The Local Escape: Sofitel Obelisk

If you're thinking about an escape to Egypt, but can't travel just yet, then Sofitel Obelisk is the staycation you need.

31 May 2021, words by Aneesha Rai in The Lifestyle

Sofitel Obelisk

Bridging the lines of Egyptian, French & Emirati culture, the Sofitel Obelisk located near Wafi mall is an architectural delight to stay in. Adding to the cluster of Egyptian architecture in Umm Hurair, it offers a contemporary take as a contrast in terms of its suites & rooms so you can enjoy the ancient paired with the modern. The L'Occitane spa is a great addition to the facility and is fast becoming one of the most coveted ones in the city. We also do a quick Q&A with the Cluster Director of Engineering, Sushant Pawar on the architectural merits of the property and more.

Q: What are some of the architectural highlights of the property?

Sushant: Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk most notable design element is its iconic structural shape that fits masterfully in Wafi City. The golden pyramidion on top of the 230 – meter property sits well amongst the city's glimmering skyline, taking inspiration from the Luxor Obelisk in the center of Paris. One of the most significant highlights is the lobby, starting from the stunning golden gate entrance to the 9-meter wide by 4-meter tall golden falcon at the lobby in between massive 18-meter tall pillars engraved with hieroglyphics, taking you to the Valley of Kings and Queens in Luxor, Egypt. There are plenty of interesting design details that pay tribute to ancient Egypt complemented by French art deco nuances throughout the hotel, an homage to Sofitel’s French roots. Every aspect of art and design is intentional and blends Egyptian and French culture and heritage with the glamour and luxury of the 1920s and 1940s through rich colors, bold geometry and detailed work to reflect the French way of life.

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Q: Can you tell us about your favourite space in the hotel?

Sushant: It would have to be the lobby. It makes an impactful first impression, perfectly relays the hotel's identity, and is indicative of the hotel experience from the moment you step in. Guests walk through the magnificent doors of a grand Pylon and are instantly taken on a journey of discovery and mythology. Even as someone who works within the hotel, making that entry everyday never gets dull and unfolds a new story each time. The statues of Horus, god of the sky in Ancient Egyptian, are located on each side of the entrance fountain and guard the impressive golden gate of Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk. With two sets of three statues depicting Anubis, one of the oldest and most famous represented deities in ancient Egypt and an artistic ceramic flooring showcasing the Nile river, guests are guided into timeless serenity. Uraeus (cobras) featured on the golden main doors represent the head ornaments worn by pharaohs in ancient Egypt for protection and were designed to shield visitors from the evil eye and welcome them to a royal sanctuary. 

Often, hotel lobbies are seen as just a reception area, however, with Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk, every design element has a thought process, from the immense pillars engraved with hieroglyphics, to the Nile's lotus flower shaped chandelier and the lobby's most instagrammable feature of a stunning nine golden falcon, symbolizing the national bird and pride of the United Arab Emirates. It's fascinating to see such a unique amalgamation of modern French art de vivre and ancient Egyptian heritage with the essence and culture of the UAE, all in one space.

The lobby also has a lot of personality, and even transforms itself every evening with a daily candle ritual that marks the transition from day to night. Complementing the design and atmosphere, hotel ambassadors dressed in Ancient Egyptian-inspired attire light up the lobby, mesmerizing guests and visitors with a serene dance and ambiance-which is a treat for the eyes.

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Q How difficult/easy was it to marry the French-Egyptian influences into the hotel?

Sushant: Since France and Egypt are quite diverse in terms of heritage, culture, traditions and design element, the architect, design teams and our owning company MKM went through a very structured and creative planning and implementation process while designing the hotel and its interiors. Choosing the right elements to create a stunning symbiosis was key. For example, inspired by the French charm of classic Tiffany Lamps, you will find two magnificent stained-glass chandeliers hanging gracefully from the ceiling. They weigh three-tons each, were handcrafted in Egypt and assembled in the lobby in the shape of the Nile lotus flower. There are many such subtle details that are prevalent throughout the hotel, like the French marble fitted generously throughout which was once quarried by Ancient Egyptians and signifies immortality and refined taste.

Q Given the focus on sustainable design and architecture, what are some modern, sustainable initiatives implanted at the hotel?

Sushant: Sustainability is at the center of everything we do. It is Accor's most heartfelt cause to create a better tomorrow today through active steps that contribute to the preserving the environment. Additionally, in line with the UAE Vision 2021 and Accor’s Planet 21 requirements, the hotel is extremely proactive towards sustainable initiatives. 

 In order to reduce the use of single-use plastic, Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk has an in-house water filtration system, that provides bottled drinking water to the hotel and residence guests, the meeting rooms and event spaces, and is also available throughout the dining outlets of the hotel. A dedicated team washes, replenishes and seals water bottles in a special room, maintaining strict standards of hygiene and safety. The hotel also features two green meeting rooms, offering electronic flipcharts and amenities made from eco-friendly materials as well sustainable food offerings. Eco-friendly digital touch-points also include a dedicated WhatsApp channels to offer contactless experience with unparalleled levels of comfort, bringing menus, spa and restaurant bookings and beyond at the click of a button. 

The Food and Beverage champions are looking into ways to repurpose food, collaborate with organizations like the UAE Food Bank, source locally where possible, and offer meatless alternatives to encourage a more sustainable way of life.

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Q: Name three of your favourite design spots in the UAE

Sushant: The innovative design of the Museum of the Future is truly a spectacular landmark. I love the dynamic window designs in the form of Arabic calligraphy from HH Sheikh Mohammed’s quotes, which are inspirational and particularly timely with Expo 2020. I also love the remarkable architecture of The Opus by Omniyat, designed by the legendary Zaha Hadid. Its design pushes the boundaries of architecture with its striking geometry and curvatures, which give it such distinct individuality. Lastly, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi is another masterpiece known for its stunning architecture and design of mosaic tiles, glasswork, marbles and generous amount gold with exteriors of blindingly white stone.