Metropolitan Hotel turns 20
The Metropolitan Hotel is 20 this year. Zac Sharpe takes a look at the history of this popular Dubai landmark.
It has been given the stamp of approval from some of the biggest, and as such, most discerning, names in show business. World leaders, politicians and national rulers have graced its foyer and made its rooms their temporary home.
For twenty years the Metropolitan Hotel has been a landmark and a marque of excellence in a constantly evolving Dubai hotel industry. Significantly, the hotel's birthday celebrations will end as the 20th century draws to a close and the countdown to the new millennium begins.
General manager Rahim Abu Omar has likened the hotel to the city itself, pointing out that in the same way Dubai will never be a 'finished product' nor will the evolution of the hotel ever come to a halt.
Much of last year was dedicated to given the grand old lady of the Metropolitan hotel chain a facelift. The cosmetic changes which have transformed the exterior of the hotel conceal major structural and layout alterations made to the stunning new interior of the hotel.
Revamped restaurants, a majestic foyer, sun-drenched atrium and the latest technologically advanced conference rooms are just some of the changes which have elevated the Metropolitan firmly into the upper echelons of Dubai's five star hotel market.
In its illustrious history, the limousines gliding into the Metropolitan hotel's car park have opened their doors to stars as instantly recognisable as the hotel which stands sentinel on the Sheikh Zayed Road.
Movie stars such as Bruce Willis, Omar Sharif, Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and Jean Claude Van Damme have been guests of the Metropolitan chain as has supermodel Naomi Campbell. Each has added their own lustre to the original hotel by presenting their autographed pictures which now adorn the lobby.
A sportsman with the star quality of a Hollywood icon, Imran Khan also chose the Metropolitan when he was in Dubai with his beautiful wife Jemima. Among the political heavyweights to stride the hotel's halls are former South African president FW De Klerk, Prince Faisal, the son of the late King Hussein of Jordan and a host of foreign ministers and dignitaries.
But possibly the greatest source of pride to the hotel's staff are the glowing reviews of the hotel from the regular visitor - the businessman away from the comforts of home or the family enjoying the tourist attractions on offer in Dubai. "You have to accept that you are a small part of someone's very special day," said Omar.
"Irrespective of your personal mood, it is imperative that the guest is made to feel as if their needs are of paramount importance. Because after all, this may be a once in a lifetime visit for them and will be something they remember for the rest of their lives," he explained.
Twenty years ago, the Metropolitan Hotel was a lonely building on the outskirts of Dubai. The city was in the midst of a development boom which would eventually engulf the iconic hotel and place it in the midst of a rapidly expanding and modern city. Today, the Metropolitan Hotel is central to the city, the industrial area of Jebel Ali, affluent residential suburb and sea-side playground Jumeirah and the golf courses and race tracks which lure so many of the visitors to the emirates.
The cultures which have made Dubai home and transformed it into one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the globe are represented in the cuisine available at the hotel.
Shahjahan Indian Restaurant caters for those with a taste for the subcontinent, offering a range of tandoori kebabs, vegetarian specialties and Punjabi dishes to satisfy the most discerning expatriate.
Lebanese nightclub and restaurant Layalina combines Middle Eastern food with the Lebanese penchant for an entertaining night out. Belly dancers take centre stage in the newly renovated club while guests enjoy a feast sure to fuel a an evening lasting long into the night.
The best recommendation for the Don Corleone restaurant, as Italian in spirit as it is in name, are the constant full house signs which go up every weekend and many a week night.
The Yanks and Brits are not left out in the area of evening entertainment either. The Red Lion is a traditional English pub which has long been synonymous with the Metropolitan Hotel. Old habits die hard and British expatriates drinking there today are quite likely to have propped up the bar when it opened as one of the only outlets in Dubai twenty years ago. The newly landscaped gardens and outdoor entertainment area between the Red Lion and its neighbouring tavern could just as easily represent the Atlantic Ocean. Across the waters lies the all-American Rattlesnake with its live bands and music from the 60s to the 90s accompanying the good food and good cheer served by the waiting staff.
So, whether travelling from around the world or looking for exotic locations to escape to from Paris in the Atrium to the Chinese Summer Palace, the Metropolitan Hotel has twenty years of experience to draw upon in taking its guests to wherever they want to go.