Take a break in Kuwait

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The Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa in Kuwait. (Supplied)
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There is plenty of good food on offer at the hotel’s many F&B outlets. (Supplied)
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The hotel has 12 private villas in its manicured gardens. (Supplied)
Updated 22 April 2019
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Take a break in Kuwait

  • The Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa racks up top marks for comfort, food and service

DUBAI: Arriving at the Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa in Kuwait, our initial impression is that it fits well into the Dubai-based international luxury hotel brand’s chain of properties.

Stepping into the impressive lobby we stare through the huge windows ahead, looking along the hotel’s central courtyard down to the sea, following a path through manicured gardens. The staff are quick to check us in, unfailingly polite and helpful (as they are throughout our stay), and usher us to our generously sized room — one of 407 in the hotel, including 12 private villas down by the aforementioned manicured gardens. So far, so good.

Settling in, we pull back the curtains to see what our view’s like. It is striking. But not in a good way. We do not have a beach-facing room. There is some water — a stagnant pool gathering in a concrete trench around a sad-looking, mostly concrete, park. This, we later learn, is part of the Messilah Beach Water Village; a ‘family friendly’ attraction reminiscent of a rundown British seaside town. It might be fun to visit (we didn’t go), but it is no kind of aesthetic pleasure.

The incongruous vista is made even less attractive by the two large garbage containers directly below our window. A useful hint: If you’re booking a room here, avoid the south-facing ones.

The room itself, thankfully, is more pleasant to look at: Generic, inoffensive color scheme with a decent attempt at a mural above the sofa, tidy, and, most importantly, clean. The location of the desk is puzzling, and would probably tip a feng-shui expert into an apoplectic rage. The large bathroom with jacuzzi and separate shower, however, is a sumptuous treat.

Less of a treat is the … let’s be charitable and call it idiosyncratic … electrical system. Motion sensors are a nice idea, but not if they turn all the lights on when one of you gets up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. The labyrinthine method required to avoid this seems wholly unnecessary and easily avoidable — a confusing and pointless reinvention of the wheel.

Opening and closing the curtains isn’t quite as complicated, once we’ve located the switches, which — for some reason — are hidden away behind a small outcrop in the wall and can only be seen once you are sitting on the bed.

Those small (albeit infuriating) niggles are quickly forgotten, though, once we sink into bed. It is, it’s fair to say, a magnificent mattress/duvet/pillow combination. Pure luxury. And a great night’s sleep, helped in no small part by our evening stroll out along the hotel’s breakwater, past the open-air beach pavilions — definitely worth a wander while the nights are still cool.

Our breakfast is taken at the Garden Café, situated on the hotel’s lower level and looking out — you guessed it — over the gardens. The hotel promo material promises a “lavish buffet,” and the reality does not disappoint. The choice is enormous — from continental and Arabic breakfast staples, to a good old fry-up (including live omelet station), via a plethora of fruit, a range of wonderful pastries and breads, fresh juice, and more, all of it excellent. The kitchen is able to cater for diverse dietary requirements, including vegan and gluten-free dishes. You can stock up for the day here, and we do. We sample the Friday bunch at the same venue, too, which is also delicious and ridiculously well-stocked.

We do not try any of the hotel’s other outlets, but there is a range of cuisines on offer, including Italian, Arabic, seafood, and a steakhouse.

There’s not much within walking distance of the hotel — unless you’re tempted by the Water Village, which you won’t be — apart from a garage with a shop for basic groceries, and a small strip of restaurants and cafés. But this isn’t a major issue, since you can happily spend the day relaxing around the hotel’s three pools, or down by the beach. If you fancy something a little more energetic, you can book the tennis court, or make use of the hotel’s well-equipped gym. And for pampering, of course, there’s the Talise Spa, which offers 17 treatment rooms and two private suites. There’s even a majlis-style room where you can book a group Hammam treatment, and a Himalayan Salt Room, which — the hotel claims — is the first in the Middle East.

Overall, the superb levels of service, comfort and cuisine more than make up for our disappointing view and the peculiarities of the electrics. If you’re planning a break in Kuwait, then Jumeirah Messilah Beach is a great option — particularly if you’re looking to escape the clutch of hotels in the city center.


Interview with the director and stars of ‘The Lion King’

Twenty-five years later, director Jon Favreau has brought “The Lion King” to life again for a new generation. (Supplied)
Updated 18 July 2019
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Interview with the director and stars of ‘The Lion King’

  • Jon Favreau, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner discuss Disney’s latest blockbuster remake.
  • ‘We’re trying to live up to people’s imagination of what they remember ‘Lion King’ being,’ says Favreau.

DUBAI: There are few movies as resonant as Disney’s 1994 classic “The Lion King.” From its beautiful animation and memorable songs by Hans Zimmer and Elton John to its devastating emotional punch, the film has become a touchstone for an entire generation, one of the few films that unite nearly every person who has seen it across the world.

Now, 25 years later, director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “The Jungle Book”) has brought “The Lion King” to life again for a new generation. Sitting in London, the first thing Favreau asks Arab News is whether we were part of the “Lion King” generation, and we were, mentioning to Favreau just how expansive the film still feels to us.

 Chiwetel Ejiofor, Director and Producer Jon Favreau and Donald Glover attend the World Premiere of Disney's "THE LION KING" in Hollywood. (AFP)

“That’s part of the challenge here! We’re trying to live up to people’s imagination of what they remember ‘Lion King’ being. We would watch it next to one another and there’s certain sequences that hold up incredibly well that we tried to follow shot-for-shot like (the opening sequence) ‘Circle of Life,’ but there’s other areas where we had the opportunity to update it and make it feel a bit more grounded in reality,” Favreau tells Arab News.

Remaking it for a new generation seems obvious, but — to borrow from another Disney classic — it was a Herculean task for Favreau and the huge animation team that supported him. This version remains fully animated, but uses cutting-edge technology to make the entire film photo-realistic. The characters, story, and songs remain, but the film looks more like a David Attenborough nature documentary than an animated movie.

It wasn’t just the technology that proved challenging, either. Making sure that audiences still connect with these beloved characters without the expressiveness of classic Disney animation was something that gave Favreau pause.

(Supplied)

“I worked on ‘Jungle Book,’ so I had some experience in this area,” he says. “Pretty early on, we got to try some different things and when you go to human, you think it would make you feel more but it really feels kind of bizarre, at least to me. I was limited if we were to go photo-real. If you go stylized like Pixar it’s great, you can do whatever you want. If we go ‘Madagascar’ you can make them stick their tongues out. The minute you start hitting photorealism, you hit the uncanny valley when you push the performances beyond what the real animal could do. Part of what makes it look so real is we limited what we allowed the animators to do.”

To be sure that audiences would connect with the characters, Favreau relied a lot on the voices that supported them, bringing in an all-star cast including Beyoncé as Nala, Donald Glover as Simba, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, and Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumbaa.

“If you look at a character like Pumbaa, to me he’s the most fun example, because when people saw pictures of Pumbaa they were like, ‘Oh my god! That’s horrifying! That thing looks like a monster!’ But when you watch the movie and you hear Seth Rogen’s voice coming out of it and the way the animators animated his body and what the character represents and feels, you have a tremendous connection to it. It’s a testament to the power of using techniques that we borrowed from documentaries or other films, where we limit ourselves to not anthropomorphize the characters,” says Favreau.

(Supplied) 

Eichner and Rogen both tried to remain true to the characters, but also stay true to themselves. “My idea from the beginning was that Jon cast us for a reason,” says Eichner. “He could have cast pretty much any actors. Anyone would have killed to do these roles and be in this movie. It wasn’t the right time to try a new persona. It would have been very strange had I all of a sudden had a deep resonant baritone. I figured he wants Seth to sound like Seth and me to sound like me — or at least what our public comic personas sound-like — and hopefully they’ll complement each other, which they did. Our goal was not to try a new character but to be as funny as possible together.”

As funny as Rogen and Eichner are in the film, it is still aimed firmly at kids — something Rogen hadn’t really considered prior.

Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen at the World Premiere of Disney's "THE LION KING" in Hollywood . (AFP)

“It wasn’t something that even occurred to me until we were making the movie and I was performing the bully scene,” he says. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is for kids!’ I have never done anything that was ever trying to instill any wisdom into kids in any way shape or form.”

The film’s wisdom, like the original, is far-reaching, exploring truths not only of family and loss, but of the corrupting nature of ambition and power, which Ejiofor explored in his role as Scar.

“Often, when people are obsessed with power and status, they aren’t really worried about what they do with it, they’re just concerned about getting it. It’s not something that’s connected to any kind of nurturing aspect for a community or anybody else. It becomes about the nature of obsession — obsession with power and status, and maybe status more than power, even though they are related,” says Ejiofor. “That’s one of the things that’s engaging and fun about the film and its themes.”