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Royal Mirage Arabian Court - An Exercise in Restraint

By Sean Stowell, Regional Editor


Concealed indirect low-voltage cove lighting illuminates domes, while deeply regressed PAR30 downlights equalize the ground levels. Photo courtesy of © 2003 Douglas A. Salin - www.dougsalin.com

Tourists flock from around the world to visit the wide variety of scenery in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. From the mountains and sand dunes to breathtaking beaches and bustling business district, Dubai attracts many to its diverse landscapes.

However getting to this destination wedged between Europe and Asia in the east portion of the Jabal al Akhadar Mountains is not easy. Travelers typically arrive between midnight and 3 a.m. on international flights, so resorts try to be as hospitable as possible to their late night guests.

At the Royal Mirage Arabian Court, they decided that lighting was the best way to greet guests after a long flight. Ross De Alessi, IALD, LC, MIES, and Richard Spry, LC, MIES, of Ross De Alessi Lighting Design in Seattle, Washington were given the task of creating a calm, yet cheery, low-contrast lighting environment for guests.

The Royal Mirage complex is built on the exclusive Jumeriah Beach and is part of a resort community comprising three distinct and separate hotels--the Royal Mirage Palace, the Arabian Court, and Royal Mirage Residence and Spa.

The resort is positioned opposite the Emirates Golf Club and adjacent to the Dubai International Marine Club. It is approximately 20 minutes from the airport and the city center.


The landscape around the porte cochere is lighted to provide a frame around the entry. The exterior lighting is in very public areas washing the building with light and barely touching most of the landscape, so as not to obstruct views of the Gulf. Photo courtesy of © 2003 Douglas A. Salin - www.dougsalin.com

The goal for the lighting design was to provide plentiful built-in or concealed architectural ambient light, as decorative fittings weren't yet selected when lighting designs were completed. This project was also an exercise in restraint for De Alessi as he said there were so many things on this sprawling property to light, but the extra illumination would destroy the views of the Persian Gulf that were so important to the ambience of the property.

"We put a lot of effort into a few places," De Alessi told LASN. "Nobody wanted the views of the gulf interrupted. We did exterior lighting in very public areas by washing the building with light and barely touching most of the landscape."

De Alessi added that while selected trees were lit, most were left to shadow against a lit facade. De Alessi stated that because most guests arrive in predawn hours from lengthy flights, cooler exteriors envelop warm, inviting entries and public spaces.




Views of the entrance to the Royal Mirage and a daytime view of the reflecting pool.

"Facade lighting is applied to entries and features only," he noted. "This leaves guestrooms the unobstructed ocean and garden views."

It is a textbook case of less is more. While the plantings would have looked great at night as they were lit up, it just didn't compare to the view of the gulf that was provided to visitors.

Dubai sits on the southern shore of the Persian Gulf and is a part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a federation of seven countries. The landscape of the area as mentioned before is mountainous with little rain, vegetation or animal life. Dubai has nearly 675,000 residents. It is the second largest emirate in the UAE and is an area of 1,000 square miles. The city of Dubai is divided by the Dubai Creek or Khor. This natural harbor, and Dubai's strategic location on the international trading map, has made it one of the world's leading trading and commercial centers.

The ruler of Dubai, H.H. Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, succeeded his father in 1990. His father, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum was one of the founding fathers of the UAE with H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, and was the vice-president and prime minister until his death in 1990. Sheikh Maktoum has since taken the mantle of those offices.


The Fountain Lobby offers a calm environment suffused with indirect light from four concealed uplights. The fountain is highlighted only by recessed, submerged fiber optics. Photo courtesy of © 2003 Douglas A. Salin - www.dougsalin.com

Since the discovery of oil in the country in the 1960s, Dubai has become an attractive tourist destination. The World Travel Prizes ceremony held in June 1996 in Las Vegas saw Dubai win the gold medal for best travel destination in the Middle East and a silver medal for the best tourism and conference center in the region.

The Dubai Shopping Festival held every year is a major attraction for tourists worldwide as is the Dubai Air Show, which is currently ranked third as the most significant international air shows on a global scale.

The Dubai International Airport handles 7.3 million passengers per year; its growth rate is 12 percent, about double of any other airport in the world.


Concealed indirect low-voltage lighting is unseen during the daylight hours. Photo courtesy of © 2003 Douglas A. Salin - www.dougsalin.com

One major challenge faced by De Alessi and his team was getting quality product to match the quality resort. He said he was working with a product distribution system far beyond the challenges of mere packaging that demanded ingenuity and a little diplomacy.

"Things are done differently there," he said. "A lot of it is knowing the right people. There are a lot of formal channels to go through to even bid on a job."


Concealed indirect cove lighting illuminates domes while deeply regressed PAR30 downlights equalize floor lighting levels. A dimming system gradually increases the intesity of the lighting as the sun sets and decreases the illumination as dawn arrives. Photo courtesy of © 2003 Douglas A. Salin - www.dougsalin.com

De Alessi explained that materials delivered often would include only a few items he'd specified, and the rest were what he deemed "absolute junk."

"It was a battle to get certain products on the job," he recalled. "It really says a lot for the company and the developer who specified good products while keeping the cost reasonable."

The developer for the project was Mirage Mille Leisure and Development, Inc.


The reflecting pool is viewed from the entry and surrounding public spaces. A few submersible lights at the pots were added as not to destroy the reflection. The interior is left brighter for transparency. Photo courtesy of © 2003 Douglas A. Salin - www.dougsalin.com

Major public areas in which lighting was done include the fountain lobby, a beachside facade, pool beach bar, and reflecting pool. The Fountain Lobby offers a calm environment suffused with indirect light from four concealed uplights. Capital mounted asymmetric wall washers were adjusted to provide minimal splash and maximum uniformity.

The fountain is highlighted only by recessed, submerged fiber optics.

The beach side facade is lighted for balance with the internal lighting. Walls are uplighted with MR 16 burials and concealed color corrected T5 fluorescent asymmetric wall washers for upper walls. This reduced facade and interior contrast, leaving the interior brighter for transparency. Quartz asymmetric wall washer uplight domes finished the facade.

The pool beach bar restaurant is backlighted with linear fluorescent at the panels and single PAR 38s at the corners. Bottles and cracked glass are backlighted with a simple, elegant MR 16 rail system.

The reflecting pool is viewed from the entry and surrounding public spaces. The same technique as the beach side facade is employed, adding a few submersibles pots to enhance the reflection.


Many of the fixtures and accessories came from Middle Eastern suppliers, but the language of lighting remains the same. Following is a listing of the many types of fixtures and lamps used at the Royal Mirage Arabian Court, broken down by the types of lamps used:

Low-voltage fixtures

  • Adjustable low-voltage burial fixtures for MR 16 lamp and remote transformer
  • Stanchion mounted low-voltage adjustable "Bullet" fixtures for MR 16 lamps with integral transformer and light post
  • Wet niche-mounted underwater floodlights with flat clear linear borosilicate lend for a 12v MR16 lamp with remote transformer
  • Wet niche-mounted underwater floodlight for a 12v PAR56 lamp
  • Base mounted underwater floodlight with clear tempered lens for a 12v MR16 lamp
  • Wall-recessed low-voltage louvered steplight fixture for remote transformer for up to 35w quart halogen lamp.
  • Small scale 115mm diameter in-grade uplighter for 12v 20w halogen capsule lamp

Exterior incandescent and halogen

  • Surface mounted, small scale, exterior flood lights
  • Direct burial round fixtures with variable optics for up to 250 watt PAR38 medium base lamps
  • Surface mounted decorative diffuse luminaire for up to 100w lamp combination
  • Temporary stage lighting

High Intensity Discharge Fixtures

  • Small scale surface mounted exterior wall wash uplight for up to 70w medium base ceramic metal halide lamp
  • Direct burial round fixture with adjustable flood distribution for up to 150w single-ended ceramic metal halide lamp
  • Direct burial round fixture with spot optics for 70w deluxe high-pressure sodium medium base lamp
  • Surface-mounted bulkhead luminaire for 70w ceramic metal halide lamp
  • Surface-mounted bulkhead luminaire for 150w ceramic metal halide lamp

Fluorescent Light Fixtures

  • Continuous row surface-mounted exterior linear fluorescent fixture for T5 linear fluorescent lamps.
  • Continuous row surface-mounted exterior linear fluorescent fixture for 13w T2 linear fluorescent lamps
  • Continuous row surface-mounted, low-profile linear fluorescent fixture with asymmetrical distribution for T12 high output fluorescent lamp
  • Continuous row surface-mounted rough service linear fixture with clear, low-brightness acrylic diffuser, integral ballast, for twin T8 linear fluorescent lamps
  • Continuous row, surface-mounted, low-profile exterior wall wash fluorescent fixture with asymmetrical distribution for one 40w twin-tube compact fluorescent lamp
  • Concealed continuous 12 mm bright neon.

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October 20, 2019, 6:03 pm PDT

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