I’ve always been fascinated with Dubai. Underwater hotels, manmade islands, magical souks . . . and where else could you go ski-ing and snowboarding in 40-degree heat?
It’s a modern oasis where anything is possible and where expatriates’ dreams really do come true.
But it’s a fair hike. I’m all for a long-haul flight every now and again, but I always thought it would be nice to experience the same luxury a little closer to home.
Well, I’ve discovered it is possible to have it all without even leaving the country.
When I set out on my Arabian adventure to London (of all places), all it took was a quick flight – out of Aberdeen, via Virgin’s Little Red – to stay in an establishment owned by one of the most famous Middle Eastern hoteliers.
The Jumeirah Group owns some of the most luxurious destinations in the world – the Jumeirah Dhevanafushi in the Maldives, the Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel in Shanghai and the Jumeirah Grand Hotel Via Veneto in Rome, to name just a few.
But the company’s heart is rooted in the Middle East. It even owns the renowned Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, the ultimate symbol of Dubai.
In 2005, the group opened a hotel in the heart of London – a clash of cultures as it swapped sand and sun for cobbles and clouds.
Located in exclusive and leafy Belgravia village, the Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel has all the allure of Arabia in the most quintessential British setting.
When the group opened its first hotel in London, in 2001, the chief executive flew all members of staff – from waiters to restaurant managers – to Dubai for a five-day workshop.
With this dedication to detail, it achieved the ultimate blend of two of the wealthiest cultures in the world, and the Jumeirah Lowndes is no different.
The hotel is mere moments from Harrods and Harvey Nichols and a few steps from Sloane Street, home to the most exclusive designer boutiques – Bvlgari, Chanel, Christian Louboutin, Gucci, Versace . . .
From the welcoming doorman to the smell of spicy perfume, its creators have captured the best parts of the Middle East.
And the rooms are the epitome of luxury, with every modern enhancement imaginable: marble baths, fluffy bathrobes, a hi-tech coffee machine and iPod docking station.
With the rain battering the windows and dark clouds over the London sky, it was the perfect escape from the bitter British winter.
And it was the first time I have ever been to central London and not felt like I was slap bang in the middle of a tourist hub.
As I sat out on my balcony that night, looking out on to the wealthy borough below, it was almost as if I was in Dubai.
The gloves, hat and thick, woolly coat did not quite fit the image, but with a bit of imagination and a little help from the experts, it really is possible to have that Arabian adventure without the long-haul flight.
Superior rooms at Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel start at £220 per night. A junior suite can be hired from £420 per night. Virgin Atlantic Little Red flies three times daily from Aberdeen to London Heathrow with return fares from £119 including tax. Contact www.virginatlantic.com or call 0844 2092 770. Prices subject to change.