A look inside the most luxurious hotel in the world – Burj Al Arab – the Sail in Dubai. What actually awaits us inside
How to get to the Burj Al Arab? The easiest way is to rent a room, however, since Burj Al Arab is considered to be the most luxurious hotel in the world and one of the most expensive ones as well, renting even the smallest apartment – two floors, 169 square meters – can pose a challenge to anyone’s wallet. Our “entry ticket” has cost 220 dirhams per person, while a dessert named Sweet Indulgence, which included “Gold Cappuccino 24K”, have enabled a table reservation in the Sahn Eddar Lobby Bar. Yes, we drank a golden cappuccino with a hint of 24-carat gold and ate a pastry sprinkled with gold, however... their taste was not overwhelming. We will long remember what we have seen 200 meters above the lobby while exploring every nook and cranny of the hotel – also those unavailable to any tours. Entering the tallest atrium in the world is a sight on its own: you can even buy something in local shops (although, putting it mildly, the prices are not cheap) and admire many views, experience the taste of luxury of the highest order and touch – almost anywhere – the most expensive Italian Statuario marble which was brought here by the tones, and which was used for the most famous works of Michelangelo. You can even see how a water column of a fountain located in the atrium is moved up 30 meters in the air every hour or so. The first floor itself presents amazing possibilities and fascinates indeed, even with a subtle golden kitsch.
You have to be aware that gaining access to smaller or greater mysteries described below is not easy. We received help from Magłorzata Grzywacz, employed at the “Sail”, who asked the management to open for us many doors, closed to people not working at the hotel. A few times during our tour the security or the restaurant staff, or even butlers assigned to each floor, confirmed whether Ms Gosia actually can show us what she wanted – for instance, the most expensive apartments. We wish everyone to have such
a tour but let us warn you: many of the places described below may be unavailable to you. Although, fingers crossed to be otherwise...
When we get a taxi to Burj Al Arab, the cab driver looks at us hesitantly and wants to know whether we would like to stroll around the artificial island and take pictures with the hotel in the background or do we have some other plans? He admits that he has never passed the security check and is not sure if we will be allowed to get in; he is surprised when the security staff standing before an almost 300 meter-long bridge, quickly finds our names on the tablet and requests to open the gate. That way, an ordinary cab finds itself among Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Rolls-Royces parked side by side, awaiting the guests. Porters, however, do not show that they usually touch handles more expansive than those of our cab – the whole staff will treat as cordially and with a smile for the next few hours.
The Sahn Eddar restaurant is located on the first floor but nevertheless offers quite a view of the nearby water park, Dubai’s skyscrapers and the Persian Gulf. We are not looking for too long, knowing that upper floors will have
a better view. From our table, we have an excellent view of the highest hotel atrium in the world. One-hounded and eighty meters-long, yet only 28 floors and only 202 rooms on them. Looking from below, there is no sign of life but we feel that we can see a lot. When we will be going in to one of the few vacant rooms that day (occupancy does not decrease under 60 percent and on the weekends and during holidays one-hundred percent is business as usual), we will find out that the railings are so high and the corridors so wide that... the doors cannot even be seen. And what looks like doors, from below, is
a decoration of the second storey – because every apartment in Burj Al Arab has two floors. The biggest apartments provide the tenants with 780 square meters of space, two huge bathrooms with golden fitting and beautiful ceramic paintings, and even with big bottles of exclusive perfumes which should be taken upon check-out, as the hotel staff recommends. It is not even worth to mention that, for the duration of stay, the guest receive iPads with 24-carat gold finish, right? It is easy to get accustomed to the luxury.
Before further discussing the rooms, let us get back to the atrium. It is the highest in the world, yet the Burj Al Arab is not the world’s highest hotel. The sail-shaped hotel, higher than the Tour de Eiffel, has something that other hotels rarely use on a daily basis: gold. Dozens of kilograms of gold. Precious gems as well – in the Junsul restaurant, the ceiling is covered by highest quality Swarovski’s crystals, an investment of over one million dirhams. Supposedly, they do not fall into the Asian cuisine dishes served there; these expensive crystals, symbolizing the Milky Way, are hanging tight.
In many restaurants, the waiters bring huge, wooden fresh pepper mills. From a similar, see-through mill, they have sprinkled our pastry and coffee with an image of the Burj Al Arab with golden flakes; the gold is present in our cappuccino and pastry in the flake and barrel form (should we even add that it is a 24-carat gold?...). There is a choice between five pastries but they are not breathtaking, just like the fruit cocktails which began our Sweet Indulgence. If not for the price (220 dirhams, as you recall, that is more or less the same amount in zlotys), we would not remember nothing about them, apart from the camel’s milk.
After finishing the obligatory consumption, we begin our tour. “I will take you everywhere, I have all necessary permissions from the management. Also, you came at a right time because the restaurants are not crowded and the sun will shine through the SkyBar windows shortly. From there, you can see the entire coast, just like from the rooms”, Małgorzata Grzywacz tells us while guiding us throughout the hotel. Thanks to her, we will be able to reach every area, see the most expensive restaurants and the best views, and feel the softness of the world’s... most comfortable hotel sheets. Yes, the gold, pleasant and dazzling to the tourists, is one thing, but here even pillows are worth as much as expensive bullions. In a special menu, there are 17 (say: seventeen) types of sheets, while the Eiderdown is appreciated the most. Since we did not know what kind of down it is, we looked in Wikipedia to find that an eider is a sea duck and its down, collected manually from nests, is the most expensive in the world. Cleaning of a one kilogram of such down takes a week and the price for (yes, just one kilogram of Eiderdown) exceeds one-thousand dollars.
Burj Al Arab is not a seven-star hotel but it easily could be. The lack of two more stars, which often-times appears in descriptions of the pearl, or rather
a golden nugget of world’s hotel industry, is due to the imperfection of the scale which was once sealed with only five stars. And, clearly, that is not enough for Burj Al Arab.
“Of course, I am asked if this is actually a seven-star hotel. In truth, my usual response is “only” five. However, looking at my smile, everyone will know that this place should have more and the term “seven-star hotel” often-times used by the clients is not a coincidence”, Gosia Grzywacz says. She likes her job, is good at it and what is most important for us – she knows the hotel and its staff.
Our tour began from the bottom – among golden arcades of luxurious shops we have found an elevator and went up to the Al Mahara restaurant, meaning the Oyster, endorsed by a famous British chef Nathan Outlaw. “The most fresh and delicious fish from around Dubai are served here. Fish are swimming around the guest in a aquarium which contains almost a million litres of water and is separated from the gusts by a 18-centemer-thick acrylic glass”, our guide explains. Once, a submarine-stylised elevator led to the Al Mahara but now guests arrive in “just” a golden one. Inside, there are few smaller and bigger rooms and individual tables. Each table has a view on the aquarium which features regular appearances of... a diver, holding a sign ordered by clients beforehand. The most popular one of them is obviously: “Will you marry me?” and, supposedly, all engagements have ended with a “Yes”. This brief, yet impressive appearance of a diver costs 8,000 dirhams and the restaurant staff pulls outs all the stops to make sure that the evening is a night to remember.
We have been married for 5 years now, however thanks to Ms Małgosia we have spent an unforgettable evening. The sunset, admired from the Al Muntaha restaurant, specialising in French cuisine, was mighty impressive. It is the peak of the hotel, the world’s famous 27th floor. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the remarkably inclined, huge glass windows provide the best view over Dubai. We were greatly more impressed with this view than the one available from the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa, and the reason is simple – you cannot see the details from the latter, it is just too high and far out. Here, being at 300 meters above the Persian Gulf, the view is amazing whichever way you look. And looking up presents similarly beautiful view of
a helipad, used not only by the guests who want to spend few thousand dirhams more to arrive from the airport but also by athletes. It was here, where Tiger Woods and company tried to put a ball into a hole located in the water and where Roger Federer and Andre Agassi played tennis on a court made just for that occasion. “That helipad is, I think, the only place where I have never been to in this hotel. It is a complicated issue, difficult to get there”, Małgorzata Grzywacz tell us while leading us to the “Gold on 27” bar (easy to guess what the main theme of the bar is and on which floor, right?).
You can face certain problems there because the dress code includes long trousers and covered feet – but the experience is exhilarating. A fancy golden calling excites imagination and drinking cocktails is not necessary to be under the impression that the golden firmament sways like in the Matrix when looking up. Besides, the cocktails are also immensely expensive. And no wonder, since a cocktail worth over 27 thousand dirhams was sold in Burj Al Arab once and single drinks worth a thousand dollars or more are a standard. You cannot come in here for a cheap drink because in order to make
a reservation which opens the gate leading to the arterial island on which the hotel is built, spending a certain amount of many needs to guaranteed.
A discussion over what was more impressive, the 21 thousand crystals hanging above us in Junsul or twisted golden details in “Gold on 27”, can make long winter nights in Poland more enjoyable. By the way, in that period, it is very difficult to rent a room in Burj Al Arab; from October to March, the temperatures in Dubai are almost perfect.
We mentioned the rooms. Few giant plasma TVs, amazing view, pillows with Eiderdown (or other down, no pressure), bathrooms reminding of ancient saunas. Gold, gold and even more gold, the touch of which becomes common, especially when it is present even on electronic devices. And even luxurious perfumes, not testers, the biggest bottles... After the tour, you ceased to be impressed by the second storey of the apartment and the information that you can bring your own chef is as common as it gets. Of course, local chefs also provide their services. There is a small kitchenette (read: the size of an average home kitchen) in the apartment which is used by the chefs employed at Burj Al Arab when a client wants to eat only with friends or family. The happy time spent in the most luxurious hotel in the world is kept by a clock with holographic projections visible on sand-coloured walls. Any time is good for any given request because every floor has a separate reception desk and a butler.
We said our goodbyes with Małgorzata Grzywacz at a pool, looking at several private, glazed cabins with air-condition, TVs, cabinet and everything else desired by a person hiding from the sun. A wooden terrace was assembled from few giant panel specially brought from Finland, while the sand of the beach on the artificial island taken away from the Persian Gulf was brought from Saudi Arabia – because the foreign sand is less dusty than the local and is more comfortable to walk on. You have a feeling that nothing here is left to chance, not even a smallest detail. Such as a grain of sand.