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Burj Al Arab

There aren’t many hotels in the world that apocryphal stories abound, but such is the status of the Burj that we could fill this book with them. You hear the one about former US President Bill Clinton sneaking into kitchens? Or the man who feels like a diver in the giant aquarium with an engagement ring and a sign that says ‘marry me’? Do we really think it was built on its own island because it was originally meant to be an offshore super casino? Regardless of what you choose to believe, one thing is definitely true: this seven-star superstar is the building that single-handedly put Dubai on the map.

Whether you love it or loathe it, many Christmas scrapbooks include at least one photo since it opened in 1999 (our favorite is the Burj-as-natty hat photo). Standing 918.6 feet (280 meters) offshore and accessed via its own bridge, the structure was designed by architect Tom Wright to be iconic; his philosophy was that an iconic structure should have only three or four simple lines so that people would easily remember it. He sure did it: more than any other structure, this is the symbol of modern Dubai. A double-skin Teflon-coated sail covers the exterior of the building, marking the first time such technology has been used vertically and to such an extent anywhere in the world.

At 321 meters (about 1,053 feet), the hotel remains the tallest all-suite hotel in the world. The interior, the work of KCA International’s Khuan Chew, is perhaps responsible for the Burj’s love-it-hate-it aspect; it’s certainly overkill for western tastes. What you see from the outside gives little impression of the ocular assault that awaits you inside. If we were being nice, we’d call the world’s tallest atrium a ‘wow’ experience. There’s no front desk as such, just a couple of inconspicuous desks (well, what passes for inconspicuous in a place decked out with 1,590 square meters, or nearly 17,115 square feet, of 24-karat gold leaf).

This is because each floor has its own reception. Two elevators flanking a central dancing fountain take you past the massive aquariums to the first floor, where another fountain periodically emits jets of water four levels into the air. The bottom of each floor fans out and is painted a different color, similar to a massive Pantone chart. The rugs are migraine-inducing, all the fixtures and fittings shine gold, and the furniture is primary-colored faux fur. It’s not understated, but we defy you not to get too fond of all the glitz of it all.

Of course, the hotel is aware of the tourist attraction that all of this is, so if you want to experience any of this, you will need a reservation for one of the restaurants (they recently installed a man with a phone at the door so that people that show up according to specifications can book right there). All of the staff are incredibly polite, conscientious and ever-present, as they should be, with a ratio of eight to every guest. The suites, all duplexes, continue the almost opulent theme of comedy. The sitting room, with guest bathroom, is downstairs and features a huge flat screen TV along with a desk on which sits your own fully loaded laptop and Bond-style touch screen powerhouse. villain, from where you can open the curtains. , turn on the music, order a martini, or plot global domination (probably). The views, whether over the Islas del Mundo or La Palma, are incredible and unobstructed.

Upstairs, the beds face floor-to-ceiling windows, and the TVs in front of them can be raised and lowered at the touch of a button. For an edgier form of entertainment, mirrors above the mattresses come standard, though these can be covered on request. All bathrooms come complete with full-size Hermes products and a tall mural of Dubai views above the spa bath, which your butler will fill with scented oils, aromatic herbs or even caviar on request. If this isn’t enough pampering, an entire floor of the hotel is devoted to separate men’s and women’s spas, and there’s a private beach and pool (if guests have one complaint, it’s that this is a bit small and no sunbathing until after noon). Obviously, all this luxury comes at a price, and you’ll probably feel it most at mealtimes. Many people choose to eat in the room; after all, anyone can book dinner at the Burj, but only a select few will be able to afford dinner in their suite. So the room service menu is full of phone books, and we encourage you to get off track with it – they’re happy to send a chef to cook in their private kitchen and serve you at your own dining room table.

The main restaurant is Al Mahara, the ‘underwater’ restaurant (which is actually on the ground floor but has a huge aquarium in the middle), which can be accessed via a ‘submarine’ (ie a large elevator with seat belts) . The new all-white Asian restaurant cooks up a competent buffet, and the Arabic spot gets rave reviews, but it sure is pricey shawarma (a sandwich-like wrap with shaved grilled meat). If you’re going to be spending more than a few nights there, it’s right next to Madinat Jumeirah (accessed by golf cart) and its multitude of cheaper dining options.

The location is also perfect for the Mall of the Emirates and is ten minutes from the shops and cafes of Jumeirah Beach Residence. But let’s be real: if you’re spending AED 10,000 a night, you’ll probably want to get your money’s worth and stay in the hotel the whole time.

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