Driving into the new Metropolitan Hotel, the doorman checking guests out of their cars and handing over valet passes is unmissable with his elaborate red uniform with gold trimming, a top hat and a big genuine smile.
They’ve stayed the same for the last 30 years. ‘Both the uniform and Mohammad Shafique Khan [the doorman, from Pakistan] have joined us from the previous hotel,’ explains Sanjay Luthra, the hotel’s general manager. ‘Of course, he was much younger back when the original Metropolitan Hotel was operating.’
Legacy, I see as I step in, is taken seriously at this reincarnation of the iconic Metropolitan hotel as it rightly should considering how embedded the history and identity of the original hotel is intertwined with that of Dubai.
Opened by the late Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum in 1979, ‘The Met’, as regular patrons fondly nicknamed it, was one of the first six hotels in Dubai back when Shaikh Zayed Road was nothing but an expanse of desert. ‘It was the only hotel between the Trade Centre and Abu Dhabi, then,’ Sanjay reminisces, ‘and it has had a loyal customer base since then.’
It was an emotional day in May 2013 when the hotel – an institution of sorts for Dubai’s old timers – was razed to construct Al Habtoor City.
‘Our chairman, Mr Khalaf Al Habtoor, had promised we’d give this place back to Dubai and that’s what we have done by rebuilding the hotel on a different side of Shaikh Zayed Road.’ The new property nestled off exit 41 on Al Thanya Street is an architectural doppelgänger of its predecessor, with the same long, squat structure that is reminiscent of old Dubai’s constructions when skyscrapers and towers didn’t exist. Inside, a glossy lobby leads off to the Red Lion Pub – the granddaddy of Dubai’s watering holes – where nothing, from the tartan patterns on the carpet to the deep red colour scheme and booth placements, has changed. ‘We salvaged the oak bar from the old pub and reinstalled it here,’ Sanjay says. It’s the same at Don Corleone on the first floor – the menu is homey, wholesome Italian food from the old hotel served up in a cosy setting with chequered round tablecloths against a striking wall of mosaic art.
How does a hotel with such a retro charm and laid-back hospitality fit in with new Dubai’s expectations of ritzy luxury? ‘In Dubai, everything is modern and new, and the Metropolitan is a way to let people connect back to something original, a neighbourhood hotel where you can turn up in your shorts with friends and family and unwind, a home away from home.’ Their patrons agree. A hundred of them attended the Red Lion’s launch party and a week after its December 4 opening, the hotel’s 320 rooms (302 standard rooms and 18 suites) were all fully booked.
While nostalgia for the familiar runs high here, the Met has also made space for swanky new additions and upgrades with 24-hour outdoor lounge Al Sheif, all-day dining Al Safa and pool bar Tropicana in the F&B section, while a studio-style gym and rooftop swimming pool bump up the leisure facilities. ‘Our guests can access the Habtoor Grand hotel’s private beach for Dh100 per person,’ adds Sanjay, and with typical Met hospitality they provide a free shuttle, too.
For more details visit metropolitanhoteldubai.com