Located in the heart of the Wafi district, Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk is one of the newer additions to Umm Hurair 2’s ancient Egyptian-themed buildings.
The largest Sofitel property in the Middle East and Africa region is entirely distinctive, and although some may describe it as architecturally gaudy, it blends seamlessly with the pyramid-shaped structures surrounding it. With four broad equal sides tapering at the top, the hotel lives up to its namesake and has become a looming landmark of an obelisk on Sheikh Rashid Road since it opened in early 2020.
But how is the food and overall service? Is the hotel worth considering for your next trip to Dubai or staycation? The National checks in to find out.
The lobby doors slide open to a blue walkway patterned with papyrus plants and flanked with statues of golden-eyed jackals. Step into the lobby and you come under the towering gaze of a giant nine metre-wide golden falcon. It's a French hotel, dressed up in ancient Egyptian garb, but with disparate Emirati motifs thrown in. The front desk is cordial and offers a loose historical thread to tie this dizzying mishmash of cultures together.
The architecture, the receptionist explains, is based on the Obelisk of Luxor that now stands at the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The 23 metre-high obelisk arrived to France from Egypt in 1833, as a gift from Muḥammad Ali Pasha, ruler of Ottoman Egypt, to the last king of France Louis Philip I. A replica of the obelisk has been erected in the centre of the roundabout between the hotel and Wafi Mall.
“As for the falcon,” the front desk clerk adds, "It’s a tribute to where we are, to the UAE.”
Whatever you think of the hotel’s architectural palate, look past it, and you’ll find yourself in a hotel with exceptional service, amenities and exceptional food.
One of the best things about The Obelisk is its location. The hotel is a few minutes walk from Wafi Mall, which houses everything from boutique stores to a Vox Cinemas.
A stone’s throw away is Creek Park and Dubai Healthcare City and most tourist destinations in Dubai are about a 15-minute car drive or a short metro ride away with the Dubai Healthcare City metro station only a few minutes walk from the hotel.
The safety measures
During our visit, the hotel staff were masked and hand sanitizers were abound. The pool area gets a bit cramped on the weekends in high season, so if you're looking to read or sunbathe in peace, you may be better off elsewhere. At the hotel's restaurants, the tables are well spaced so that even if you happen to walk in on a particularly busy night, you'll still find you're able to savour your meal in private.
We stayed in a Luxury Club Room. Spacious and tastefully decorated in earthy tones, it doesn’t take long to feel comfortable.
The furniture has pronounced wood grains, while the lamps and artworks feature minimal gold accents. The bathroom has a large free-standing bathtub, as well as a spacious shower area.
Just as stunning is the view outside. As the motorised curtains draw back with the touch of a button, you have views over Creek Park and the Dubai Creek. Beyond that, you've got a good view of Dubai Airport and it's full blue-striped splendor. We are staying on one of the upper floors of The Obelisk and you’d be hard-pressed to find a nicer view of this part of Dubai.
Welcoming staff made our stay feel special. Front desk answered all our queries — from questions related to restaurant timings to the hotel’s historical and architectural inspiration. Housekeeping was meticulous and punctual with their turndown service, and the room seemed as well made when we returned from the pool as when we first walked in.
We head down to the Brasserie Boulud for a late lunch, leaving ancient Egypt behind for a more Parisian setting. The tables are draped with white cloths and surrounded by grey and black chairs. The primarily monochrome interior accented with deep reds and golds exudes a stylish first-class atmosphere.
The in-house baked bread is an offering straight out of Paris’s finest bakeries while the Omani shrimps are buttery, garlicy and delicately-seared — a top performer from the starter list. The grilled Mediterranean sea bass, served on a bed of freekeh and piperade and topped with an orange and zaatar dressing, is a wonderful blend of savoury and zest. But the star of this menu is in the dessert section, specifically the ile flottante, an egg white cloud in a pool of vanilla bean sauce, drizzled with caramel and strawberry jam.
For dinner, we head to Taiko Dubai. The restaurant is far from the only Asian fusion offering in the city, but it may be one of the very best.
With its engraved walls, artificial cherry blossoms, and ornaments of Japanese drums and lantern-like chandeliers, the restaurant is elegantly decorated and the food is parallel. First up are slices of melons, served on a bowl of ice and infused and garnished with wasabi, kimchi, shiso soy and sesame. It is a flavoursome triad of cold, sweet and spicy. The Hiramasa King Fish Sashimi (Dh88) is a mouth-watering blend of tastes, including saffron, pistachio and black lime. As delicious and creative as both these dishes is the Black Garlic Hummus (Dh60) that deserves its own ovation.
Another exceptional offering at Taiko Dubai is their shisha sushi. They are offered in three variations, which range from Dh28 for the eggplant to Dh75 for the wagyu. We go for the salmon, which at Dh48 is expensive, but the experience may make it worth it. The dish is brought in a lidded ceramic pot that, once uncovered, breathes out a plume of apple-scented shish smoke. The salmon is lightly-torched and cooked with the shisha smoke.
Really, every dish we are served at Taiko Dubai is remarkable and upends conventions and we left the restaurant in the stupor of a full stomach.
It is, perhaps, not the best idea to head to the pool right after lunch, but go we do so anyway. It is a Friday, and most of the sun-beds are occupied. The pool is designed in the same shape as the hotel, stretching in a long narrow obelisk from a rectangular base. There are more private offerings at the far end of the area, with cordoned off sun-beds. Some even have their own hot-tubs.
The Obelisk boasts the only Sofitel Spa with L’Occitane in the region and uses products from the famous French beauty care brand. I try the Almond Detoxifying Balance treatment with Libu, a massage therapist with more than 15 years of experience. For the next 50 minutes, I find myself transported to a different world. The best massages are often an out-of-body experience as well as a corporeal one, and Libu’s sent me wafting in an almond-scented breeze across memory, space and time. With the right amount of pressure, he unknotted years of abused muscles, and by the end of our session, left me in a buzzing state of peace.
Highs and lows
As a dining destination, temporary address or spa experience in Dubai, this property comes highly recommended. The hotel's design may be off-putting and even kitsch at times, but even with this drawback, it's a worthy destination.
The insider tip
Make sure you ask for one of the higher rooms facing the Creek. The view is, without a doubt, one of the finest in the city. We imagine the rooms on the other side overlook the southern, newer stretch of Dubai, but facing Deira, you marvel at parts of the city that is easy to take for granted, such as Dubai Creek Park, Children's City, Dubai Airport and the Creek itself.
Though we have our reservations when it comes to the hotel’s architectural choices, it's easy to overlook the masquerade of ancient Egyptian culture in favour of excellent food and service.
The bottom line
Prices start at Dh816 ($222), fees and taxes included) for a deluxe room with one king bed or a double bed. A plush three bedroom apartment can also be yours for a night for $871 (Dh3,200). Check-in is at 3pm, and check-out is by noon.
More information is available at sofitel-dubai-theobelisk.com
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards during this time, services may change in the future.