I wasn’t on a mission to find somewhere else to live. But I started to have a yearning for creativity in different forms, and recently I moved to Dubai with my husband, Gary. There’s so much opportunity here. It’s the same feeling I had in New York all those years ago when I was building my first perfume brand. A lot of creatives are moving here at the moment. I’ve been spending time in the arts district – there are all these young entrepreneurial companies starting up, and it reminds me of how east London was 20 years ago. Everyone is bouncing ideas off each other – collaborations are becoming almost a currency here now.

Jo Malone sitting outside at Fish Beach Taverna at Le Méridien Mina Seyahi
Jo Malone sitting outside at Fish Beach Taverna at Le Méridien Mina Seyahi © Anna Nielsen

We already sell my perfume line, Jo Loves, in Dubai, and one of the reasons we came is that it’s a great hub from which to expand to other markets like China, Singapore, Japan and India, as well as the Gulf states. Despite having sold my first perfume company to Estée Lauder more than 30 years ago, and creating Jo Loves in 2009, I’ve always felt there’s another huge “something” I’m meant to do. I still don’t know what it is, but I feel it’s going to happen here.

The Fish Beach Taverna
The Fish Beach Taverna © Anna Nielsen
The XVA café and gallery, Al Fahidi 
The XVA café and gallery, Al Fahidi © Anna Nielsen

I think it’s partly because I’m very driven by my senses, and Dubai is a very sensorial city. I would love to build a hotel for the senses. Or create a tapas bar for your sense of smell and taste. You can imagine both of those existing here. There’s no more glorious example of sensory overload than the Spice Souk in the Old Town, which you arrive at in a little boat. As well as being a great way to immerse yourself in the city, for me it’s a huge learning experience because I smell things that I’ve never, ever come across before. New scents just sort of stop me in my tracks, and I’ll have to go and talk to the seller, find out what it is, how it’s made and how it’s used. There are also lots of lovely silk and fabric shops around there. I’ll buy scarves and occasionally have a dress made if I see a fabric I can’t resist. I also love this little place called Al Seef, which they describe as a “heritage village”. It’s been built right on the creek. I’m very drawn to colour, and here everything is terracotta with beautiful turquoise wooden doors. I like to go there and sit and have a coffee. You just feel like you’re part of something. 

Malone at the Textile Souk
Malone at the Textile Souk © Anna Nielsen

If you want to experience something of “new Dubai”, City Walk has just been built. It’s kind of an outside-inside shopping district, very shiny and new but done in quite an elegant way. It’s more than 10mn sq ft, so gives you a sense of the scale of the city, and also its ambition. That’s why I love the Museum of the Future: it’s not about telling you stories from the past. My favourite part is this huge laboratory that’s like something out of a Spielberg movie. I could spend days there. 

The entrance lobby of the Museum of the Future
The entrance lobby of the Museum of the Future © Anna Nielsen

When we first got here, we lived at the One&Only Royal Mirage, which I think has the best spa hammam in Dubai. It’s just total luxury, from the heated marble slab to the traditional black soap cleansing ritual, the Ghassoul clay wrap, the drizzling of the oil and the full body massage. I can’t even describe how clean you feel afterwards.

The wellness spa and hammam at One&Only Royal Mirage
The wellness spa and hammam at One&Only Royal Mirage
A chess game in the One&Only spa
A chess game in the One&Only spa

The only thing that could possibly bring you back down to earth after that could be the Dubai traffic – it can be as bad as everyone says. You could easily get stuck on the motorway for an hour just travelling between meetings.

Traffic notwithstanding, the best time to visit is probably from September through to April. Spring is when you get the wildflowers in the desert; I can smell them on the air in the mornings. There is also a lovely literary festival in February. One night, we all went into the desert to listen to poetry under the stars, sitting on carpets in front of log fires. There’s something beautiful around every corner. That’s how living in Dubai feels to me.  

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