Five Must-Have Middle East Memberships

By Gareth Rees
29 October 2018
Middle East, Luxury
Make your travels in the region more pleasurable with these indispensable affiliations

Go on, spoil yourself. 

Whether you live in the Middle East or spend a significant amount of time there for business and pleasure, there will come a time when you want to kick back and enjoy the luxury on offer in this part of the world. Airmiles? Golf rounds? Beaches? We've got you covered. Here are some of the best memberships from the UAE, Iraq and Turkey.

1. Mr Erbil

Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, is not the first destination to dance onto the tip of one’s tongue when discussing fashion, or indeed a mini-break, but back in 2016 the war-torn autonomous region of northern Iraq spawned Mr Erbil, a group of self-proclaimed dandies describing itself as the first Kurdish/Iraqi gentlemen’s club.

Mr Erbil, which started as a group of 22 young Iraqi Kurds, who would meet at “gentleman’s gatherings” in Erbil Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is now reported to have more than doubled its membership and has attracted more than 90,000 followers on Instagram. There have been murmurs a club house is in the pipeline. Until then, it’s worth getting in touch if you’re in town.

2. Soho House Istanbul

Istanbul is one of the most attractive, cosmopolitan and cultured cities in the Middle East – so it’s likely you are a regular visitor. That being the case, you should really have a local bolthole, somewhere to retreat and meet like-minded people when you’re in town. There is only one contender: Soho House Istanbul. Founded in 1995, Soho House Istanbul is located in a beautifully restored 19th century palace, Palazzo Corpi, in the Beyoğlu district and boasts a first-floor bar, a games room, a dining room, a morning room, a late-night bar-club and Cecconi’s, an Italian restaurant in the building’s courtyard.

There is also a hotel. Local House membership is $1,480 (plus $265 tax). You will need two existing members to support your application, so get schmoozing.

3. Emirates Skywards

If you are a frequent flyer, your travel wallet is likely already crammed full of airline loyalty cards. Nevertheless, with Emirates serving nine destinations in the Middle East – Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – no Middle East traveller should be without an Emirates Skywards membership.

You will progress through the four tiers of Emirates’ frequent-flyer program – Blue, Silver, Gold and Platinum – as you accumulate miles flying with Emirates or flydubai, gaining better benefits, such as priority check-in and boarding (Silver), free Emirates Business Class lounge access (Gold) and Gold membership for a friend, partner or spouse (Platinum), as you go. 

4. Saadiyat Beach Club

Every man needs a reliable escape from prolonged periods of non-stop work and play in the region’s capitals. Saadiyat Beach Club on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi provides just that. Relax on a sun lounger on nine kilometres of Blue Flag certified white sand beach, scanning the cobalt blue waters of the Arabian Gulf for dolphins and Hawksbill turtles; order a cocktail to your private cabana floating on the 650sqm pool; or, if you’re feeling energetic, book a session with a personal trainer in The Workout Room.

If the sand, sea and sun get too much, retreat to the Library Lounge, one of four bars and restaurants at the club, or book a traditional shave or a massage at grooming lounge 1847. Prices range from $630 for monthly membership to $4,900 for an annual membership.

5. Jumeirah Golf Estates

The Middle East boasts some of the finest golf clubs in the world, but if you’re going to join one, it should be Jumeirah Golf Estates, home to the DP World Tour Championship, the final tournament on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. Tee off on one of two Greg Norman-designed courses, Earth and Fire, and enjoy the numerous facilities on offer in the Club House and Country Club, including a swimming pool, fitness centre and Tennis Academy.

If your game needs work, book a lesson at the European Tour Performance Institute. Prices range from $5,200 for mid-week only membership to $9,300 for full membership.