Downtown Dubai has no shortage of luxury hotels. Situated in a tourist hub close to both the biggest mall and tallest building in the world, choosing where to stay can be somewhat of a challenge. Having recently had the pleasure of a weekend stay at the Manzil Downtown, a small boutique property on the picturesque Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, a street representative of the very heartbeat of modern Dubai. This may have been our first time to the Manzil but we don’t think it will be the last.
From the outside, the Manzil presents a distinct Arabic architecture that’s both charming a precursor to what guests will find inside. Disembarking at the grand entranceway where the valet is located, we enter into a property that is somewhat smaller than expected. The reception area feels comfortable and refined with more of a boutique feel. Plush furnishings are clustered in the centre of the space, on top of thick rugs and striking light fittings, suspended in the sky like fireworks at the point of combustion. This smaller scale approach is certainly refreshing and mixed in with the personalised service, feels more appealing than staying in one of the bigger properties, where you feel like nothing more than a number (I’m looking at you Atlantis).
Having lived in the Middle East for a number of years now, the Arabic influence is evident in a lot of hotels that we visit and it’s not always a positive thing. We should note that the Manzil does a stirling job in effectivley creating a sense of Arabic hospitality that’s woven into the very fabric of the building, from the subtle usage of Mashrabiya designs engraved on the elevator doors and printed onto the carpets, to the layout of the building itself. Representing a scaled-up version of a traditional Arabic home, focused around a central courtyard.
Moving from the reception area with its channels of light cascading down towards a wooden table adorned with candles, we make our way with some excitement towards the rooms. Seeing the room is always one of our favourite parts of staying in a hotel (that and the pool) and although the room was a little smaller than we expected (at 32 SQM), it didn’t disappoint.
We open the door into a room bathed in natural light, with the neutral tones selected for the walls and bed linen providing an almost ethereal feeling, In all honesty, our attention was immediately drawn outwards, away from the comfort of the room and towards the monolithic icon of the Burj Khalifa which towers an impressive 828m outside the window.
After a few minutes we’re able to avert our gaze away from the iconic structure and re-asses the room. It reminds us of a larger version of the room we recently stayed in at the nearby Rove (which is no surprise, given both properties are owned by Vida Hotels). Elements of the bohemian nature of that property are evident here at the Manzil, the most obvious being the Arabic calligraphy emanating from the headboard. The room is extremely functional and feels somewhat like a business hotel, using modern comfort to cater to travellers needs. Each room features a small writing desk, seating area and plenty of closet space. Better still, there’s a Nespresso machine (ideal for that morning espresso), a media hub (allowing for the mirroring of devices), super fast broadband and a 42″ flat screen television.
We really appreciated the fact that all rooms are non-smoking but the most notable features of the room were the super comfortable pillows, robes and slippers and the excellent Lorenzo Villoresi Firenze range of bath products. Speaking of bath products, the fully equipped bathroom is home to a separate shower and tub decked out in dazzling white. The only thing missing is a balcony, which would be ideal for admiring those captivating Burj Khalifa views.
The Manzil feels like a hidden enclave away from the hustle and bustle of The Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa’s nightly fountain shows, offering respite from all the madness that’s going on just a few meters away. Yet as soon as soon as you step off the street, it’s as if you’ve been transported into bubble of tranquility and this feeling is only heightened by the facilities offered by the hotel.
A temperature controlled swimming pool is frequented by very few guests, so we have our pick of the poolside loungers and cabanas that beckon us to relax. The elevated position of the pool means shade is provided from a number of palm trees standing proudly and lack of children’s pool, the waters are shallow enough that little ones can enjoy the water at ease. There’s also a state-of-the-art hotel gymnasium which is open 24 hours a day, meaning that anytime is convenient for a workout.
Boulevard Kitchen is the Manzil’s signature restaurant and it’s one to be proud of, with Arabic flourishes dominating a dining room that feels more fine-dining than all-day-dining. Visiting during Ramadan, we were able to explore the plethora of Arabic delights laid out across counter tops and tumbling out of wooden chests, not to mention the addition of live cooking stations. Generally speaking, we’re not a fan of buffet dining, but the Manzil is not the first property to change our minds, with the key once again being a focus on quality over quantity. At night it’s a nice place to dine looking out onto the boulevard with its illuminated palm trees and the clatter of the Dubai trolley.
Adjacent to Boulevard Kitchen is The Courtyard, arguably THE place for shisha in Downtown Dubai, having become somewhat of a popular gathering point and social hub. The outside space was beautifully decorated for Ramadan with Arabic lanterns and iconography of the crescent moon. It’s a space that emenates with the sweet and fragrant aroma of shisha, drifting across the night breeze accompanied by live music,
Taking a short walk into the attached Souk Al Manzil guests will find a more casual dining experience in the form of Nezesaussi, a sports bar whose name is short for New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. The place was packed to the rafters when we visited, with a mixed crowd of sports fanatics and young families looking to enjoy the weekend Sin Bin Brunch. The brunch offers a set menu of pub favourites (including plenty of pork dishes) like bangers and mash and roast dinners with unlimited house beverages from just AED 199.
In Arabic the word Manzil translates as ‘home’ and this is the feeling that you get when staying at the Manzil Downtown. It’s a small property that’s more upmarket and tastefully decorated than your standard city hotel but it’s the flourishes of Arabia in terms of both design and hospitality that makes the Manzil a real winner. Arabic phrases can be found on everything from the room keys to the bathrobes as a means to educate and enable guests to embrace the culture.
This may be a subtle touch but the service is not, offering some of the most proficient service we’ve encountered in a hotel in the UAE. There’s no need to give your room number at the pool or restaurants (the staff already know) and this is what resonates with us most about our stay (aside from the central location). The entire team from the front desk, to housekeeping and lifeguards, were warm, engaging and friendly. Even bringing gifts to the room upon realising we were celebrating two birthdays. It’s the small touches like this that elevate the service to remarkable levels, an impressive feat in a city awash with hotels.
We were invited to stay at the Manzil Downtown. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.