Dubai has a mixed reputation. This land of superlatives (the tallest buildings, grandest hotels, largest shopping malls) rising out of the desert is undoubtedly an awe-inspiring feat of human endeavor. But you’ve probably heard the rumours: soulless materialistic, a place where above all money talks and the proverbial walks. Is this really the place to spend your precious holiday time? Dubai’s Armani Hotel is a destination in itself…

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Sinking into the Armani guest suite’s fluffy, cloudlike king-size, and gazing out at the skyscraper-punctuated skyline through floor to ceiling windows, and any question along those lines soon melts away. Because the Armani Hotel is everything you’ve heard Dubai isn’t – understated, glamorous, serene – it’s a mecca for anyone who craves intense pampering and that all-important ‘me’ time we hear so much about.

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“To create something exceptional, your mindset must be relentlessly focused on the smallest details,” says Armani himself who – of course – meticulously planned and designed every element of the hotel, from the bespoke, modernist furniture to all seven of the hotel’s restaurant menus. The five-star’s corridors are lit to look like catwalks, the lobby is Cathedralesque in shape and size, and the entire hotel is scented with the fashion designer’s signature musky fragrance. Sexy, much?

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Exploring the Armani Classic Room, you’ll find an elegantly designed living room, bedroom, dressing room and two bathrooms across the spacious 70-square metres. No expense is spared on the room’s interiors with goat-leather lined walls and zebra wood floors as well as high-tech features that let you control the lighting, flat-screen televisions, hell, even the curtains from the comfort of your sofa or bed. In short, the whole space is infused with a Zen-like, spa ambience finished to the highest spec imaginable. If you can’t relax and unwind here, we wonder if you can do it anywhere…

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The palatial complex that the Armani Hotel is, it would be all too easy in fact to holiday in Dubai without leaving the establishment’s walls whatsoever. You can bask in the sun (up in the sky) by the side of the Armani infinity pool, sink into deep relaxation with an intense Armani spa massage or dine on any cuisine you fancy in the Armani restaurants (before turning out onto one of the terraces that line the Burj Khalifa to watch the famous dancing fountains.

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Choosing where to dine is perhaps the most stressful decision to be made (which says something about how tranquil your environs are). If it’s to be Italian, Armani Ristorante offers a gastronomic and memorable tasting menu or superb pasta dishes (think black ink ravioli with shrimps, squid and herb emulsion). Armani Amal serves a true taste of India with tiger prawns, creamy black lentils and fragrant butter chicken dishes, and then there’s the Japanese cuisine to be had in Armani Hasii: feast on sushi and tempura with the freshest fish flown in daily.

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Of course staying in the heart of the Burj Khalifa, it’d be churlish not to go up to Level 148: the highest observation deck in the world (even if you haven’t got much of a head for heights). At At.Mosphere Lounge, on Level 122, the finger sandwiches, macarons and exquisite patisserie make up quite literally the highest high tea it’s possible to experience. Back on ground level, there’s extravagant retail therapy in the enormous Dubai Mall. Jimmy Choo, Alexander McQueen and Armani’s own concept store are all here waiting for you to peruse at leisure (even if it’s just window shopping).

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But while all this luxury is more than seductive, culture vultures may yet to be satisfied. For a taste of more traditional Arabian shopping – and a more varied snapshot of life – Dubai’s souks in the Deira district are the answer. Gold, spices and precious stones line the walkways with persistent shopkeepers attempting to lure you in. Catch an abra across the Creek (Dubai’s main waterway) or wander through the Dubai museum – the best place to get up to speed with the history of the emirate.

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The best way to get to the heart of Dubai though has to be a desert safari experience. Driving across the dunes in a 1950’s Land Rover is like moving through a painting by Dali it’s so surreal, and your guide will pick out local wildlife within the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. At the camp, watch a falconry display as the sun drops, smoke shisha on Persian rugs, feast on traditional Bedouin food and ride a camel over the dunes, before finally indulging in a spot of stargazing with an astronomer pointing out the constellations.

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Lying under the open sky studded with stars, pondering on the vast history of Bedouin and Arabic culture and the strangeness of life on this rotating ball of rock that is our planet, Dubai gives you a broadness of perspective unimaginable someplace else. And the Armani Hotel is the sanctuary to return to and relish after witnessing it all. Forget everything that you’ve been told – Dubai may be built upon sand, but it’s anything but a cultural desert.

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For more information and to book, see the Armani Hotel’s website or telephone 00971 4888 3888. Rooms at Armani Hotel Dubai start from 2,000 AED per room per night, subject to 10% municipality fee and 10% service charge. The rate is also subject to tourism Dirham fee of AED 20 per room per night.