Whatever the music, Dubai’s a major nightlife destination by anyone’s standards. It’s also a fascinating place, more like a state than a city, and full of cultural contrasts and contradictions. I last played there in early 2005, so was well chuffed at the chance to go out again this month to spin at Smooth Grooves at The Apartment.
I set off only 48 hours after getting back from Macedonia, with my flight only being booked the day before. Incredibly, we managed to get a rate of £247 return with Gulf Air, travelling out and back via Bahrain. A real bargain in these costly times.
I got into Dubai at 9.30 on the morning of Thursday 15th, and got taken to the mindblowing Jumeirah Beach Hotel, which was to be my home for the next couple of days. On the way my driver pointed out the large amount of construction works left half-finished after their commissioners ran out of money. Following years of monumental economic growth, the recession has hit hard in Dubai.
The JBH is part of the same complex as the iconic Burj-Al-Arab, famous for being the world’s only seven-star hotel. While I’ve lodged in no end of crusty dives, I’ve also been fortunate enough to stay in some amazingly swanky hotels, but there’s little to compare with the impeccable service levels and plush grandeur of the Jumeirah Beach. With 22 restaurants, a water theme park, private beach, marina and three pools it’s not hard to understand why it’s such a big hit with families. But with rooms starting at 4,000 dirhams a night (about £700,) it’d be a once in a lifetime experience for many.
Spinning in The Apartment that night was British DJ Simon ‘Schoolboy’ Phillips, who moved to Dubai a couple of years ago and hosts a show on the city’s Radio 1. Schooly was having Serato headaches, with every other track stopping mid-flow, every DJ’s nightmare. Scottish jock David Craig and his singer/ model wife Clarita also moved to Dubai last year, so it was only right we took the opportunity to hook up. Dave dodged the appalling drivers to give me a whistle-stop tour of his new home, including the Burj Dubai tower, the tallest building in the world, looking like a giant syringe on the skyline.
The JBH is the sort of place where you could quite happily stay in the air-conditioned luxury all day. But there was no way I could pass up the chance of a swim in the Arabian sea and pool on Friday. After meeting promoter Avtar for a drink in the circular 360 club/ bar venue, and sampling colossal amounts of the hotel’s food, Friday night’s gig rolled around. I did my best to smash it, and the night was hugely enjoyable on all levels.
With my airport pick-up due at 5.30am, there seemed little point in going to bed, so I ordered a room service breakfast for 4.30, (£25!) and reluctantly headed back to the airport.
Touchdown at Heathrow was around 3.30pm. With that night’s gig in nearby Watford starting at 8, there wasn’t sufficient time to justify heading home, so a desperately-needed 90-minute nap at the mother-in-law’s it had to be. Back down to earth with a bang.
Getting back to Parveen and Zaina just after 2am I had the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend off, apart from presenting another instalment of my Urban Anthems show live on FM107.9 on Monday night. Another hugely rewarding opportunity to rinse out some feel-good classics that you rarely hear out any more. The show’s available to download and listen back to using the following links: