houses and lawns

carved from the jungle, but the luxury

and quiet good taste have a raffish edge.

So there is discreet abstract art and posh

coffee-table books, but also driftwood

bannisters and hammocks slung beneath

the thatched, open-walled palapa huts,

while elegant lamps hang seductively

from trees beside wild coconuts.

The location is Xpu-Ha (amazingly, just

an hour’s drive down the coast from noisy

Cancuń); the ‘X’, I eventually work out, is

pronounced ‘sh’, like the shhhushing of

the wavelets. It’s so hypnotically perfect

that even the daily deposit of algae on the

sand seems appealing once I learn that it’s

actually sargasso (sounds so much more

romantic than ‘seaweed’, no?). But when,

accidentally up early one morning, I see

the sargasso being carefully, cossetingly

hand-cleared from the beach by hotel

staff, I know I’m going to have to look a

little further afield if I want any of the

‘edge’ I’d abandoned Barbados for.

A quick coach trip to Cobá, however,

and I’ve got edge by the bucketful (it’s

here the lifeblood did its cascading thing).

An important Mayan city from the 1st

century AD to the 15th, it’s now a cluster of

stone ruins looming enigmatically from

the middle of a million miles of jungle.

The biggest is the pyramid of devotion

to honey (Why did he get such kudos?

Because the stuff was an important

ingredient in Mayan cement, apparently.

Though once you’ve tasted the local honey,

rich and intense, no explanation for its

status is needed. In fact, it’s a wonder

they ever built anything above one storey

without licking it into ruin.) Incredibly,

you’re allowed to climb the pyramid, and

the experience is unforgettable – not so

much for the views (an infinite ocean of

green treetops) as for the hairs-on-theback-of-your-neck

tingle of knowing that

others once looked down exultantly from

the same spot, but for them it wasn’t

the pride of summiting the 120 steps,

but the eye-bulging, ecstatic madness

of the decapitator or willing decapitee.

Even weirder than the weirdness,

though, is the fact that (given the

weirdness) it’s so pleasant here. The site

is too big to navigate on foot, so people

hire bikes or get chauffeured around on

passenger trikes by their guides, and

the atmosphere is more weekend cycle

in the park than lingering echo of ritual

murder. A five-minute pedal down a

shady path is Cobá’s poc-ta-poc court,

where matches of the Mayans’ get-theball-through-the-hoop-using-only-yourhips

game could go on for days before

reaching their climax with, obviously,

the sacrifice of the winning coach. And

instead of horror, all I can think of is

whether England's coach Gareth Southgate

would be prepared to go all the way and

get his trademark waistcoat bloody.

So the adventure comes pretty easy

round these parts, but the easy can be

adventurous, too. Even international

luxury hotel brands have a dash of

local fizz in their DNA here, and the

Rosewood, where I’m staying next, is

essentially a vast mangrove lagoon that

just happens to have a few (also fairly

vast) rooms scattered around it.

In mine, the cheapest category, as well

as the (count ’em!) indoor bathroom,

outdoor bathroom, walled garden, roof

terrace, sun deck and plunge pool, there’s

a lovely little wooden boat dock on stilts

above the lagoon, where you can see

nothing but jungle and convince yourself

you’re an intrepid explorer. Indeed, if

you sit still there for 30 seconds, you’ve

got a pretty decent chance of spotting

cormorants, iguanas, raccoons, turtles

and, if you’re really lucky, baby crocodiles

(they’re ‘taken somewhere safe’ when

34 World Traveller

Opening pages: a

colourful trajinera floats

down a canal. This

page, clockwise from

top left: enjoying an ice

This page: The view from the

cream; Toltec temple

historic area of Candelaria

ruins in Tula; Rosewood

Mayakoba Riviera Maya

Opposite: Contemporary art

in Iglesia de Santa Clara


‘Caves lead off it in all directions, with sweet little bats roosting on

the roofs, and even sweeter little turtles pottering in their waters’

World Traveller 35


36 World Traveller


Left: Ik Kil sinkhole

This page: Indo-Pacific

sailfishes hunt sardines

in Yucatán

‘Frigate birds soared and searing-yellow kiskadees chirped,

their high, ringing song as exuberant as the frigates’ flight’

they grow bigger than a metre, says a

hotel-staffer mysteriously, and I can’t

help suspect that’s ‘safe’ as in ‘safe from

not being made into a handbag’).

I don’t even have to leave this heaven

for my next adventure. Pretty much

every mouthful I’ve consumed on this

trip has been exciting (zinging ceviche...

flavour-burst fish tacos... I could go on.

And did), but nothing prepared me for the

Rosewood’s breakfast huevos rancheros

with its side of toasted grasshoppers.

‘They’re just like corn,’ the waiter

reassures me. Which might be true if corn

had little faces and legs and antennae. But

I fear that not eating them would make

me a species traitor in the unceasing

war that wages here between mosquito

and man. Even after finishing off the

bowlful (they’re crispy-crunchy and

kind of moreish), I’ve probably nibbled

a lot less insect than the insects have

nibbled of me over the past few days.

The only thing more ubiquitous than

mozzies is cenotes, the water-filled caverns

and sinkholes that pockmark this part

of Mexico. They range from bath-size to

2km-wide; some sitting at the side of the

road for anyone to dive into, others built

up into sprawling theme parks. But what

they all have in common is alluringly

cool, enticingly clear, bewitchingly blue

and irresistibly swimmable water.

My favourites are Ik Kil (big, busy, but

outrageously Insta-genic, with vines

that hang down into the water from the

jungle above); the complex clustered

together as Rió Secreto (don wetsuits,

hard hats and miners’ lanterns, for

a guided walk/wade/swim/scramble

through an underground river system);

and Gran Cenote. Here, beautiful kids

from the nearby towns laze and flirt on

the hammocks and greenswards, and

steps descend into a sinkhole. Caves

lead off it in all directions, with sweet

little bats roosting (upside down, of

course) on the roofs, and even sweeter

little turtles pottering in their waters.

It’s a lovely and intriguing swim, but

hire a snorkel for a few pesos and you

can have your mind thoroughly blown.

Like an iceberg, it transpires that what

you can see of the caverns above water is

a mere fraction. Beneath the surface is

an uncanny underworld, an otherworld,

a netherworld, where the stalactites you

saw drooping from the roof are now

stalagmites rising from the floor, or

columns holding up the roof (or is it the

floor?). Through some trick of the eerily

suffusing blue light, or the crystallineclear

water, or the refractions of sound

World Traveller 37

‘In this corner of the Caribbean,

life-changing experiences can

be got cheap as well as easy’

and sightlines, you feel you’ve travelled

upside-down through the looking glass to

the sort of inverted augmented alternate

reality that Hollywood spends billions

of FX dollars to create – but for just $5.

In this corner of the Caribbean, lifechanging

experiences can be got cheap

as well as easy, it seems. Moving on to

my next hotel, the more mid-market Tui

Sensatori, I alternate my days between

watching from my beach lounger as

pelicans patrol the airspace in perfect

three-bird formations, like pimped-up

fighter planes; and taking the kind of

coach tours that could give coach tours

a good name. On one to Tulum, I find

there are, in fact, three overlapping

Tulums: the ruined Mayan city (less

dramatic than Cobá, but sited on the

most delectable little beach – sightseeing

really couldn’t be any more effortless);

the tourist strip (a boho hamlet of

boutique hotels, beach clubs, juice bars

and yoga joints; and, just offshore, the

turtles’ Tulum. It’s an ancient underwater

place of congregation for these beautiful

beasts, and for the equally elegant manta

rays that accompany them, but easily

discoverable thanks to the unearthly

noises that arise from it. (Could they

form some strange sub-aquatic ‘song’?

Nope, it’s the sound of a dozen excited

turtle fans trying to say ‘So agelessly

graceful!’ to each other, but it comes out

through their snorkels as ‘Urrrggghhh!’)

Meanwhile, just a few kilometres up

the coast lurks the adventure for which

I’ve been steeling myself all fortnight, the

ultimate won’t-find-this-in-the-Windies

escapade. Whale sharks are among

the world’s largest predators, as big as

buses but still distinctly, unnervingly

shark-shaped (because they are, in fact,

sharks). I’ve always desperately wanted

to/not wanted to swim with them, and

here, in the open ocean out beyond Isla

Mujeres (that’s ‘Isle of the Dead’) you can.

So in the Margarita-hued light of dawn,

as the returning fishermen are enjoying

a 6am brew on the docks, we take their

places in the boats and head out. And an

hour later we’ve found our leviathan; the

snorkels and flippers go on, and we go in.

Whoever started calling them ‘gentle

giants’ had obviously never floated in the

water in front of one (and certainly wasn’t

a zooplankton, several million of which

they devour every day). With that Jaws

dorsal fin, that machete-sharp tail, that

constant swaying, swaggering, menacing

movement through the water, they’re

unmistakably sharks. And it doesn’t

matter how many times your guide tells

you they can’t swallow anything bigger

than their golf-ball-sized throats: when

these 10-metre monsters swim towards

you, their great mouths wide open, a

word bubbles unbidden to the surface

of your mind, and the word is Jonah.

Then they swim, unfussed, right

past you, and suddenly they’re the

peaceful, placid, curious creatures

you’ve heard about. Fear dissolves and

all that’s left is wide-eyed, humbled

wonder – and an afternoon on the beach

with a brew and a burrito, gazing out

across a couple of thousand kilometres

of warm water towards Barbados,

feeling rather pleased with yourself.

Inspired to travel? To book a trip, call

+971 4 316 6666 or visit

Credit: The Sunday Times Travel Magazine/ News Syndication

38 World Traveller


This page:

Beach Suite at

Hotel Esencia

World Traveller 39

40 World Traveller



In revisiting Istanbul, Nick Redman is reunited with his old flame


Left: The Grand Bazaar

This page: silhouette of

the Blue Mosque

World Traveller 41


Right: interior of the

Blue Mosque

‘Like a photograph emerging in a darkroom tray, the

spiritual gloom developed into magnificence’

Beyond the windows it looked

like a light show put on just

for us, as we waited to be

seated at Mürver, a busy

new rooftop restaurant in

Istanbul. Illuminated white and sodiumorange

across the dark mouth of the Golden

Horn, the skyline monuments sparkled:

Topkapı Palace, Hagia Sophia, and the Blue

Mosque, its six minarets spearing the night

sky. We got a corner table at the back. This

place was dinner-reservation gold, be it

your first night ever in the old Ottoman

capital, or your first night back, as it was

for my other half and me late last spring.

The soft funk sounds, flash-fire open

kitchen and de rigueur filament bulbs

made Mürver feel sweepingly self-assured.

Marinated sea-bass starters arrived, a

tangy delight; then courgette fritters,

kicky with chilli. The maîtresse d’, upon

my asking about moving to a window

table when the crowd thinned, said, ‘It

won’t,’ with a satisfied smile, as if nothing

had changed since the city’s big-money,

pre-crunch, pre-coup millennial times.

I had to smile, too. So it was still

irresistanbul! Istanbul, the city I’ve

adored for three decades or more, living

and working there first, as a sybaritic

twentysomething. I’d love to say nothing

had changed, but that would be to ignore

the endless posters of President Erdogăn we

saw lining the freeway from the airport, as

he geared up for another power-enhancing

election. For Turks, a lot has changed.

And for tourists? Here again after

more than two years, we needn’t have

worried: the same effusive welcome that

is practically the Turks’ moral duty; the

same great-value food; the same kamikaze

taxi drivers, sadly, too, with their allergy to

safety belts. We were glad we had chosen

to stay in Sultanahmet, where Byzantium

and Constantinople rose and fell, and

where Christianity yielded to Islam, 600

or so years ago. I found reassurance in its

historic continuity: it looked as stunning

as it always had, just untroubled now by

tourists and touts. At dusk, the two of us

strolled the sleepy streets, past leafy trees

and gaily painted clapboard facades, more

Tyrolean than Turkish. It was as if we’d hit

on an undiscovered Euro weekend hotspot.

The Four Seasons Hotel Sultanahmet

was a tranquil essay in polished-wood

floors, geometric kilims and corridors of

Ottoman tiles, patterned with tulip petals

and circular bursts of colour, like firework

finales. The lobby had the perfume of

lilies, a safe embrace. From our balcony

I looked down at the garden, where

jasmine plaited itself in thick columns up

the turmeric-coloured enfolding walls,

looking like cypress in the low light.

Inhaling the iron smell of geraniums, I

was back, oddly, in a flash: to June 2001,

a heady evening here with friends, the

summer before the Twin Towers fell.

The world has mended and come apart

since. It always will. In Istanbul, tourists

were trickling back, said a hotel waiter,

pouring drinks by an oil lamp’s flicker.

‘This is an old city,’ he told us, as we

devoured yoghurt-smothered Iskender

kebab on puffy flatbread, zingy on the

tongue with tomato sauce and hot chilli

flakes. ‘Over thousands of years it has

had so many punches. We have been

sad, but people are returning again.’

Istanbul felt no scarier than Paris, I

thought, as we stepped out to mingle with

those people next day. In the balmy air

we wandered among horse chestnuts in

bloom before the Blue Mosque, fountains

playing, the muezzin’s call wailing to its

crescendo. Loudly chattering Turkish

schoolkids milled about smoke-laced

carts selling blackened corn-on-the-cob.

The queue was reassuringly healthy

for the Hagia Sophia, its buttresses and

ballooning domes squeezing out the sky.

It seemed more magnificent than I’d ever

known it, almost not of this planet, as if it

had crash-landed from outer space millions

of years ago and, over the ages, grown rusty

and dusty, as civilisations rose around it.

Such was the awe it was built to instil: first

as a church in the 6th century, and again,

after almost a millennium, when saved

from failing Byzantine dilapidation in 1453

by the conquering Ottomans, who restored

it as a mosque. Inside, like a photograph

emerging in a darkroom tray, the spiritual

gloom developed into magnificence,

daylight angling in with stage-beam

precision from windows on high.

We performed the ‘Say, “cheese”’

honours for three Romanians in the

grounds of Topkapı Palace, which rang

with the chip-chip of masons repairing

the low stone walls. The inscrutable

residence for generations of sultans was

a paradise garden of blood-red rose beds

and carpets of pansies, monastic cedars

throwing shadows across the lawns. It

filled the senses like distilled nostalgia.

Chambers shone with centuries

of splendour, from mother-of-pearl

grandfather clocks (one a gift from Queen

Victoria to Abdul Hamid II) to a 300-yearold

ceremonial suit of armour, dripping

with chains like something from Michael

Jackson’s tour wardrobe circa 1993. But on

this cloudless day, Topkapı was for outside

indulgence. As waiters at Konyalı restaurant

42 World Traveller

World Traveller 43

44 World Traveller

This page, clockwise

from top left: Turkish

cheese pide; ample

spices on sale in the

city's Spice Bazaar;

a traditional Turkish

kebab; boza being

poured into a glass


‘Ooh, that Bosphorus view, and the blue Golden

Horn flowing to meet it, scored with the white

trails of ferries moving at the speed of swans’

Credit: Sunday Times Travel Magazine / News Licensing

removed the cloches on our kebab lunch

plates, we lazed sultan-style on the terrace,

catching rays, letting our senses lead us.

Ooh, that Bosphorus view, and the blue

Golden Horn flowing to meet it, scored

with the white trails of ferries moving

at the speed of swans. Way north, in the

direction of the Black Sea, traffic caught

sunlight, tiny silver beads traversing

the Bosphorus Bridge, the unlikely front

line of the failed 2016 coup. Behind it

all rose the LA-style skyline of new-rich

Istanbul – steely and blue-glassy, aspiring

optimistically to heydays ahead.

We took a night taxi, seeking the

delectations of the modern city in Bomonti,

inland from the Bosphorus shores. The

city unspooled: a futuristic galaxy. Brutal

apartment blocks filled canyons, glittering

as they rolled off into the hills. We sped

above it all, across high flyovers like

fat spaghetti tangles, spotted with red

taillights, and could only gawp admiringly

at Istanbul’s sheer indefatigable grandeur.

‘You made it,’ called Hatice, looming to

greet us as we stepped into Kilimanjaro.

She’d already texted a snap of herself

with her Italian beau, taken at the table

moments before – possibly in case we

didn’t recognise our friend, two years

after she’d left London to resettle here.

The pair had invited us so as to big-up

Bomonti, their home turf, a kilometre or

so north of Taksim Square. It was named

after two Swiss brothers who brewed hops

here around the dawn of the 20th century,

when Istanbul was Constantinople. Their

factory, once closed and broken-windowed,

has been resurrected for the unfailingly

effervescent millennials of Istanbul, and

Kilimanjaro is one of several hedonistic

joints filling its bare-brick warehouse

spaces and sprawling courtyards.

With lots of straw-sucking, couplesyflirting

going on, Kilimanjaro could have

been in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District

or Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin. Its centrepiece

was a huge ‘aviary’ basket structure that

followed the looping Grand-Prix curves of

the bar below, full of spotlit bottles, perched

like songbirds among dangling potted

plants. Such a surprise stunner in a reborn

corner! All the while, ’70s funk of the James

Brown school came courtesy of a speccily

serious DJ, as plates of crispy-skin chicken

thighs circulated with waiters’ pirouettes,

threatening drinkers’ Armani garb.

We talked until late, about this and that;

about how, if ever a city deserves good

times, it is Istanbul, with inclusivity in its

marrow. I recalled the borscht of snowy

nights, in 1987, at Rejans, a nocturnal nook

in a dodgy Beyoğlu backstreet originally

opened by anti-Bolshevik exiles, musicians

sawing away in its minstrel’s gallery, late.

I lamented its long-ago folding.

'It’s been relaunched', said Hatice.

'Next time you come, we’ll go.'

Next morning dawned more dispiritingly,

cacophonous with irascible gulls, and

hangover-grey due to a grim downpour

off the foggy Bosphorus. A comfort-food

kind of day. Benoit was waiting, as he’d

promised, with brollies outside the Spice

Bazaar, beyond the moored ferries of

Eminönü, gateway to Old Istanbul. The

Belgian expat lays on culinary walks to

help visitors discover the part of the city I’d

overlooked in the past, always questing after

the new. This area was a commercial whirl

in late Roman imperial times – and with

Benoit, we uncovered a traditional Istanbul

as vibrant as I’d recalled it years ago.

We breakfasted first, on seeded simit

bread rings, with the rain coursing about

the drainpipes of an atmospheric han — a

World Traveller 45

This page: Opposite: the view from Sail boats Four

Seasons Hotel docked Sultanahmet in Sausalito(in

the foreground) This page: The coastal

route linking San Francisco

to Big Sur

46 World Traveller


storeyed, arcaded Ottoman storage depot,

of which few remain. It was a workers’ cafe,

family-run for generations, by emigrants

from Erzincan, a town way east, near the

border with Armenia. A daub of molasses

tingled the tastebuds, black, sticky and

prune-like, brought from the Black Sea,

where it is a centuries-old method of

preserving apples in winter. Coffee sacks

piled in a nearby alley told of wider, older

trade links, stamped with destinations

from ‘Yemen’ to ‘Etiyopya’, ‘Sumatra’ to

‘Hindistan’. Moving deeper, we brushed

past spice dens dustily pungent with

oregano and coriander, wild orchid roots

dangling like sacrificial skeins of teeth.

We ate lamb’s neck soup in a corner

place, scrunched on low stools like picnic

gnomes, then cheesy pizza-style pide

at Mavi Haliç Pidecisi, where the cookproprietor

let us dispatch our own off

a large wooden paddle into the oven’s

roar. We had lamb kebabs still sizzling

from their bed of red charcoal at Osmanlı

Kebapçısı, a classic concern as queued-for

as a trendy New York food truck. At Altan

Sekerleme sweet shop (founded 1865)

we sucked sugared almonds in Smartie

colours, offered freely for the tasting from

stoppered jars. It was very Turkish: these

sensory rituals, the sweetness of strangers.

Another curiosity was Sevda Gazozcusu,

its walls lined with shelves of retro

Turkish fizzy drinks: a collector’s new

trend, would you believe, said Benoit.

Darkness was descending over the

city. We ended up sipping boza, Turkey’s

“In traditional the rainy-day warmer, we drove

made of

fermented millet, sugary and creamy


– slightly




At this elegant


establishment, seascape. Vefa Bozacısı, At night,

served by

white-clad waiters, we could have been


in Florence

sat five

or Madrid


amid the stained


mirrors among and worn floor thousandyear-old

tiles. Spooning it


up, I fell through the time tunnel, through

decades, to my first winter, January

1986, when I would order it on ferries

crossing the bitter, sleety Bosphorus

after work. I got a familiar warm feeling

inside: Istanbul, and the pleasurable

glow of going back to find a city as sweet

and seductive as ever I’d known it.

Inspired to travel? To book a trip, call

+971 4 316 6666 or visit

World Traveller 47

48 World Traveller


You don’t have to slope off into the wild to get

your downhill fix. With Hapsburg heritage, futuristic

architecture and mountains all around, Innsbruck is

an atmospheric Austrian city break and ski holiday in

one, says Sean Newsom

World Traveller 49

Opening pages, from left:

heading downhill in the

mountains; the city centre

of Innsbruck, as seen from

the Town Hall's roof terrace

These pages:

Hungerburgbahn railway


So there I was, walking the

streets of Innsbruck in my

ski boots, feeling ridiculous.

Everyone else was dressed

for shopping, or for morning

lectures at the city’s university. I was in

lemon-yellow boots, silver helmet and

bilious-green jacket, shouldering a bright

red pair of skis. Normally, when I’m heading

for the slopes, that’s perfectly acceptable.

But on this particular Austrian morning I

was a lump of hard, shiny plastic bobbing

in a sober sea of overcoats. It felt as if I’d

just fallen out of a giant box of Lego.

Then I arrived at Zaha Hadid’s

Hungerburgbahn railway station, and

everything changed. It’s slap-bang in

the middle of town, only 250m from the

Rococo splendour of the Hofburg palace,

the Hapsburg dynasty’s home-fromhome

whenever they visited Innsbruck.

But in just 30 minutes its sleek, chic

funicular railway, followed by a couple of

cable cars, had whisked me to an altitude

of 2,256m. When I stepped out of the top

station, it was into a raw white wilderness.

On my left was a knuckle of rock,

punching its way to the summit of the

Hafelekarspitze at 2,334m. On my right...

well, I couldn’t see what was on my right,

because a tearing wind had whipped the

snow into a thick cloud. Thank heavens

I’d booked a guide, Sebastian, because

the only way I was going to find the piste

was if I followed him footstep by footstep.

Provided, of course, the wind would let me.

There was one gust I’ll never forget.

It seemed to be testing me, like a finger

waggling a loose tooth, checking if it

was ready to be torn free. My whole body

shuddered in its grip. My mind, too. Just

down there, half an hour ago, I’d been

standing outside Manna Delikatessencafe

on the Maria-Theresien-Strasse, wondering

if there was time for a slice of Apfelstrudel

mit Vanillesauce before the ride up the

mountain. Now I was hunkered down in a

snowdrift, trying not to be blown off an Alp.

Of course, any day of skiing mixes the

wild and the refined, as you flit between

the comfort of your hotel or chalet and

sub-zero mountain slopes. But nowhere

is the contrast sharper than in Innsbruck.

This is a city, not a ski resort, and it isn’t

near the Alps, it’s in the middle of them –

crammed onto the last sizeable patch of flat

ground before the road to Italy heaves itself

over the Brenner Pass. Look down almost

any street, and see a proud procession of

exquisite Baroque, Renaissance or Gothic

buildings – with the view finishing in a

wall of snow and rock. It’s a place where the

most civilised of human endeavours and

the most rugged of nature’s wildernesses

are constantly jostling for precedence.

That means that, unlike a typical ski

trip, where time spent away from the snow

seems ‘wasted’, here it feels as if you’re

getting a terrific city break thrown in for

free. On the way to rent some boots and

skis, my walk took me underneath an 18thcentury

triumphal arch that left my jaw well

and truly dropped – in a way that nothing

in, say, Meŕibel ever had. The arch is a

sober monument, given it commemorates

a wedding, not a war: between the future

Austrian emperor, Leopold, and Maria

Luisa of Spain, in 1764. But served up with

a backdrop of Alps, it’s both incongruous

and magnificent – like Innsbruck itself.

On another break from the slopes

the next day, I ran my hands over the

cool orange marble of the columns at

the Hofkirche, a church whose modest

exterior hides an extraordinarily exuberant

mausoleum, designed in the early 16th

50 World Traveller


‘Zaha Hadid’s Hungerburgbahn railway station is slapbang

in the middle of town, only 250m from the Rococo

splendour of the Hofburg palace’

World Traveller 51


‘It’s so quaintly perfect, it feels like you’ve

wandered onto a postcard’

century as the final resting place of the

Emperor Maximilian I. Then, at the

Ferdinandeum – Innsbruck’s unmissable

museum of history and art – I rediscovered

the work of local hero Albin Egger-

Lienz. The most underrated of Austrian

artists, his anguished paintings explore

the hard, plain lives of mountain folk,

in an earthy palette of ochres. Hanging

alongside work by Egon Schiele and Oskar

Kokoschka, they are an eye-popping

introduction to early-20th-century angst.

There was even time for Kaffee und

Kuchen, courtesy of Café Sacher. Here,

in a branch of the famous Viennese

coffee shop, they celebrate the afternoon

ritual of coffee and cake with a slice of

Sachertorte, a sandwich of chocolate

sponge and apricot jam, encased in

thick, shiny chocolate icing. The first

time I tried it, years ago in the Austrian

capital, it seemed much more dry and

formal – like the army officers who used

to eat it, I imagined. But that was before I

learned to smother it in whipped cream.

Admittedly, Innsbruck is no match for

Vienna when it comes to Austrian culture.

But that’s not the point. There are no

mountains in Vienna. And it’s the mix of

the two that creates one of winter’s most

compelling short breaks. Stay in one of the

city-centre hotels, less than 15 minutes’

drive from the airport, and you’ll have

plugged yourself into the same network of

connections the locals use. Like tentacles,

the lifts, roads and railway lines reach up

into every mountain, and together they

serve up every snowy pastime imaginable.

So, for example, you could spend a

morning wading through the wedding-cake

interiors of the Hofburg palace – then ride

bus line J up to the village of Igls. As well as

a small ski area, it’s home to Innsbruck’s

Olympic bobsleigh track, and if you’re

feeling reckless you can hitch a ride on one

of its four-man sleds (

Acceleration is instantaneous, the top speed

115kph. It feels like you’ve been strapped to

a bullet and fired out of the barrel of gun.

Or you could catch a train from the

Hauptbahnhof to Seefeld, and a rather

more sedate version of the Alps. I went

the next morning, hoping to soothe my

still-frazzled nerves – and deliver you to

an absurdly pretty village of wooden eaves

and spa hotels, where cross-country skiing

trails weave through the forest. Don’t

commit to a whole day, though. Skiing

on the flat is exhausting. Plan instead to

spend the afternoon mucking about on

the outdoor curling rinks, where they

play an easy, uncomplicated version of

the Olympic sport, beneath a tiny-onion

domed church. It’s so quaintly perfect, it

feels like you’ve wandered onto a postcard.

Meanwhile, the skiers in your group will

be arguing about which of Innsbruck’s nine

local ski areas to try. For most, the essential

stop is the Stubai Glacier, which is where

I took my hire car on the third day. It’s a

good hour from the city centre – but on a

sunny day it’s worth every wiggle of road,

because there are few better pockets of easy,

intermediate-friendly skiing in the Alps. It’s

not just the fact that the pistes are so wide,

steady and gentle that makes it a blast; it’s

the quality of the snow. Up there, the lift

system tops out at an eye-watering 3,170m,

and the season runs from mid-September

until June. It’s the perfect place to warm up

your ski legs and rebuild your confidence.

By the end of the day, I was skiing so fast

I thought my hair would catch fire.

But that was nothing compared with my

52 World Traveller


This page: The view from the

historic area of Candelaria

Opposite: Contemporary art

in Iglesia de Santa Clara

This page, clockwise

from top left: a

tempting slice of

Sachertorte; festive

time in Innsbruck

city centre; lording

over Nordkette, the

mountain at the heart

of Innsbruck;

Hofburg palace

World Traveller 53

This page:

cable cars high over

Stubai Glacier

54 World Traveller


Credit: The Sunday Times Travel Magazine / News Licensing

experience beneath the Hafelekarspitze

the next morning. That walk along

the ridge I mentioned earlier was just

the overture. Sebastian, my guide and

guardian angel, somehow got me through

it, and together we wobbled on for five

minutes until the path dropped down to

a gap between the crags – and I caught

my first sight of the view south.

Holy Mother of Mountain Scenery: I’d

never seen anything like it. It wasn’t so

much the distance that made it special.

It was the sense of depth. Sealing the

horizon, 30km away, was the central

spine of the Alps – the one that forms

the border with Italy and snakes all the

way to Mont Blanc. Immediately beneath

my boots, plunging down toward the

city limits, was the steepest slope I’ve

ever attempted – and there, in a deep

gutter of green, spread the streets of

Innsbruck, glinting in the sunshine.

‘Is this the only way down?’ I asked.

I’d heard that this area, the Nordkette,

was steep, but after my ego-boosting

day on the Stubai Glacier, I thought I

needed a challenge. Now I wasn’t so

sure. What if I fell? By the look of it, I

wouldn’t stop rolling until I was back

in the Maria-Theresien-Strasse, lying

outside Manna Delikatessencafe.

‘There is another route,’ said

Sebastian. ‘But it’s steeper.’

Then I realised something. I wasn’t

scared anymore. Those powerful gusts

of wind had been shocking at first, but a

couple of days of art galleries and Gothic

architecture had sharpened my appetite

for adrenaline. And knowing what

(largely edible) delights were awaiting

me back down in town, I steeled myself.

‘Ready?’ asked Sebastian, after I’d clicked

into my skis. I nodded, and we were off.

An hour later, I was back on the streets

of Innsbruck once again a lone skier in

a sea of busy city folk. But this time, I

didn’t feel ridiculous, I felt victorious.

There was snow on my boots and a smile

as wide as the Nordkette plastered across

my face. I could have hugged every one

of them. Instead, I went to Manna’s

and ordered some apple strudel.

Inspired to travel? To book a trip, call

+971 4 316 6666 or visit

World Traveller 55

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Staycations and short-haul escapes


Lush forest, sandy beaches and natural mangroves – it’s

Ajman but not as you know it. Indeed, this tiny emirate is a

draw card for nature fans, with the coastal destination of Al

Zorah home to a rich ecosystem. Its protected wetlands are

dominated by mangroves – ideal for kayaking – that support

an impressive variety of species of birds and fish, including

the native pink flamingo. The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah

(pictured) is a luxurious base from which to explore. Simply

ask the concierge about the ways to take a closer look at the

area’s verdant bounty.

World Traveller 57


Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Al Yamm Villa Resort


As the UAE celebrates its 47th National Day, we shine a light on the capital’s enduring appeal

Anchored by its island city, Abu Dhabi is

a curious blend of contrasts that draws

visitors from around the globe. From

its historic heartland out to the golden dunes

of the Empty Quarter, culture and heritage

reign supreme, with iconic landmarks such as

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Louvre Abu

Dhabi on the must-see list for many. However,

it’s also a place for adventure seekers to get

their thrills and spills, with exciting theme

parks and plenty of outdoor adventures to

enjoy. Even if you've visited many times before,

there's a wave of newness to entice you back,

from the newly-renovated Qasr Al Hosn to the

billion dollar Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi.

Let our top picks inspire you to rediscover all

the best bits…

Jumeirah at Saadiyat

Island Resort


58 World Traveller



Yas Links

Golfing greats

The emirate is home to some great greens (and

browns). For some of the best scenery, however, we

suggest you play a round at Yas Links, the city’s only

links course that benefits from a stunning coastal

setting. Just don't let the gorgeous views distract you

from your game.

Desert ranger

A desert safari is a must, and Arabian Adventures

is the pick of a number of locally-based companies

to offer this and other fun desert experiences. It's

the rare visitor who turns down an opportunity to

embark on their Desert Rose Dinner Safari, which

will take you on a thrilling four-wheel drive across

the dunes to a traditional Bedouin style camp where

a delicious dinner awaits. Plus, you'll have the chance

to ride a camel and test your sandboarding skills.



Culture, in

musical form,

is the modus

operandi of the

hugely popular

annual Abu Dhabi

Classics concert

series that runs

from September

to April. Featuring

world-class artists

and orchestras,

concerts take

place in the

opulent setting

of the Emirates

Palace auditorium,

on Saadiyat

Island, and at Bin

Hamoodah Fort in

Al Ain


A mosque stop

When a whistle-stop visit is the reality, Sheikh Zayed

Grand Mosque is a must-see. A place of worship for

up to 40,000, the exquisite structure features 82

domes and 1,000 pure white columns adorned with

floral designs inlaid with semi-precious stones. A

guided tour is imperative for insightful snippets

about its architecture and design features, including

the world’s largest handmade carpet.

History lesson

Swap large-scale sights for an altogether quainter

experience at the open-air Abu Dhabi Heritage

Village. Built to resemble a desert oasis community,

take a gentle wander around the traditional barasti

(dried palm frond) huts housing various exhibits,

see local artisans in action and get a potted history

of the emirate.

Storytime at the fort

The former home of the emirate’s ruling family, and

originally a coral stone watchtower marking the

city’s first settlement, Al Hosn recently underwent a

multi-million-dollar renovation to transform it into

a cultural destination comprising the historic Qasr

Al Hosn Fort, the Cultural Foundation, the National

Consultative Council building, and the House of

Artisans. The museum traces the city’s development

from a fishing and pearling settlement to the

modern metropolis it is today.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Animal magic

On, below and above the smooth surface of the desert

sands lies a teeming mass of wildlife. The impressive

Al Ain Zoo, which celebrated its 50 th anniversary in

2018, is all about education and conservation. Visit its

sprawling facility and you’ll easily spend a good few

hours observing more than 4,000 animals. Its highly

regarded breeding programme includes a growing

Arabian sand cat community and the endangered

dama gazelle.

World Traveller 59


Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi


Park life

Entertainment hub Yas Island is the place to go for

some fast fun, with a cluster of theme parks and

hi-octane attractions for thrill seekers of all ages.

New on the scene is Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi,

which boasts six immersive lands including

DC’s Metropolis and Gotham City, as well as

Cartoon Junction, Bedrock, Dynamite Gulch

and Warner Bros. Plaza. There's a 29-strong

roster of rides, plus interactive familyfriendly

attractions and live entertainment

populated by fan-favourite characters such

as Scooby-Doo, Wonder Woman and Tom

and Jerry.

Pedal to the metal

This entertainment nirvana is also home to the

5.55-kilometre Hermann Tilke-designed Yas Marina

Circuit, which hosts the annual Formula 1 Etihad

Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November. But don’t

fret that you’ve just missed the main event, as the

circuit hosts a full programme of year-round on-track

activities, headlined by in-demand driving experiences

behind the wheel of an Aston Martin GT4 or singleseater

Formula 3000.



For boho chic

vibes and Far

Eastern cuisine,

head to the newlyopened


Bar Beach at The

St. Regis Saadiyat

Island Resort, Abu

Dhabi. Direct from

Paris, this day-tonight


is the ‘in’ place to

unwind and when

it comes to the

food, the ceviche

is a clear winner

Pack your bucket and

spade and head to the

city’s newest beachfront

community A’l Bahar,

situated along the corniche,

which is packed with shops,

entertainment, and reasons

to get active – the inflatable

AquaFun waterpark is our

top pick for families

Louvre Abu Dhabi


Inside the Louvre

Named in Time magazine’s list of the greatest places

of 2018, Louvre Abu Dhabi is a cultural showstopper.

Having recently celebrated its one-year anniversary

this art icon, located within the Saadiyat Island

Cultural District, recently unveiled 11 new acquisitions

in its permanent galleries and is hosting an exhibition

of archaeological masterpieces and important

Islamic art from Saudi Arabia and the UAE until 16

February 2019. Its exceptional collection of artworks,

artefacts and on-loan pieces is all wrapped up inside

an architectural work of art – Jean Nouvel’s futuristic

floating silver dome.

Creative flair

Manarat Al Saadiyat, a multi-gallery and performance

space that hosts the annual Abu Dhabi Art show, is

another gem the Saadiyat Island Cultural District.

Check out the new Photography Studio, which hosts

community-driven photography exhibitions alongside

a year-round calendar of activities and programmes.

There’s also a Drop In Studio for people of all ages to

create their own artworks, with sessions lasting

for up to two hours.

Solo artist

A growing cadre of independent galleries

are also expanding the scene, including

new kid on the block Warehouse 421, tucked

away in the port area, which is an advocate

for emerging talent within the local creative

community. It hosts a cool line-up of exhibitions,

including Hundred Best Arabic Posters 100/100, which

is running until 20 January 2019.

Life is a roller coaster

Speed demons of all ages are also bound to have

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi on their bucket list. Home to

the world’s fastest rollercoaster – the Formula Rossa,

which hits 240km/h in under five seconds – as well

as the 1.5-kilometre-long Flying Aces rollercoaster,

featuring the world’s largest inverted loop and steepest

incline. But it also has a host of (ahem) gentler rides to


60 World Traveller



Gallery goals

Abu Dhabi’s plush malls are a shopper’s delight. If

designer labels are your kryptonite then The Galleria,

Al Maryah Island, is sure to rob you of your selfcontrol.

We say give in and go try on some of the

wearable riches from the many luxury fashion, watch

and jewellery brands housed here, including Van Cleef

& Arpels, Richard Mille and Mulberry.

The St. Regis Abu Dhabi

Fashionable finds

The concept boutique scene is also hotting up with a

small but tempting collection of independent retailers

selling quirky, cool and collectible items. Fashionled

Minbart in the Al Raha Beach community stocks

pieces from up-and-coming local, regional and

international designers, while Bits & Pieces in the Al

Mushrif district is a repository of unique colourful

homeware, décor and kitchen trappings.

To the souk

The Souk at Qaryat Al Beri is a contemporary take on

the Arabian bazaar, with a touch of European influence

thrown in for good measure. The waterside setting

includes abras to ferry you along the man-made canal,

a plethora of water-facing dining options, plus shops

and pop-up stalls selling everything from jewellery

and accessories to perfumes. Follow your nose to

Amouage to stock up on oud-based fragrances, pick up

a cashmere pashmina or three at Toshkhana, or treat

yourself to some handcrafted jewellery at Exquisite

Antiques Gallery.

The Souk at Qaryat Al Beri



If you’re keen

to try authentic

Emirati cuisine, we

rate Al Fanar at

The Ritz-Carlton

Abu Dhabi Grand

Canal’s Venetian

Village. Bring your

appetite and feast

on dishes including

fish biryani and

a hearty chicken

thereed (where a

flavourful stew is

ladelled on top of

thin Arabic bread)


The St. Regis Abu Dhabi

Located at the heart of the city, along the corniche, The

St. Regis Abu Dhabi is famous for its Superior Sea View

rooms. Take a load off at Nation Riviera Beach Club,

which boasts its own private stretch of sand, and be

sure to squeeze in some pampering at Remède Spa.

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers

Overlooking the Arabian Gulf and the city’s

cosmopolitan corniche, the 69-storey Jumeirah at

Etihad Towers has views to write home about. The

suites here rank among the finest in the city: even

their bathrooms afford widescreen views of Abu Dhabi.

There are multiple dining outlets to enjoy, a pristine

private beach and the award-winning Talise Spa.

Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort

Just a short stroll away from the sweeping protected

beachfront, this contemporary resort is brimming

with natural attractions, with mangroves, dolphins

and turtles on the doorstep. Catch a sunrise yoga

session, take a dip in one of three infinity swimming

pools and observe Hawksbill turtles on the sand during

the nesting season. Plus, it’s a stone’s throw from the

emirate’s leading cultural attractions.

World Traveller 61


Roads of Arabia © Department of Culture

& Tourism – Abu Dhabi

Cross the



Don’t miss this critically acclaimed

exhibition at Louvre Abu Dhabi,

which delves into the rich history

of the Arabian Peninsula

Art and culture fans have yet another

reason to visit the UAE capital over

the coming months, thanks to Louvre

Abu Dhabi’s Roads of Arabia: Archaeological

Treasures of Saudi Arabia exhibition, which

explores the fascinating story of the Arabian

Peninsula through archaeological and cultural

artefacts from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

and the UAE.

One of the most renowned Saudi exhibitions

internationally, it was originally conceived

through a cooperation between the Saudi

Commission for Tourism and National

Heritage and the Musée du Louvre in Paris,

where it was first presented in 2010. Now

back in the region following a 14-stop tour of

Europe, the US and Asia and, the exhibition has

been enriched by a selection of rare pieces from

the emirates.

It explores five chapters in the history of

the Arabian Peninsula, from early prehistoric

settlements to the social and economic

developments between the 14th and 16th

centuries that set the stage for the modernday

region. Visitors can view important

archaeological pieces from the UAE, including

a pearl found in Umm Al Quwain dating from

5500-5300 BCE (loaned by Umm Al Quwain

Museum), which are displayed alongside

significant artefacts from KSA, including a

door of the Kaaba dating to 1355 (loaned by the

National Museum in Riyadh), among many

others. Bolster your knowledge through a

series of film screenings curated by Emirati

artist Hind Mezaina (taking place each

Saturday from 5 to 26 January), as well as

talks and poetry performances designed to

provide a richer insight.

The exhibition is taking place until

16 February 2019. Entry is free upon

purchasing a ticket to the museum.

To find out more, call +971 600 56 55 66

or visit

62 World Traveller

1 2


My Great Escapes


Travel writer and photographer

Michelle Karam, founder of Travel

Junkie Diary, shares her best adventures,




1. Maldives moments. One of the most beautiful Maldivian

island resorts I’ve visited is Joali on Muravandhoo Island in

the Raa Atoll, 45 minutes by seaplane from Male. It embraces

creativity, with a fantastic collection of art and sculptural

pieces to discover. 2. Ocean views in Madeira. I spent a

week in Madeira with my family exploring the mountains, the

ocean, the cuisine and the wonderful history that the region

has to offer. This picture was taken at Belmond Reid's Palace,

which is perched atop a cliff and has a view to take your breath

away. 3. Finding the magic in Finland. You can fall in love

with a place because of how it makes you feel, and Finland is

where I found nature in the most magical way: sleeping in an

aurora cabin under the stars and waking up to the sound of

snow falling onto the rooftop. 4. Desert dreams. The UAE

desert comes alive at sunrise and is one of the most beautiful

places to photograph. I strongly advise you wake up early

to experience the majesty of the dunes. 5. Family time in

Lisbon. Lisbon is one of my favourite European cities. I spent

two weeks there with my family, staying at Avani Avenida

Liberdade. My daughter and I were going to spend the day

beside the pool but it started raining without warning. As we

began to laugh, my husband took this picture. 6. Home to

Lebanon. A misunderstood country filled with nature, lakes,

beaches, history, mountains and great food, Lebanon will

always be my home. Seeing the Faqra Roman ruins is a must,

as learning about the area’s rich history and culture is all part

of the journey.


World Traveller 63



Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai

Adopt the Bedouin way of life at this luxury resort in Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve


You can get a real feel for the local culture

inside these suites, which pay homage to

the desert surroundings and are styled

with Arabian artefacts and antiques.

Each one features an infinity style

private pool that overlooks the golden

dunes. Grab the binoculars from your

room, head out onto the deck and wait

for wildlife, such as gazelle and Arabian

oryx, to wander into view.


Al Diwaan invites you dine alfresco on

the veranda for a breathtaking view

of the reserve. Sample indigenous

delicacies before heading upstairs to

Hajar Terrace Bar for drinks. Indulgence

of the pampering kind calls at Timeless

Spa, which specialises in Middle Eastern

and South East Asian aromatherapy

traditions. Still the mind with a session

in the therapy bath.


Archery, nature walks, desert drives,

wildlife safaris, falconry, horse riding

and camel trekking are just some of the

thrilling ways to explore. Set off with a

field guide who can offer an insight into

the conservation projects in place as

you search for telltale footprints. Sand

gazelle, the Arabian red fox and Arabian

oryx are among the four-legged friends

who roam the area.

To find out more, call +971 4 832 9900 or visit

64 World Traveller


Experience the alluring, golden desert landscape, the captivating silence of nature, the free-roaming

wildlife in the reserve, all enjoyed from your private suite and pool. Indulge in a luxurious desert adventure

with camel treks, horseback riding, falconry, archery, dune drives and more.






Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa

Fabled charm meets top-tier luxury at this desert dream getaway


Encapsulating the heart and soul of

Arabia, swing open the doors of your

room or suite to reveal an enchanting

desert backdrop. Go wild by booking the

Terrace Room, which offers a panoramic

view of the expansive Palm Grove and

towards the golden dunes where wildlife

such as gazelle, geckos, cornucopias and

the endangered Arabian oryx wander free

in their natural habitat.


Foodies can embrace the holiday spirit

thanks to the 10-day festive fiesta (from

20-30 December) at four of the main

restaurants. Highlights include the

festive brunch at Al Forsan, with its huge

buffet and fun kids' area; the festive tree

lighting on 7 Dec, complete with carols

and traditional bites; and the spectacular

New Year's Gala Dinner at Al Hadheerah,

complete with firework display.


The weather is perfect at this time of

year – ideal for ticking all those active

pursuits off your wish list. Improve your

stroke in the infinity pool, embark on a

thrilling dune drive, or explore the local

landscape on a fat bike. Horse and camel

riding is also available – go at sunset for

the best views. At the end of an actionpacked

day, wind down in an outdoor

cabana with a pampering spa treatment.

To find out more, call +971 4 809 6100 or visit

66 World Traveller


Nestled among the dunes, Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa is the world’s favourite

choice for dream desert getaways.

This oasis of tranquility combines rustic charm with top-tier hospitality and luxury

to bring to life an authentic desert experience.

Book directly with the hotel or through the hotel website

and save on existing offers and special discounts


Dubai,United Arab Emirates

T:+971 4 809 6194,

/babalshamshotel /babalshamshotel /babalshamshotel



Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort

Ramp up the fun factor on an all all-inclusive break at this family-friendly resort in Fujairah


Nestled between the ocean and the

mountains, this popular beach resort

is a draw card for fun seekers. Wake

up to the sounds of waves lapping the

shore and the marvellous sight of the Al

Hajar mountain range, the highest in

the Arabian Peninsula. The Penthouse

Bedroom Suite has more than enough

space for larger broods, accommodating

up to nine people in style.


Home to eight dining venues, your

taste buds are in for an adventure, too.

You can sink your teeth into delicious

grills at the newly-refurbished Gonu as

the fresh ocean breeze washes over you.

Alternatively, head to Views Restaurant

for a delicious east-meets-west fusion

buffet and live music or, for a taste of the

exotic, simply reserve your table at the

elegant Indian restaurant Swaad.


For some adrenaline-pumping fun, get

warmed up for the resort’s own obstacle

course, the Al Aqah Challenge. Featuring

the first-of-its-kind rope course tower

on the East Coast, you can take part in

five activities under the watchful eye of

the expert instructors. From zooming

through the air on the zip lines to scaling

the climbing wall, it’s sure to bring out

your competitive side.

To find out more, call +971 9 244 9000 or visit

68 World Traveller



JW Marriott Marquis Dubai

Celebrate the festive season at the world's tallest five-star hotel


Having transformed itself into a festive

wonderland, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai is

a fitting place to spend the holidays, with

ample space to welcome guests. Its 1,608

guestrooms and suites have luxurious

finishings – think marble bathrooms with

oversized tubs – with views of the glittering

skyline or Dubai Water Canal. Families can

book a suite and spread out in two separate

living and sleeping areas.


There are 15 award-winning restaurants

and bars at the property, each serving

up a festive treat. Marvel at life-sized

gingerbread house at the entrance of La

Farine Café & Bakery, before having a cosy

afternoon tea. Join the Festive Wanderlust

brunch on 25 Dec, which promises a merry

time with 11 live stations, or ring in 2019

with a six-course menu at Prime68, as

fireworks illuminate the night's sky.


The hotel is close to many of Dubai's top

attractions, but there are lots of perks

that'll tempt you to linger at the property.

Take a dip in the sparkling outdoor

swimming pool or, for a spot of pampering,

head to the opulent Saray Spa, which has 17

treatment rooms and the UAE's only Dead

Sea floatation pool. Try The Saray Golden

Hammam, which includes a decadent skin

massage using 24-karat gold.

To find out more, call +971 4 414 3000 or visit

70 World Traveller

Festive Celebrations

at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai.

Elevate your festivities to new heights at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai,

your ultimate dining destination. Make this festive season extra special

for you and your loved ones with impeccable dishes, fun entertainment

and memorable experiences.






Indulge in award-winning cuisine this Festive Season, one dish at a time.

For more information, call +971 4 414 3000

or visit

JW Marriott® Marquis® Hotel Dubai

Sheikh Zayed Road, Business Bay, PO Box 121000, Dubai, UAE | T + 971 4 414 3000 |

jwmarriottmarquisdubai | jwdubaimarquis | jwmarriottmarquisdubai | #jwmmfestive



Welcoming in a new year is the perfect

time for a new experience. Book a

trip to one of our top destinations

like New York City, Edinburgh,

Hong Kong or Sydney.

Book at

call 800 DNATA (36282) or

speak to us in-store

Download our app

| Follow us on


Reader offers

Great deals to get you packing


Whether you're hoping to see some

winter snow, or want to spend the

festive break on a tropical island like

Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort

(page 75), we've got a deal for you…

World Traveller 73











4 nights starting from

USD480 per person

Includes: A 2-night stay in Tbilisi

and 2 nights in Gudauri ski resort;

4-star accommodation with daily

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Valid from: Now until

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4 nights starting from

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Valid from: Now until

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Includes: 6 nights in first class hotels;

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Valid from: 6 January to

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74 World Traveller





3 nights starting from

USD765 per person

Includes: Stay 3 nights in a Sala

Pool Villa with breakfast daily

and return airport transfers.

Offer: 20% discount on room rate.

Valid from: Now until

31 January 2019.




Universal Studios Singapore





3 nights starting from

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Includes: Stay 3 nights in a

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Anantara Phuket Layan Resort & Spa




3 nights starting from

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daily and return airport transfers.

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Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris

Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort

Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten, Hamburg




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Offer: 20% discount on room rate.

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Classic Room with breakfast daily

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rate and complimentary

upgrade to Deluxe Room.

Valid from: Now until 31 March 2019.




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USD1466 per person

Includes: Stay 3 nights in a

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breakfast and dinner daily and

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Offer: 35% discount on room

rate, complimentary upgrade to

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Valid from: Now until

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Includes: A 3-night stay at

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breakfast daily; 1-day pass to

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cutting-edge rides including

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coasters and many more; and

return transfers to Sentosa.

Offer: 20% discount on the

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Valid from: Now until

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Includes: Stay 3 nights in a Deluxe

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daily and return airport transfers.

Offer: 30% discount on room rate.

Valid from: Now until

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World Traveller 75




Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City

Jumeirah At Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi

Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Dubai




1 night starting from USD341

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Special offer: Special rate.

Includes: Stay in an Ocean Deluxe Room

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per person

Special offer: Special rate.

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Valid from: Now until 24 Decemeber 2018.



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and upgrade to next room category.

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Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Residences

Emirates Pearl

Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq

Thalassa Sea And Spa

How to book

By calling dnata on

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By stepping into a dnata outlet

or by visiting

On the website you can also sign up to the dnata newsletter and

receive more offers direct to your inbox. T&Cs apply.

76 World Traveller



All-Inclusive by Club Med





All-Inclusive package includes:

Premium Rooms Gourmet Cuisine Beverages Expert Childcare Over 60 sports Ski Lift Pass Ski Lessons

...and so much more!

Experience originality at Club Med Saint Moritz Roi Soleil nestled at the foot

of the Swiss Alps – the birthplace of Alpine Skiing, an ideal choice for

an All-Inclusive, hassle free skiing holiday.

Find out more at

To book call 800 DNATA (36282) or

speak to us in-store

Download our app

| Follow us on

*Terms & conditions applied. Price is per person based on two people staying seven nights at the 4* Club Med

Saint Moritz Soleil Hotel on a all-inclusive basis, with return economy flights. Traveling between 01/12/2018

to 31/03/2019. Subject to availability.


Reethi Faru Resort

Win a Maldives holiday!

In need of a tropical island escape?

We’re giving away a three-night

stay at Reethi Faru Resort. Just

a 45-minute seaplane ride away

from Male International Airport,

the lucky recipient will stay in

a Jacuzzi Beach Villa on a halfboard

basis, with a complimentary

massage for two people and a

diving activity thrown in. To enter,


Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara



Twiddling your thumbs

between issues? Simply visit

for even more travel inspo, and

carry on the conversation

on our social channels

Follow us on Instagram


to double tap our dreamy

destination shots and tag us

in your images for a chance to

feature on our wall.


Our handy guides to easy-toreach

destinations perfect for

a long weekend away

Used up all your annual

leave? There’s still time to

squeeze in one last trip of the

year. For inspiration, head

straight to our weekends

section for ideas on where to

spend a your free days, as well

as top hotels on home turf.

Palazzo Versace


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– make the most of your

280-character allowance

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An aerial view of Emirates

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Hot hotels on your doorstep

that’ll put you in a holiday

state of mind

Available on your desktop,

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World Traveller 79

Suite dreams

Our monthly finish with a flourish, delving into a

suite that has a character and style all of its own

Signature Suite

Hotel Montalembert, Paris

Though renowned for its extravagant palace hotels, it's the boutique

properties of Paris where guests really get to savour the vibe of the city.

Styled to feel as though you're staying in your own apartment, albeit

one housed at the top of a beautiful Haussmann-style building which

dates to 1926, the Signature Suite at the wonderfully welcoming Hotel

Montalembert is dressed in the finery you'd expect of Paris: heavy oak

flooring, marble in the bathroom, silk curtains and Hermès’ detail.

The walls are also adorned with paintings by French artist Jean-Pierre

Bourquin, yet it's the framed real-life shot of Eiffel Tower that you

won't be able to take your eyes off. Hotel Montalembert is a member of the

Preferred Hotels & Resorts L.V.X. Collection.

80 World Traveller

Abu Dhabi boasts a treasure trove of culture, just waiting to be discovered.

From its rich historic traditions to its vibrant, dynamic arts scene.

From a wealth of spectacular sites which offer a window into the past, to

a calendar of world-class events with contemporary vigour, tradition and


Now, all of Abu Dhabi’s cultural heritage is in one place for you.

Abu Dhabi Culture is an easy-to-use platform offering the full breadth and

depth of Abu Dhabi’s cultural information, right at your fingertips.

Explore every historic topic, keep up-to-date with every calendar event,

browse our latest photography and videography libraries, or go exploring

via the walk-throughs and interactive maps.

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