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a Foster + Partners hotel in Saudi Arabia and a series of private bungalows in Mozambique that celebrate African minimalism are among the hotels celebrated in the 2021 edition of the AHEAD MEA awards. AHEAD, which stands for the Awards for Hospitality Experience and Design, celebrates striking hospitality projects from across the world. The winners of this year’s Middle East and Africa region awards were announced at an in-person ceremony held at Caesars Forum Bluewaters Dubai on 9 September. The ceremony was attended by hoteliers, architects and designers from across the region and included a lively panel debate on development trends in the region before the winners were announced.

Selected by a panel of judges, the winning projects showcase the best new hotel designs from across the region. The biggest winner of the night was design-led hotel Sussurro, which took home three awards the Landscaping and Outdoor Spaces, Resort Hotel, and the AHEAD MEA 2021 Hotel of the Year award. Situated on the tropical beach of a secluded saltwater lagoon in Southern Mozambique, Sussurro’s private bungalows provide over a thousand square feet of personal space and generous waterfront verandahs. “The hotel was built and is now serviced by the community and the team commit to only using 100 per cent African materials,” said the award organisers. The judges praised Sussurro as a “perfect example of African minimalism with incredible attention to detail and craftsmanship”.

A development built on an archipelago of more than 90 islands won the New Concept Award. Called Coral Bloom by the Red Sea, the project in Saudi Arabia includes a resort designed by Foster + Partners and is expected to have its first hotels open in 2022. The 6-star St Regis Cairo designed by US practice Michael Graves Architecture and Design won two awards for its opulent Event Spaces and Lobby and Public Spaces that feature a 250,000-piece Swarovski crystal chandelier and a sweeping stair with a curving glass-block and bronze railing.

Singita Sabora Tented Camp scooped the Lodges, Cabins and Tented Camps award as well as the Visual Identity award. The judges praised the safari camp for “remaining true to the concept of a canvas lodge that touches the earth lightly”. They also appreciated how the mix of colour and tones used in the design reflects the surrounding nature. Parisian design firm Jouin Manku’s work at the iconic The Churchill Bar at La Mamounia Marrakech won in the Bar and Restaurant categories. The firm led the hotel’s recent major renovation to its public spaces and F&B venues, which now include an underground wine bar and two new restaurants helmed by three Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges. It was the hotel’s L’Asiatique restaurant that caught the judge’s eye for its “epicurious and sensual dining experience”. Appreciated by the judges for its “bravery”, Hotel Indigo Downtown Dubai won in the Hotel Newbuild category. Its interiors, which include mother of pearl bathrooms inspired by the industry that made Dubai famous, were said to bring “regional art to the forefront whilst showing a spirit of creativity and collaboration”.

Designed by Foster + Partners

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