Manzil Downtown

Sometimes, the perfect vacation is at your doorstep. For a dream staycation, I ventured a far enough away from my home in Dubai Marina to spend some time in the downtown area at a remarkable, hidden gem of a hotel: Manzil Downtown. Most will be familiar with the hotel’s trendy sister hotel, VIDA. Manzil Downtown has the same cool vibe that fuses modern design with Arab influence – and it’s not cheesy. It’s a home-away-from-home experience unlike any other. How amazing is that bedroom?! But first…


The Welcome

I usually avoid the downtown area because I feel it’s too touristy and crowded, but this hotel is tucked into a quiet corner that has a neighbourhood feel. Inside, away from the traffic leading to Dubai Mall, is a design aficionado’s dream. The cascading lights light up fresh flowers in the lobby ahead of the reception, so you’re already relaxed and smiling before even checking in.


Check in is speedy and accompanied by fresh lemon and mint juice and a fresh towel. Can we say ‘vacay’?

Just outside the lobby is a beautiful, open-air courtyard that is reminiscent of a traditional Arab home. Open for meals and until 6 am (!) for shisha at night, this place is usually buzzing with life and sounds of people having a good time at all hours.



Sweet Suite

The rooms are tastefully done in muted tones of grey, white and black. Though decidedly modern, there are touches of Arabic influence that will make you smile, such as the party of Arabic letters that decorate the headboard and the Arabic signs designating room numbers. The view is absolutely stunning. We spent time pointing out the Dubai Opera, Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall as if these glittering landmarks were stars in the sky.



Burj views by night


Our room came with a lovely take-home treat: a mini shisha and scented candle!




The food is as delicious as it looks in an Arabesque set up. It’s like being at the home of a very wealthy Arab friend with dishes including steaming lentil soup, molokhieh with chicken, and stuffed vine leaves. There are also beautiful paintings on the walls.


Filling up on lentil soup





Festive desserts for Halloween


Pool Time

Now that we have left ‘oven’ season, pool time is the best way to spend a weekend afternoon. This gorgeous pool has a funky urban setting unlike any other in our fair town.



Beautiful sunny day! Bag, Havaianas flip flops, white floppy hat and Gottex swimsuit can all be found at the Hamac Beach Boutique in JBR. #Obsessed.



Saved best for last – dinner at Nezesaussie, a New Zealand-South African-Australian steakhouse, was the highlight of our stay. I had no idea that smoke-free bars existed in Dubai! If you’re a sports fan, a bar hopper or a family with strollers, somehow you’ll each fit right in in this awesome atmosphere. What brings it all together is the delicious food. Absolutely drool-worthy burger and fries.



Wonderful way to end an evening followed by a spot of shisha and a peaceful night’s sleep. Best thing to do is to wake up early and spend more time at the pool!



Go retro chic to stand out at the pool in this beautiful hotel.

Al Manzil Pool


Dolce Gabbana swim suit
1,450 AED –

Havaianas flip flops
95 AED –

Lauren Ralph Lauren gold earrings
120 AED –

Peter Grimm white hat
110 AED –

Le Specs heart sunglasses
190 AED –

Christian Dior lipstick
130 AED –



Guest Post by Rupert Wright of Ashbright
Paris holds no terrors for well-heeled travellers, who can check into one of the city’s eleven palaces such as ­ the Georges V, Plaza Athénée, Le Bristol or my favourite, Le Meurice. But for those on any kind of budget, finding a decent place to stay in the French capital can be a challenge. Bedrooms smaller than a bathroom, bathrooms smaller than a bidet, we’ve all stayed at one of them and lived to regret it. So, it’s with great pleasure that I have found almost the perfect Parisian hotel – and you don’t need to be a tech billionaire to afford it. The Bedford has been family owned and run for more than a hundred years, combining Swiss roots, French flair and English tradition. It benefits from strong leadership, attention to detail, and a staff eager to look after you. With just 140 rooms, it is large enough to intimate, but not so large that you are anonymous. It’s a 4 star, but deserves more.
The rooms
Parquet flooring; high ceilings; comfortable beds and pillows; keys rather than plastic cards; and best of all, real switches, that turn the lights on and off. The Bedford has sensibly ignored many of the technical traps that can make staying in a hotel room more challenging than setting up your own satellite transmission site. The result is a place that combines understated elegance with modern touches and old school service. Some rooms overlook the rue de l’Arcade, others look over a courtyard, but all are a decent size and a muted colour. There is air-conditioning too, which is a relief when the summer strikes.
Breakfast is a buffet in a glorious belle époque room, boasting stucco reliefs and a glass roof. Dinner happens here too, French cuisine and fairly formal. There’s also a relaxed bistro/bar that serves meals and cocktails.
A stone’s throw from the Place de la Madeleine, the Place de la Concorde and the Tuileries Gardens, and the Opera, this is one of the best areas to stay in Paris. (Marcel Proust used to live just around the corner). It is a lively area, with great boutiques, wine bars and an eclectic mix of restaurants, Japanese, Italian, Chinese, Korean, Lebanese and French too.
Don’t miss
The Bedford knows that many people like to travel with their pets, so they are allowed to stay too.
HOTEL BEDFORD, 17, RUE DE L’ARCADE 75008 PARIS Tel. : +33 (0)1 44 94 77 77 Fax : +33 (0)1 44 94 77 97 More information at
Rooms from €250; Suites from €450


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Sara Hamdan

Welcome to a magazine editor’s guide to luxury hotels and what to wear when you’re there! My work has appeared in: The International New York Times, Rolling Stone, Variety and CNN Travel. I’ve held editorial roles at VIVA Magazine, Dubai Magazine and Stylist Arabia.  Now, I freelance for the likes of Google, CNN and Savoir Flair!

Editing travel pages was always my favourite part of working for lifestyle magazines. I started this blog out of a love of beautiful hotels that provide the fairytale escape of a day as a princess where breakfast is a buffet and chocolates appear on my pillow.

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