Top Travel News from the Middle East

Looking for luxury in the Middle East? You're in luck; the luxe scene is on fire. Here is the latest news coming out of the destination.

Big news for the hotel scene in the Middle East and Africa: Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has announced what it is calling "a comprehensive renovation strategy" for its Le Méridienhotels in the Middle East and Africa region. Le Méridien and its ownership groups will invest more than $200 million in the renovations of 13 hotels and resorts in the MEA region over the next three years. A significant factor to this development will be 10 new hotels opening in the region over the next year—an unprecedented number for the brand. 

The 13 Le Méridien hotels and resorts completing or currently undergoing renovations include:  

Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort (Fujairah, United Arab Emirates)

Le Méridien Al Khobar (Saudi Arabia)

Le Méridien Dubai

Le Méridien Heliopolis (Cairo, Egypt)

Le MéridienIle Maurice (Pointe Aux Piments, Mauritius)

Le Méridien Jeddah (Saudi Arabia)

Le Méridien Makkah (Saudi Arabia)

Le MéridienMandji (Port Gentil, Gabon)

Le Méridien Mina Seyahi (Dubai)

Le Méridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa(Cairo, Egypt)

Le MéridienRe-Ndama (Libreville, Gabon)

Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi

Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa (Dubai)

Additionally, Le Méridien will add a new hotel in Egypt, where the brand currently operates four properties. Le Méridien Cairo Airport will open in September 2013. Located at Terminal 3, it will be the only hotel with direct access to Cairo International Airport terminals. Le Méridien Cairo Airport will feature 350 guestrooms, a 24-hour restaurant, specialty restaurant, coffee bar, lobby bar, lounge, fitness center, and swimming pool. The hotel will have approximately 750 square meters of meeting space, including a business center, ballroom, and six meeting rooms, for a variety of business functions. Many of these renovated hotels along with Le Méridien Cairo Airport will integrate the Le Méridien Hub experience into existing public spaces, re-interpreting the traditional lobby into a social gathering place for guests.

Import the world’s top design talents and top chef and what do you get? A destination restaurant inside a landmark museum that’s worth hopping on a plane to check out. At the end of 2012, Alain Ducasse opened Idam inside Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art, a waterfront landmark designed by architect IM Pei. The restaurant—the first in the Middle East for the uber chef—is located on the museum’s top floor, and boasts an eye-catching design by Philippe Starck. Idam is also getting lots of buzz for its cuisine, prepared by chef Romain Meder, which reflects a fusion of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Think octopus with saffron-infused potatoes; Marinated bonito from the Arabian Gulf served with lemon and Gold caviar; the local catch with crunchy-creamy Egyptian rice cooked in La Chamba; and roasted blue lobster with “zaalouk” squash with stuffed squash blossom. The best part of all? Following local tradition, there’s even camel meat on the menu, but the recipe’s been adapted with Ducasse’s sophisticated touch. (The braised meat is served with duck foie gras and black truffle sauce.)

2013 started off with a bang for Amari with the debut of Amari Doha, the first Amari hotel in the Middle East. The new luxury hotel has 120 rooms, including 78 superior rooms, 36 deluxe rooms and six suites. Facilities include the Breeze Pa (complete with Jacuzzi and Vichy shower room, Turkish bath, Sauna and steam room), a variety of dining services, adult and children's swimming pools and more. We love the rooftop pool lounge that has views of Doha's skyline and the Corniche. 

Good news for foodies: Hotelier Middle East is reporting that French chef Guy Savoy has opened his first restaurant in the Middle East. Signature restaurant Quisine has officially opened on The Pearl-Qatar as the Michelin-starred chef's first venture in the region, where Savoy will reportedly be working in the kitchen along with his team of hand-picked chefs from Paris. The restaurant offers a number of Guy Savoy's signature dishes, including artichoke and black truffle soup, crispy sea bass and line-caught whiting with caviar. In addition, two tasting menus are available. (Hint: True gourmands will want to book the chef's table in the heart of the kitchen.)

Good news for the Middle East's luxury scene: Hotelier Middle East is reporting that a new luxury hilltop resort is set to open in Oman by the end of the year. Even better, we hear the project is ahead of schedule. Omran, the sultanate's tourism-related development, hospitality management and investment company, said the 2,000 meter-high Alila Jabal Akhdar Resort project is currently eight percent ahead of schedule. (Alila Hotels and Resorts have been selected to be the strategic partners for Omran.) Set among a rugged landscape with views of the Hajar Mountains, the luxury resort and spa development will have 86 suites and spa facilities, alongside a cliff-side restaurant and pool. The majority of raw materials for the project are being sourced directly from local suppliers wherever possible. This development seems rather timely, as reports indicate that Oman's hotel sector is set to grow by more than 60 percent if all 4,613 rooms in the country’s total active pipeline open. STR Global said the sultanate was poised to grow the most in the Middle East and Africa (63.9 percent), with five other countries in the region set to expand by more than 30 percent.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and Majid Al Futtaim Properties have announced the opening of Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates Hotel. With this opening, Starwood now operates 14 hotels in Dubai, representing the highest concentration of Starwood hotels in any individual city outside of New York. Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates Hotel is directly connected to Dubai’s leading shopping destination, Mall of the Emirates, which features more than 560 international retail brands and is also home to the iconic Ski Dubai snow dome. Sheraton has a long history in the Middle East, spanning over 50 years. With the opening of Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates Hotel, the brand portfolio in the region is closer to the plans to open 500 Sheraton hotels by 2015. Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates Hotel comprises of 481 guest rooms, including 94 suites, as well as close to 9,000 square-feet of meeting and event space. The hotel offers four restaurants and lounges, including: Sanabel, a Mediterranean restaurant; Sodabox, an American retro 1950s café; Vantage, a contemporary urban lounge; and Sanctuary Pool Lounge, boasting panoramic views. As the newest Sheraton hotel in the region, Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates Hotel offers signature experience, including: all-white Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Beds in all guest-rooms, the Sheraton Club Lounge, the executive business center – The LinkSheratonSM Experienced with Microsoft and Sheraton Fitness Programmed by Core Performance, with gym equipment and training. Guests can also pamper themselves in the Sanctuary Spa. Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates Hotel is located 30 minutes from the Dubai International Airport and 20 minutes from Dubai World Trade Centre. This opening marks Starwood’s 16th Sheraton hotel in the Middle East since the debut of the company in the region with the Sheraton Kuwait in 1966.

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