In the heart of Abu Dhabi, elevated on a hill at the edge of the Corniche and overlooking the city's sky scrapers, sits the luxury five star residence of the Emirates Palace.
We arrived a few days before Christmas, with the aim of soaking up some of the UAE's festive spirit before returning to Doha for the day itself, and left with even more than we could have hoped for.
I don't think there are many things that can get you into the mood for Christmas quite like a 40-foot Christmas tree in the cavernous lobby of the hotel, adorned with over 2,000 imported glass ornaments!
Father Christmas also made a visit to the lobby each evening, and while Sophia wasn't quite sure about this dodgy character with questionable facial hair to start with, she soon warmed to him and on our last night she even sat on his knee for long enough for us to take a quick family snap!
The hotel was originally built to showcase Arabian culture, and evidence of this can be seen throughout, in the intricate architecture, ornate furnishings and luxurious attention to detail.
With no less than 394 residences, 114 domes that reach to 80 metres, 9 restaurants, and set in 85 hectares of private gardens along 1.3 km of private beach, this is not a 'homely' or quaint hotel, it is one for the adventurous amongst us. It cries out to be explored.
Luxury hotels like this in the Middle East are often lacking in 'fun' things to keep all of the family entertained, but the Emirates Palace overflows with options. There is the resident camel on the beach, for example, if the kids fancy an early-morning ride before breakfast.
(Ours, unfortunately, didn't!).
There are two pools: an adventure-style pool for kids (and kids-at-heart), complete with slides, waterfalls and a lazy river...
And a quieter pool with a swim-up bar in a soothing setting on the other side of the grounds for those that would prefer to wile away the hours in peace and quiet.
When you factor in the beautiful grounds that you can use for your walking and picnic-ing pleasure, the pristine white beach and the award-winning luxury spa, this hotel becomes far more than just somewhere to lay your head at night. Whether it's entertainment, socialising or relaxation that you're after on your travels, it ticks every box.
We were particularly impressed by the food that we ate while we were there: the lavish spread at breakfast, in the prettiest of settings on the al fresco terrace of Le Vendome...
And the Dim Sum afternoon tea taken overlooking the most stunning of views on the glamorous terrace at Hakkasan (just make sure you ask about options to add more dumplings to the selection that they serve...there aren't nearly enough!).
Of particular note are the Roast Duck Pumpkin Croquettes and the Jasmine Tea-Smoked Wagyu Beef Ribs.
Don't forget to sample the hotel's signature coffees at Le Café while you are staying there: the Camelccino is a Cappuccino made with rich, local camel's milk and the Palace Cappuccino is sprinkled with real, 24-carat gold flakes. It's little touches like this that sum up what this hotel is all about: little touches of Arabic-themed decadence, focused on giving the guest a truly authentic experience of Arabian culture and hospitality.
When I returned home, I was inspired to look up other traditionally-Arabic hotels in the region. While we live in the Middle East and continue to explore our neighbouring countries, from now on I would like to keep our stays as culturally-authentic as possible.
Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi, West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates | +971 2 690 9000
Our stay at the Emirates Palace was on a media rate.