DJ Sam Young on Dubai nightlife
Celebrity DJ Sam Young revels in the ultra chic clubbing scene that has emerged in the Middle East's ultimate party city, writesAntonia Windsor
London-based celebrity DJ Sam Young has been a resident DJ at Boujis for 10 years. It is the nightclub favoured by princes Harry and William, Pippa Middleton and the Chelsea soccer team. In fact, Prince William sometimes goes up to the booth to request tracks. ("He likes classic dance music, stuff that's current, nothing cheesy".) Young also DJs at Chinawhite in London and has spun the discs at parties for Elton John, Naomi Campbell, Justin Timberlake and Guy Ritchie.
One of his favourite places to play, however, is Dubai, where the club scene is increasingly vibrant.
"I've deejayed in Dubai loads and I love it out there," says Young, 33, son of celebrity photographer Richard Young. "I first went out on a family holiday. I was in my early 20s and it was before there were so many clubs and shops. Then, after I won the 2007 best DJ award, I played at a club called Mix at the Grand Hyatt. This was Dubai in the early days. It wasn't a great night, but I was just happy to be there."
He has since played at Boudoir, an exclusive venue on Jumeirah Beach Road, and Armani, Trilogy and Okku - which is run by some friends from London.
With more than eight million international visitors a year, Dubai is one of the most cosmopolitan places in the Middle East. But strict laws on alcohol consumption confine the nightlife to the big hotels along Sheikh Zayed Road and the Jumeirah Palm, the man-made palm-tree shaped island that juts out of Dubai Marina. The scene is small, but exclusive, and focused around the expat community.
"It is not like London, where the majority can go out and party," says Young. "Dubai is not cheap, so only the wealthy few go out and party."
As a result, many of the venues are ultra chic. "The Armani Hotel is just amazing, incredibly stylish. It's probably my favourite place after Okku. Okku has this wonderful Japanese restaurant, which does superb sushi. I think it's better than Nobu or Zuma's, but those places are available, too."
There's been a flurry of new clubs springing up, many of them sister establishments to London venues.
"You've got Amika, Cirque du Soir and Mahiki. It's great," says Young. "I've done some cool parties. Dubai is always developing. If you don't go for six months, and then go back, there is a new building, a new street, there is always something. It is an ever-extending city. It is like the Las Vegas of the Middle East, without the gambling."
It might not have casinos, but Dubai is still a millionaire's playground. With huge air-conditioned malls, an indoor ski slope and an Olympic-sized ice rink, you are not even confined to activities that suit the desert climate. Young's favourite activity is to take a dune buggy out into the desert.
"I like adrenaline sports and dune buggies give me a real thrill," he says. "You have to get up early and meet these guys in this little office who take you into the desert.
"The camps there look like terrorist training camps - all these tents in the middle of the desert. But then you see the buggies. I don't even drive, but these things are fully automatic and just fly over the sand. It's all very Mad Max. It's an intense experience, the desert is vibrating beneath you, you feel it down every inch of your arms and you can go over some serious drops, which really gets your pulse racing."
Another way Young unwinds in Dubai is with a spot of retail therapy. "The malls out there are amazing. They're massive - you could get lost in them," he says. "I buy clothes, I go and have lunch, I people watch. I'm also a big movie fan and so before a gig or maybe on a day off, I do like to catch a film. The cinemas in Dubai are so luxurious, you can have dinner and sit in really plush seats."
Before he hits the decks, Young likes to sup a drink or two at At.mosphere an exclusive lounge bar at the top of the Burj Khalifa, which has stellar views over the city. "Dubai's not much to look at by day," Young says. "There's a lot of concrete. But at night, when it's all lit up, it's exhilarating."
Dubai is a party city, but Young has a word of caution. "I always tell friends of mine to be very careful about drinking when they get to Dubai for the first time. I think the people who get arrested over there are so hammered that they don't realise that they have really offended someone. But if you are drinking in a club or in a hotel bar, you'll be fine.
"There is a massive party scene there and you'll encounter some really lavish people - the kind of people who fly to the Maldives for a weekend," he says. "One night, I'd finished deejaying at one of the clubs, and there was an after-party at someone's villa. This house was kitted out with its own nightclub: it had the lighting, the dance floor, the works. I'd never seen anything quite like it. But that's what Dubai's like."