Star ratings, extravagance and luxe are frequent descriptions of many hotels these days, but I recently discovered one of the most luxurious properties in the world where a seven star rating has truly been earned – the Burj Al Arab (by Jumeirah) in Dubai.
If you don’t know its name, you’ll surely recognise its signature sail that rises up from the edge of the Arabian Gulf in what is an iconic Dubai landmark.
And you can’t just walk in off the street across its private bridge and take a look around. It’s that exclusive. No, you must be an actual guest to experience the illusive seven star opulence of this amazing property.
I was lucky enough to be taken on a private tour of the hotel, and I’m not quite sure where to begin to explain just how mind-blowing this property really is.
I felt as though as I was entering a royal residence as my taxi drove down the manicured garden entry, and as my door was flung open as I was greeted by a dazzling smile. I attempted to climb out of the car with some kind of elegance as I could immediately tell this was unlike any ‘hotel’ I’d ever seen before, and I’ve seen a lot of hotels.
The first thing I noticed, and it was rather disarming, was the sheer beauty of each and every staff member. And not in an arrogant way, you could tell that each staff member was handpicked and were not only incredibly attractive, but very special people inside and out. They literally shone with energy, professionalism while immaculately groomed.
Entering the enormous doors you’re immediately hit with two of the largest aquariums I’d ever seen. Imagine on both the left and right side of the escalators that led to the first floor, giant mirrored walls of glass with some of the most unique marine life I’d ever seen.
It’s one of those moments you don’t quite know where to look, and I was guided with a slight tap on my elbow to the reception desk as I tried to lift my jaw up from my chest.
A wide angled gold (and I had no doubt that it was real gold, which it was) reception alcove greeted me with more dazzling smiles from behind, as I awaited the Marketing Executive to take me on my tour. I suddenly felt very underdressed.
I made myself comfortable on a soft lounge and stared around some more, and it wasn’t long before the lovely Elena came to greet me.
We chatted away as I followed her up the escalators and although they weren’t moving extremely fast, I wished they’d go at a snail’s pace so I could gaze longer at the exotic, underwater creatures that lined the wall.
Once at the top of the escalators the full impact of the hollow interior of the sail could be appreciated – the atrium illuminated by slow changing hues throughout, all the way to the top of the structure. The height was dizzying.
Each of the suites are lined on the edge of the sail to take full advantage of the incredible views. And while the exterior of the building is awesome on its own, this epic, somewhat secret interior is a whole lot of something else.
We went straight to the top riding in lifts gilded in more gold, as Elena reaffirmed that yes, it was real gold – and you could tell.
“Everything you see has been handpicked from the best of its kind around the world by our owner. The marble comes from Brazil and Statutario marble from Italy which is the world’s rarest, was used in the floors and walls,” she explained.
In fact, this is the same marble used by Michelangelo in his incredible sculptures.
24-carat gold leaf is everywhere, the lush, colourful rugs from South Africa and India, and sparkling chandeliers handmade in the UK.
Bespoke fabrics, carpets, rugs, hall tables, you name it – this was dreamy lavishness at its finest.
“Each floor has it’s own reception and check-in is conducted in the privacy of your suite, while a butler is on call 24 hours a day to meet the needs of each guest,” she whispered as we exited the lift to face the large desk on the even more exclusive top floor.
That tops room service any day.
We walked along the curve of the sail’s summit and I couldn’t resist gazing down into the atrium. The incredible patterns from looking upwards from the first floor were just as impressive from above, if not more so.
“It’s been designed to impress from any angle you see it from,” she said.
Two aptly named Royal Suites take up the entire pointy tip level of the Burj Al Arab. This is what I wanted to see.
“This is what we call the Royal Suite,” she said opening the doors as if revealing a work of art.
Upon entry a grand marble and gold staircase is the focus, although Elena points out that there’s a lift to my right should guests not to wish to walk to the upper levels where the bedroom suites were located. I immediately consider that one would not simply ‘walk’ the staircase, but rather one would gracefully glide, to really do it justice.
It truly is palatial and fit for a king. Elena tells me that actually Middle Eastern royalty have indeed stayed in the suite and on further probing, tennis champion Roger Federer, film stars and international dignitaries. Their privacy of course completely respected.
The colours hit you hard at first. The richest of reds, the deepest golds, mixed with dramatic crimsons and royal blues. None of this should work together, yet it does.
I attempt to ‘glide’ up the grand staircase first to see the bedroom suites – his and hers. Each is designed to suit the different tastes of men and women, although I would happily stay in either if I’m to be honest.
The men’s bedroom featured an enormous circular, four poster, rotating canopy bed surrounded by plush, long drapes facing a wall of mirrors.
“But wait, watch this,” Elena said in answer to my question, reaching down bedside to flick a switch upon which the bed began to rotate to face the the massive floor to ceiling windows revealed as the blinds silently slid open to reveal the sky blue waters of the Gulf beyond.
A specially designed dressing room with large freestanding mirror facing a leather lounge chair and miles of wardrobe space adjoins the bedroom suite. It appears as though plucked out of one of London’s finest bespoke outfitting establishments, to which Elena replied that many guests fly the world’s best tailors into Dubai to be fitted during their stay.
The ensuite was larger than your average deluxe hotel room. A huge shower and jacuzzi, all fitted with gold taps, a small lounge area and an extensive selection of complimentary (full size) Hermès amenities including a special bath menu. I could spend a week in the bathroom alone which was more like a small spa.
Crossing the foyer on the first floor bedroom level, we entered the ladies bedroom. It was a contrast to the rich, darker colours of the men’s, a delight in soft colours and gentle furnishings – a complete dream. Every tiny detail is thoughtfully designed, and while opulent in its styling, incredibly warm and welcoming.
Elena led me back downstairs and to the dining room, which was more like a banquet hall. The low warm ceiling hugged a massive round table with hand carved wooden chairs – a table I feel King Arthur would be quite happy feasting at should Camelot have been similarly lavish.
A discreet corner door leads to a huge kitchen with its own entrance, where chefs can prepare your meals and your butler deliver to you.
The study, and in fact every suite, is equipped with iMacs, scanner, broadband wireless internet and facsimile. The in-suite electronic system allows guests to open curtains, dim lights, play music at a touch of a button. And not any old button. Guests are provided with a 23 carat gold iPad upon check-in which become their virtual concierge.
Each suite is encased in the incredible views which is visible through its incredibly tall windows, even from both the dressing rooms.
The gym/complete fitness centre, Diwania Library, infinity edged indoor pool and Talise Spa are as impressively designed as the rest of the property, and back on the ground floor, palms sway to the gentle breezes that sweep across the Gulf from the outdoor pool area – the Burj Al Arab Terrace.
The stunning, azure waters are a beautiful backdrop for the Burj Al Arab Terrace. It’s a destination in itself with 10,000 square metres of outdoor luxury, serviced by delicacies from Scape Restaurant & Bar, two incredibly inviting pools, butler-serviced cabanas and of course a private beach.
Aligning with the bespoke nature of the property, The Terrace was actually built in Finland and transported to Dubai by sea.
Should you wish to hold a special event with a difference, try the Al Falak Ballroom, the decor of which is a nod to an 18th century Viennese opera house and a perfect venue for weddings and gala dinners.
Rates for the Royal Suite begin at around US$26,000 per night.
Do I sound impressed? You bet. I really respect that each and every detail of the Burj Al Arab has an artistic ring to it, and not just a value. Definitely a beautiful way to please my artistic, travel soul.
For more rates and information click here. It’s an experience you’ll never easily forget.