The Daily Telegraph, January 30, 2017
The rapid development of the Middle East's tourism industry and luxury-hotel sector means it has become something of the go-to destination for extreme extravagance. With that being the case it's no surprise that its best hotel suites are among the most lavish to be found anywhere, but don't dismiss Africa and the Indian Ocean. Exceptional safari lodges and unparalleled wildlife-watching opportunities distinguish the former, while access to remarkable sea life and a remarkable sense of romance are on offer in the latter. Read on for our experts' guide to the best hotel suites in the Middle East, Africa and the Indian Ocean.
The Private Reserve; Gili Lankanfushi - Maldives
Situated some 1,000ft from the resort’s nearest villa, The Private Reserve at Gili Lankanfushi offers privacy on a scale unequalled in the Maldives. A recent refurbishment has seen the addition of a new bedroom, glass infinity pool and split-level bathing deck. The pick of the three double-bedroom suites has a 100sq ft bathroom partly open to the heavens, with a glass shower, a plunge pool and an oversized bath over coral gardens. The huge living area has a library, dining room, cinema and bar, plus spa, sauna, steam room and gym, even a slide… Sections of glass flooring remind you that you’re in an over-water villa – easy to forget in a property this size. Daybeds, sunbeds and breakout areas offer numerous options to sunbathe or siesta, but the twin over-water hammocks are many guests’ favourites – happiness is being suspended over the ocean, water lapping at your feet, fish flitting below and no sound but the roar of the reef. A small boat is yours to visit the main resort as you please – most people, though, never want to leave. Sleeps 6; 18,300sq ft; from £10,665; gililankanfushi.com
Read more: the best hotels in the Maldives
Riad D'Honneur; Royal Mansour, Marrakech - Morocco
Located close to the centre of Marrakech, but away from its bustle, the Royal Mansour hotel is a showcase for exemplary Moroccan craftsmanship. Its owner, King Mohammed VI, enlisted the country’s most skilled artisans to create its interiors, and their handiwork is handsomely displayed throughout its immense Riad d’Honneur, or Grand Riad. Witness, for example, the delicate wrought ironwork of the lift – which resembles black lace, a style found only in Marrakech. Elsewhere, there is painted zouak woodwork to admire and geometric zellige wall tiles in bespoke colours; in one bathroom, the locally made standalone bath is crafted from maillechort (nickel silver) and adorned with filigree carvings. Other attractions are more immediately apparent: there’s a cinema, for example, plus a library, bar, gym, solarium, hammam and spa treatment room. But it’s on the rooftop that you’ll find the suite’s standout feature: its panoramic two-level terrace, complete with a tented living area, dining room, a small pool and views over the medina and Koutoubia Mosque to the distant High Atlas mountains.
Sleeps 8; 19,375sq ft; from £30,000; royalmansour.com
Read more: the best hotels in Marrakech
Singita Castleton; Sabi Sand Game Reserve - South Africa
Set in the 45,000-acre Singita Sabi Sand Game Reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park, this exclusive-use safari camp has plenty of nostalgic appeal – Singita’s founder, Luke Bailes, holidayed here as a child – and lots of space to kick back in the beautiful main lodge and six surrounding bedroom-suite cottages. Botanical art, faded fabrics, upholstered leather, flagstone floors, campaign furniture and heirloom antiques lend a distinct sense of place to the interiors. Living areas in the lodge spill out onto a wide, covered terrace for alfresco breakfasts, and luxuriously deep sofas offer ringside seats from which to watch the constant parade of nimble-footed antelope, elephants and giraffes that frequent the large waterhole out front, or to follow the warthog and buck as they graze nonchalantly beneath the trees on the vast, verdant lawn. A dip in the pool, a massage or a post-game-drive snooze may sound energetic enough for most, but there’s also a tennis court, a gym, mountain bikes, archery and guided walks. At dinner, vintage wines from an impressive all-South African cellar are paired with imaginative, globally inspired menus – served casually as help-yourself platters – that make the most of locally sourced meat and homegrown produce.
Sleeps 12; bedroom suites 550sq ft each; from £8,200 for up to eight guests; singita.com
Villa North Island; North Island - Seychelles
North Island has 11 villas ranged along its peerless beach. The last, and largest – number 11 – was the one in which the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spent their honeymoon. A suite, then, fit for a future king and queen. Built of surf-sculpted driftwood, on multi-tiered levels, it cascades to the beach through coconut palms and immense granite boulders, the prize retreat among a choice of dazzling villas on this picture-perfect private island. There’s an oval pool, a marble bath for two, and the views from the (vast) bed are a sublime medley of sea and sand. The atmosphere is of a private home, far removed from any formal hotel, but the rest of the island is also a dream – verdant, peaceful, spacious, relaxed in the extreme and undisturbed by anyone or anything save for the occasional nesting turtle.
Sleeps 2; 8,070sq ft; from £7,815; north-island.com
Read more: the best hotels in the Seychelles
Presidential Suite; Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa - Dubai
This three-bedroom suite was once the private retreat of the late Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the former ruler of Dubai. An oasis hideaway, tucked into rippling dunes and surrounded by palms, it combines Bedouin simplicity with modern luxury – tented ceilings are supported by sturdy mahogany poles, antique carpets cover cool sandstone floors, and the rooms are adorned with rare artefacts such as handcrafted Omani trunks and silver ceremonial daggers. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors open onto an infinity pool and wrap-around deck, offering sublime desert views framed by the faint outlines of the distant Hajar Mountains. Binoculars are provided to spot the Arabian oryx, gazelle and – if you’re lucky – desert fox who sometime saunter by the resort, along with an easel and watercolours if the desert views stir your creative juices.
Sleeps 6; 5,705sq ft; from £5,190; al-maha.com
Read more: the best hotels in Dubai
The Presidential Suite; Nelson Mandela Centre for Reconciliation, Shambala Private Game Reserve - South Africa
Staying on a 10,000-hectare game reserve in South Africa is thrilling enough; when that stay includes sleeping in Nelson Mandela’s former retreat, the thrill is unsurpassable. Douw Steyn, the insurance magnate, provided the residence for the late president when he was already in his eighties. Feel the great man’s presence as you wander around his five-room quarters and sit next to his coffee table, by his open fire, on his white-linen sofa, or watching his old television. Though you are surrounded by simple natural materials (wood, thatch, stone), there are plenty more extravagant touches – fabulous silk curtains, a hand-beaded bedspread and locally made cushions – but that’s hardly the point. Guests at the six-bedroom property arrive from Johannesburg, 50 minutes away by helicopter, and find the villa much as Mandela and his wife Graça left it: understated, elegant, comfortable, homely and peaceful, albeit with hippos in the garden, elephants in the distance and lions roaring at night. Tempted to sign the visitors’ book? You’ll be in the company of Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey, among others.
Sleeps 12; 9,500sq ft; from £5,000 full board; centreforreconciliation.co.za
Royal Suite; Jumeirah Al Naseem - Dubai
Many suites in Dubai boast fine views of the city skyline, but few, if any, match the vista from the terrace of the Royal Suite at the recently opened Jumeirah Al Naseem . Framed by horizontal louvres that filter sunlight and sea breezes, the space is covered in Persian carpets and dotted with soft-grey sofas that provide a front-row seat for sundowners overlooking the desert city and its beaches. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors lead back into the living room, where the contemporary interiors are – by Dubai standards – uncharacteristically restrained. The doubleheight room features creamy marble floors, a delicate gold chandelier and light-wood ceilings, its vast spaces softened by more intimate areas such as the dimly lit bar. Both bedrooms have a muted palette of ivory, taupe and pale blue – inspired by desert dunes and Dubai’s pearl-diving past – plus mashrabiya screens and sumptuous bathrooms. Guests can unwind in the cinema or gym, or simply wander back out to that terrace.
Sleeps 4 adults and 2 children; 5,380sq ft; from £5,190; jumeirah.com
Jumeirah Al Naseem's Royal Suite Hotel signature dream suite reviews
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