Steve Garley, Commercial Director at Tropical Sky, experiences the total luxury of the Burj al Arab Hotel.
How do you define luxury? Is it the star rating and sheer opulence of where you are staying or is it the ambience and level of pampering attention that generates that sybaritic sense of well being? In the world of luxury hotels, using either of those definitions, none can really compete with the self-styled `Seven Star` Burj al-Arab in Dubai.
Of course, no hotel can be any more than `Five Star` really, but that rating does not seem to truly describe this incredible place! If you`ve never stayed at an icon before or experienced `Seven Star` treatment, then you can`t really appreciate what genuine luxury is!
Construction of the Burj Al Arab began in 1994. It was built on a huge man-made island and designed to resemble the sail of a traditional Arab Dhow. Two “wings” spread in a V to form the enormous mast that encloses a massive atrium. The Burj is as iconic for Dubai as the Opera House is for Sydney or the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. The whole thing cost a staggering $650 million to build.
Every mention of the phrase `Burj Al Arab` seems to be accompanied by the word `exclusive`. We stopped over there briefly on our way back from Mauritius and I had always thought it was not for me. Exclusive maybe, but too obviously flashy and glitzy. That initial perception was reinforced at the security gates of the Burj: `I need to check if you are on the list before I let you in` said the security guard. By the time we arrived amongst a collection of Cadillacs and Rolls Royces at the entrance my prejudices that luxury needn`t mean ostentation were even more deep seated. But the bravado and audacity of this place gradually wears those prejudices down.
Nothing prepares you for the interior of the Burj. Every colour (especially gold) is used in the décor. Every opulent material, metal or fabric known to man seems to be there. Bold, clashing, but still somehow classy. The Burj has the highest atrium in the Middle East (it said so in my brochure) and believe me, it`s true. High enough for wonderful waterfalls and passageways that could have come out of the temple at Karnak.
The two-storey suite was huge and outrageous. The same clashing colours with opulence in every corner and a magnificent view of the Jumeirah Beach through the floor to ceiling windows. Despite the ongoing building works in Dubai, there was absolute silence inside except for the hum of the very effective air conditioning. James, one of the three butlers assigned to the suite, showed us how to operate the high-tech room controls. He offered to do our unpacking, but we were embarrassed about our lack of luggage – after all this was just stopover on the way back from Mauritius.
When he left, we failed to turn off the TV, could not close the curtains, or turn on the computer. He came back and patiently explained again. There were all sorts of luxury touches – showers with different height jets, a Jacuzzi bath which the butler could fill with all sorts of potions – including champagne if I wanted it! The butler very kindly told us what we could take away free of charge as mementoes and we ended up buying an extra holdall to bag all our freebies. And you`d want to remember this place before you run out of superlatives! The gym has a panoramic view where you can see wondrous geometric fountains with jets reaching the 5th floor, chimneys that emit plumes of fire and the whole building changing colour at night.
Breakfast in the restaurant was simply paradise. Everywhere you went, the staff knew your name! OK, it may have been a simple system linked to your room number, but it was delivered so well by serving staff from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal the Philippines and many other countries who were attentive and a pleasure to talk to. I`ve been on Concorde, stayed at the Plaza in New York and been on the QE2. Those luxury experiences were great, but nothing prepares you for the Burj al Arab. I want to go back again!
About the author:
Steve Garley is Commercial Director at Tropical Sky, a company specialising in luxury holidays to tropical and exotic places throughout the globe. He`s worked in the travel business for more than 20 years.
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