It’s Dubai’s most iconic image: the hotel Burj Al Arab, suggesting an Arab dhow plying the waters of the Gulf, is a nod to Dubai’s past, as well as being a very visible benchmark of what happens when money, determination, vision, and groundbreaking engineering technology come together.
The billions of UAE dirhams, the thousands of cubic metres of concrete and sand, the thousands of tonnes of steel, and all the other statistics and factoids can readily be found here.
Apart from what you see from a distance while driving along Dubai’s Shaikh Zayed Road or Jumeirah Beach Road, we’ll try to separate some of the myths from the truth and see what, if anything, the Burj has to offer to all the rest of us who just gasp at the nightly tariff on the Royal Suite (It’s stated in the link above).
Funny to think that it’s almost sixteen years old – it celebrates the anniversary of its opening in 1999 each December. There are many newer hotels in Dubai now, but the Burj still remains the yardstick against which the others must be judged.
What’s it like to stay there?
I don’t know. I live in Dubai – I’ve visited the Burj on a few occasions, but I’ve never taken the final step and treated myself to a night to find out. The Burj Al Arab’s own dedicated website, part of the Jumierah Group’s website, will give you a pretty good idea.
Standard room, Deluxe Room or… well forget all that: the rooms are all suites (with your own personal butler), but some are more… “mmm” than others. Prices currently start at AED 5905 per night ($US 1607) and go up from there.
Surprisingly enough, there are occasionally deals on a night or two at the Burj, so if your heart’s really set on it, try Booking.com or Lastminute.com, but don’t expect too much – and it will certainly help if you can be flexible with your dates.
But what’s it really like to stay there? Go back to the website and check out the room pictures. I don’t think you’ll have too many complaints.
How about eating there?
It won’t be a cheap night out!
What do you fancy?
One of the highest restaurants in Dubai, or anywhere in the world for that matter? Book a table at Al Muntaha – the website page tells you most of what you need to know, and even includes the restaurant’s recommended specialties.
Underwater? Try Al Mahara, situated beneath the sea. You’ll be seated alongside, or very close to, the hotel’s 990,000 litre seawater aquarium. Not surprisingly, this restaurant specializes in seafood.
There are nine restaurants and bars altogether. You can find out about all of them here.
Can I experience the Burj without it costing me a month’s salary or my annual bonus?
Actually, yes, but you can’t just show up unannounced and have a look around. It is, after all, nearly 300 meters offshore on it’s own artificial island.
You need to get past the security gates in order to be driven across to the island, which means that if you’re not actually staying at the hotel, you need some other reason in order to gain access.
How about a Burj Al Arab afternoon tea? Still not exactly cheap, but not ruinously expensive either, and the good thing is that once over at the hotel, you won’t be asked to leave again in a trice. In other words, you’ve paid your admission fee, you’re going to have a splendid time at whichever tea you choose, and you can linger for as long as you like afterwards.
My personal choice is the Ultimate Afternoon Tea at Sahn Eddar, followed by a visit to see the sun go down over the Gulf at the Skyview Bar. You can make a round of drinks last quite a while, and you won’t be pressured to order more. The Skyview Bar is a great place to be at sunset, as you can have a view out into the Gulf, or depending on where you can sit, watch the colors of the sunset play across the coastline.
Call the hotel to make a reservation, because you will need this in order to gain access from the Jumeirah Beach Road entrance, beside the Wild Wadi Waterpark. Or you could, of course, arrive by chartered helicopter, but sadly this service is only available to in-house guests.
Fantasy time – what else do I get if I ever stay there?
I mentioned the butler service earlier – you can arrange transfers to and from the airport by a variety of luxury limousines, starting at the bottom with Mercedes G Wagons all the way up to Rolls Royce Phantoms (no, they’re not free and never were – you have to pay extra for these – prices given in the link above).
You can rent a Ferrari, an Aston Martin, or a Lamborghini. You’ll be given (not to keep!) a gold plated iPad at check-in, from which you access all the hotel’s services.
You can spoil yourself rotten at the Talise Spa, work up a sweat with a personal trainer at the Talise Fitness Club, and you’ve got your own private beach back over on the mainland (you can walk over on the causeway, or if you don’t fancy walking, you will be whisked over and back on one of the hotel’s many golf buggies).
And of course, all guests have unlimited free access to the Wild Wadi Waterpark. Don’t dismiss it! It’s an absolute hoot! There are some very elegant and suitably expensive in-house shops and boutiques, should you not desire to ever leave once having checked in.
All the details about the above and more can be found here.
It sounds amazing – what do others think of the whole Burj Al Arab experience?
Most, of course, are overwhelmingly positive, but you’d be surprised at the minute details that people will find fault with.
Not surprising, really, when you consider the all up cost of even a single night’s stay, if you also wine and dine while there. You can read for yourself here on Tripadvisor. I’m genuinely surprised that 1.3% of a total 2809 reviewers rated the hotel as “terrible.”
Proof, I guess, that some people just can’t be satisfied.