Radisson Blu grand opening: 24 hours in Kuwait
I was honoured to be invited to the grand opening party of the Radisson Blu Kuwait recently, following it’s KD15 million ($53 million) renovation. Having never been to Kuwait, I was curious to explore one of the lesser known parts of the region, and as someone who has worked in the industry, I was also interested to see how such a high-profile event would be executed in a dry (alcohol free) country.
It was an easy flight from Dubai, only 1.5 hours on Fly Dubai to the airline’s own terminal in Kuwait, the departure through which was the quickest I have ever experienced. Staff were informative and only too eager to help, whisking me through immigration in the blink of an eye and before I knew it, I was sitting in a hotel car heading for Kuwait City through vast open plains of nothingness. The scenery (or lack of it) that we passed reminded me of my recent trip to Qatar, and the drive we took then through salt flats and gravel plains. In many ways Kuwait reminded me a lot of Qatar, although there seemed to be more trees within the city – and not of the Palm variety, but real, green trees, the rows of which had been visible from the air (something to get excited about after eight years in Dubai!)
My first stop on reaching Kuwait City was the distinctive Hotel Missoni, renowned for its iconic interior design. A tour of the hotel’s impressive facilities not only gave me great view of the corniche from the colourfully bold rooms, but by the time we had reached the pool terrace, the Red Arrows had appeared and I was lucky to be able to take advantage of such a prime viewing point to catch the best of the action.
After a brief stop in the hotel’s Six Senses spa for a reviving ginger tea and delicious oat treat, it was time to head back into the city to explore. Unfortunately time (and traffic) was against us so we didn’t make it to the souk or the many museums that come highly recommended when visiting the city. We did, however, make it to the Kuwait Towers, the unusually shaped trio of towers which form the city’s most celebrated landmark. Unfortunately the towers were closed (and had been for several months) when we visited so there was no chance of ascending for the birds-eye view I had been hoping for, but the structures with their unique green sequins still made for some impressive photos, and their location on the corniche allowed for a pleasant stroll at dusk, watching Kuwaiti life go by.
The people-watching didn’t last long as we were keen to get to the Radisson Blu to have a good look around before the party started. Following its renovation, the hotel is now a flagship property for the brand, and rightly so. The rooms themselves were bright and colourful without prompting a migraine (all the rooms on our floor were a deep dark pink) and simply and elegantly appointed, with all the facilities that could possibly be required. The restaurants inside the hotel were stunning without being too ostentatious and served a fantastic selection of food (the breakfast alone kept me going for most of the day!) but within the hotel building it was the Sky Lounge that was the highlight. A dedicated indoor and outdoor area for business executives and VIP’s, the lounge was the ultimate in chic comfort, with some great views of the property below as well as the true highlight of the hotel – Al Hashemi II, the largest dhow ever built (as the displayed certificate from the Guinness Book of Records proudly confirms). The dhow, which took 15 years to build by 250 expert craftsmen, is used as a truly unique and iconic events venue which can accommodate up to 1,000 people, and was being set up for a conference at the time we visited. The neighbouring Al Boom restaurant, whilst located inside a smaller dhow, was equally as impressive. The decadent interior provided the perfect showcase for a mouth-watering buffet and open kitchen, whilst the Indian influencers from the original shipbuilders in Calicut were carried through in the theme of the outlet. Continuing the nautical theme, the final stop in our tour of this impressive property was the marine museum, located at the conference centre. The museum is home to a number of full-scale models as well as a wealth of information about the ships themselves, and was also being set up as an events venue during our visit, with temporary tables dotted in and around the exhibits.
With the tours completed, it was time to relax and enjoy the party, and although there was no alcohol, it was hardly missed among the exotic mocktails and the delicious food being served at a variety of food stations around the grounds. The passion of the hotel’s executive chef was clear in not only the variety of dishes available, but also in the quality of the food produced. It’s often difficult to maintain high standards when producing such large quantities of food, but I’m happy to say that the Radisson Blu Kuwait surpassed all expectations.
All in all, it was a great trip and introduction to Kuwait City; I would love to see more of what the country (and even the city itself) has to offer, but now I know how easy it is to reach and explore once there, I’m sure I’ll be back.