James Hotel might not be as tall as Dubai's towering Burj Khalifa, but spirits were certainly high at penthouse bar Jimmy last night, where travel and food industry insiders gathered for the launch of our first-ever Dubai City Guide, which offers reviews and ratings for 484 eateries, 71 nightlife destinations and 37 tourist sites.
Hamad Bin Mejren, the executive director for Business Tourism, had a lot to be proud of as he took the podium. The city plays host to nine million hotel guests each year, and about half a million of those are Americans, making the U.S. the town's fourth biggest tourism market. Bin Mejren boasted that Dubai perfectly combines a "sophisticated city with ancient Arabian heritage," and was prepared to defend the claim. "If you do visit, and aren't impressed, you can call me," he joked to the crowd.
Actually, he might be hearing from one lucky partygoer sooner than he thinks. To promote the guide, Kathleen Leuba, the marketing manager from the Dubai Department of Tourism, announced a surprise drawing for a giveway that was, to put it simply, amazing. As she reached her hand into a pot of raffle tickets, the room became silent, as everyone concentrated on being the one to win two round-trip airfare on Emirates airlines and rooms from the Jumeirah Hotels and Atlantis, the Palm. Leuba read the lucky lady's name and the crowd witnessed a genuine Price is Right moment as she shrieked and lept to the front of the stage.
Everyone else put their "of-course-I'm-not-jealous face on" and turned to the bar for another glass of prosecco. We saw more than a few of them paging through copies of the guide as they sipped those drinks. When it's their turn to join the half a million American tourists and head onward to the UAE, they will be ready.
You can pick up your copy of the new guidebook here, take a look at some results here, and see a list of the town's top 10 restaurants from the survey here. A few more pictures from the party are in the slide show below.