Omar Souab is the general manager of Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk, leading the strategic direction and managing the pre-opening operations of Sofitel Hotels & Resorts’ largest property in the Middle East.
Tell us more about the new hotel.
In the shape of an obelisk adorned with a golden pyramidion, representative of the Luxor Obelisk currently in Paris, Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk majestically thrones in the heart of Dubai next to the iconic Raffles Dubai pyramid. This new iconic landmark is a statement to the Wafi complex development, completing the lifestyle and entertainment destination envisioned by H.H Sheikh Mana bin Khalifa Al Maktoum.
The Obelisk landmark can be seen for miles and captures the essence of French art de vivre, Egyptian and Emirati heritage through its décor, architecture and design. It houses 595 guestrooms and suites, with 498 rooms and suites starting from the 19th floor as well as 97 serviced apartments, offering spectacular views of Dubai.
Located on the 47th, 48th and 49th floors, the hotel also features three outstanding suites designed by award-winning firm Duccio Grassi Architects. The largest suites of the property, their design combines the European lifestyle with the essence of Dubai.
As a new F&B destination in the city, Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk offers five exclusive dining venues including Brasserie Boulud, a French modern concept by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud, Taiko contemporary Asian cuisine & bar by Chef Schilo van Coevorden, The Nine gastropub, Bijou patisserie and Soleil Pool & Lounge.
Joining forces with renowned French brand L’OCCITANE, Sofitel SPA with L’Occitane invites guests to a Provencal retreat, inspired by the Mediterranean art-de-vivre. The spa includes eight treatment rooms, including a couples’ room, female and male relaxation rooms, Hammam facilities and Sofitel FITNESS offering state-of-the-art gym equipment and a studio. The outdoor swimming pool is in the shape of an Egyptian ‘key of life’ and neighbored by a series of private cabanas, two featuring their own jacuzzi.
Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk has also curated a junior guest journey, Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince),drawing its inspiration from the French novella and encourages families to explore a world of exciting activities at AstroKids club. Additionally, with Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk connected to Wafi, families have access to VOX Cinemas.
How have you managed to create new F&B concepts for a saturated, yet highly active, consumer-driven market?
To create a distinctive lifestyle and F&B destination and ensure that the Sofitel property speaks to a wide audience of distinguished travelers and diners, we have chosen the right partners, celebrity chefs Daniel Boulud and Schilo van Coevorden, to offer fantastic dining experiences as they echo many of the values and principles that the Sofitel brand stands for.
We have also made sure to create unique experiences and include live entertainment.
Brasserie Boulud is a new dining concept by Daniel Boulud – chef-owner of award-winning restaurants around the globe. Inspired by the French art de vivre, Boulud’s very first restaurant in the Middle East will offer French-inspired contemporary cuisine, rooted in tradition. The open kitchen offers a multi-sensory dining experience as the chefs showcase their skills. During weekends, live entertainment will accompany the dining experience, inviting guests to take refuge from a busy city life and live the French way.
Taiko Dubai is the first international outpost of Taiko Amsterdam, award-winning restaurant of the Conservatorium Hotel, created by Executive Chef and Founder Schilo van Coevorden. The dining venue will offer the same contemporary cuisine inspired by the flavors and textures of the Far East.
Every Thursday, Taiko’s renowned live drum performances will take centre stage twice throughout the night, once at the restaurant and once at the bar. Additionally, five times a week, a resident DJ will play into the evening creating a lively, club-like atmosphere.
Bijou Patisserie, located in the lobby, includes a variety of indulgences by Executive Pastry Chef Romain Castet such as Le Goȗter (French Afternoon Tea) created with passion and served in a sophisticated jewelry box, unlocked with a special key. In addition, guests savoring Sofitel’s trendy happy hour L’Apéro Chic, will also enjoy a daily candle ritual where hotel Ambassadors dress in beautiful clothing inspired by Ancient Egypt and enchant guests with a serene dance while lighting up the lobby.
The Nine is the neighbourhood gastropub, with an ancient Egyptian influence, vibrant and eclectic in both atmosphere and design. Conveniently located with direct access from both the Sofitel lobby and the street thanks to the private side entrance, giving The Nine that neighbourhood feel. Guests can socialise, watch sport games or listen to a live band while enjoying British culinary favourites by Chef de Cuisine Michael O’Shea, accompanied by an extensive selection of hops and beverages.
A vibrant poolside bar serving a Mediterranean and Levantine inspired menu, Soleil Pool & Lounge offers an array of flavours, carefully crafted beverages and varied shisha flavours.
What challenges have you faced in the wake of COVID-19 in terms of opening a new property?
One of the main challenges was to ensure a steady and consistent progress of the fit outs of the property during the sanitisation phase and curfew. Despite the situation, we still worked towards a summer opening date, while adhering to the Dubai authorities’ health and safety regulations.
We have also managed to keep the team extremely motivated as all leaders and colleagues who were on board worked mainly from home for two months, from March until May. This challenge was turned into an opportunity as it actually enabled us to build stronger bonds. It was clear that we were all in this together and that we would grow stronger from such an unknown experience.
You’re promising a ‘French living’ offering, tell us a bit more about that.
‘Live the French Way’ is seen throughout the hotel journey. Starting from the French heritage of the Sofitel brand and the overall luxurious and elegant design of the hotel. The décor and furniture are Art Deco inspired, with clean and refined edges, white walls and marbled surfaces.
Unique dining concepts were designed to reflect the French joie de vivre, such as Brasserie Boulud which offers a true meaning of French gastronomy, Soleil Pool & Lounge serving Mediterranean delights in a Riviera setting and Bijou patisserie delighting guests with Le Gouter, the signature French afternoon tea. In addition, the team has also curated a junior guest journey based on the French Novella Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince).
How will you ensure the implementation of all health and safety measures, especially with the newly lifted restrictions on events?
Safety and hygiene standards are at the forefront of everyone’s mind; therefore, we have implemented AllSafe global guidelines, developed with and vetted by Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing inspections and certification.
Aligned with DTCM’s regulations, colleagues have been trained and wear protective masks and disposable gloves at all times. We have removed all printed collaterals from guestrooms and F&B outlets and inputted digital signage, as well as introduced digital solutions through the use of QR codes, contactless payment and touchless technology with a Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk mobile application.
The app is to ensure guests feel safe when staying at the hotel by offering a contactless experience from a wide range of features such as ordering in-room dining, booking a table at the restaurants or a treatment at the spa, as well as communicating with in-house colleagues.
Rooms will undergo intense sanitation procedures 24-hours before any guest stays with us, as well as after every conference session or wedding and sufficient time interval between meetings. Social distancing will be implemented at all times, respecting the new maximum capacity chart per venue, queue guidelines for the buffets and alternative set menu options will be offered instead.
Signage will be installed at key locations across the premises to spread awareness of these rules and regulations and temperatures will be checked and recorded upon entry using the designated entry and exit points.
What makes the new property unique, especially given its close proximity to Raffles which has garnered a lot of success?
The architecture and opulence of this building, from the show-stopping exterior to the exquisite interiors speaks for itself. The Sofitel flagship hotel is recognisable as one of Dubai’s top architectural designs, beautifully merging modern French art de vivre and ancient Egyptian heritage with the essence and culture of the UAE.
Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk was developed to complement the Raffles offering and cater to a much wider audience. The Sofitel F&B and spa concepts are sure to cater to the local and international market’s aspirations that will attract a new clientele to the destination. In addition, guests staying at Raffles Dubai will have the opportunity to dine and use the facilities of Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk and charge to their room, giving them a wonderful variety of experiences.
How did you manage to recruit the right talent, especially amid current circumstances?
The recruitment process was the most important aspect of our strategy. We aimed for the ‘Best in Class’. We received tens of thousands of resumés and applications and went through a thorough process of identifying the right talent in terms of skills and mindset.
I have to say that the executive committee in place today is as solid as can be in every aspect: rich knowledge and experience, positivity and great creativity. They have built a strong and diverse team around them which is highly trained and versatile, ready to launch unique concepts such as Brasserie Boulud, Taiko Dubai, The Nine gastropub and the Sofitel Spa with L’Occitane.
We have also recruited 80 colleagues from our sister property Raffles Dubai, who have a solid base and expertise, giving them the opportunity to develop and grow within the Accor group.
In a nutshell, what would you tell guests who are looking to stay at the property once it opens?
I would tell the guests that this Sofitel, known as the Obelisk of Dubai, is very unique in terms of “grandeur”, built with passion and offering endless ancient Egyptian legends represented throughout the hotel that are sure to captivate our guests. From the rooms, suites and residences, through to the outstanding culinary offers we will soon offer, my team and I are looking forward to welcoming guests to a destination of timeless elegance.