We touch down at Abu Dhabi Airport in the late afternoon. Our personal driver Ahmed is waiting for us at arrivals, dressed in an impeccable uniform and holding a sign with our names on it. “Welcome to Abu Dhabi,” he says. “Your car is waiting.” Two porters take our suitcases; all we have to do is follow Ahmed outside where a white Rolls Royce is waiting for us. This is a perfect start.
We drive to the Emirates Palace where we have a meeting with CEO Reto Wittwer and Ulrich Eckhardt, president for the Kempinski Hotels throughout the Middle East and Africa Region. We pass the newly built Sheikh Zayed Mosque, which looks like it is floating in the air in the light of the setting sun.
The reason we are here is CoolTravel, a project we launched several years ago with the aim of writing about cool travel destinations. This soon evolved into ‘destination branding’ and then ‘storytelling for destinations’.
So our job is to travel the world, take pictures, write stories and publish them in our series of CoolTravel books. Last year, we gave the Kempinski group’s Roland Obermeier a copy of one of our books at the World Travel Market in London.
“How about making a book about Kempinski destinations in the Middle East and Africa?” Roland suggested.
“Well Roland,” we said. “We would have to think about that… for about two seconds! Let’s do it!”
Three months later, we’re rolling up to the Emirates Palace, a landmark in Abu Dhabi, where we receive a warm welcome Arab style with coffee and a cold towel. As we walk through the gold and marble lobby, our attention is drawn to the gold topped dome which is bigger than the one of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. “Your mission is to do what you do best: travel, take pictures and write stories,” Ulrich says. “Kempinski will give you ground support. Not only five-star hospitality, but also in-depth local knowledge.” We nod as we take a sip of our caffè lattes.
“We would like you to write the personal story of two travellers discovering the Middle East and Africa,” Reto continues. “It has to be aspirational – something our guests can identify with.” We take another sip of our caffè lattes and nod.
“Our hotels are all different, a collection of individuals – like our guests,” Ulrich adds. “And when you are in Djibouti, try to swim with a whale shark.”
“And try to ‘capture’ a lion in Etosha,” Reto adds, “and go to Petra when you’re in Aqaba.”
“Thank you, gentlemen,” we reply, “but can we finish our lattes first?”
Love & Vision,
Maarten and Anouk
Abu Dhabi , Uni ted Arab Emirates
We stayed at Emi rates Palace in Abu Dhabi , managed by Kempinski .