Visiting the Burj al Arab: The World’s Most Luxurious Hotel
I’m not a girl who dreams about hotels.
I have some friends who work in the luxury hotel industry and they wax poetic about hotels they dream of visiting someday — hotels with plunge pools overlooking mountains, glass-bottomed overwater bungalows and 50,000 thread count sheets.
Me? I get their fascination, but hotels aren’t my thing, and they don’t dominate my travel dreams…
Except for one.
The Burj al Arab.
The Burj al Arab is one of Dubai’s most famous landmarks, its sailboat-shaped silhouette emerging from the sea.
The hotel, which opened in 1999, declared itself the world’s first seven-star hotel — even though that rating technically doesn’t exist. It is over-the-top in every way possible.
From the first time I saw a picture of the Burj al Arab, I dreamed of visiting it. But the hostel is closed to visitors, and there’s no way in hell I could ever afford to stay there.
This is where being a professional travel blogger comes in. I emailed the resort and asked if I could drop by for a visit.
Not only did they give me and Mario permission to visit, they offered to show us around!
The lobby impressed us right off the bat with enormous gold pillars and dancing fountains.
The honeycomb-style grid is very rare in hotels, and here it was an amazing design element. This hotel is all about breathtaking grandeur.
After being greeted by the Burj’s PR team, it was time to do what I’ve always wanted:
JUMP IN A FANCY HOTEL’S FANCY BATHTUB!
The Burj al Arab’s Second Most Fanciest Suite
CNN named the Burj al Arab’s Royal Suite the 12th most expensive hotel suite in the world in 2012 with a nightly rate of around $18,716.
The Royal Suite was actually booked during our visit, despite it being the lowest point of low season (Ramadan plus the middle of the summer). Instead, we went to see one of their #2 suites.
It starts with a grand foyer…
And merges into multiple sitting rooms with many bars, adjoined to offices complete with Mac desktops. The suite has two ensuite bedrooms.
The master bedroom:
I can’t tell you how hard it was not to jump on that bed.
And the master bath:
How much would you love for this to be your bathroom?! Look at the size of that tub!
One reader remarked to me that the Burj would be more toward the taste of Eastern tourists with its penchant for gold-dripped anything. Well, I’m a Leo — in my opinion, you can’t have too much gold!
But it’s true that gold does tend to reflect the design aesthetic of the up-and-coming billionaire regions of the world like China, India, and Russia. Years ago, the Burj al Arab catered foremost to wealthy American tourists, we were told. In time, however, their customer base has shifted toward wealthy Russians and Chinese.
You don’t get a lot of presidents or royalty staying here — it tends to be the super-rich rather than the super-powerful.
The guest bedroom here isn’t too shabby.
And the guest bathroom! How would you like a mosaic on your bathroom wall?
I remarked that I really liked the shadow clock that was projected onto the wall. Turns out these clocks were such popular items that the Burj began selling them to their guests!
After leaving the suite, we went to the spa floor, where you’ll be able to take the best picture of the Burj al Arab:
To get here, take the elevator to the spa floor and walk around the perimeter to the lobby. Stand next to the white piano and you’ll be in the perfect position.
Afternoon Tea at the Burj al Arab
The Burj’s PR team also generously invited me and Mario to experience their Sky Tea afternoon tea in the Skyview Bar on the 27th floor, overlooking the coastline with a view of the Burj Khalifa in the far distance.
We started our tea with something I had never tried before: sparkling date juice.
“You won’t believe where this is made,” our waiter told us.
“No idea. Lebanon?”
“France,” he said with a grin.
“Yes, they make it there. The dates are from the Middle East, though.”
After the sparkling date juice, we were brought a pot of tea (me) and a cappuccino (Mario) and treated to the following courses:
Berry tarte — a light start for what was ahead.
Chef’s carvery of the day: roast beef with mashed potatoes. This was sensational, and I could have easily had one or two more servings.
Sandwiches galore. That zebra-looking bread is actually made of squid ink and pureed apples! Incredible. (And there are free refills on the sandwiches, so to speak.)
And then it was time for tower of desserts in a tray shaped like the Burj al Arab itself!
Starting from top to bottom, we began with the absolute best scones and clotted cream I’ve ever had (and having lived a year and a half in the UK, that is a HUGE deal). Next, a selection of cakes.
The best item on the menu was the sweetest dish of all: camel milk creme brûlée. By that point, though, we had eaten so much that we were struggling to get through our final delicious bites.
And a surprise!
A birthday cake! They also gave Mario a rose to give to me. A sweet way to add to the occasion.
And finally, the dish that almost made us burst — lychee and rose sorbet.
We were DONE. Stuffed, sated, and absolutely full of sugar.
I am never going to be able to afford to stay at the Burj al Arab. But I am so glad that I actually got to visit that place, that I actually got to see that lobby and take those pictures and experience the place that I’ve dreamed of visiting for so long.
And as a full-time blogger who has lately been feeling more of the pitfalls than the joys, being able to achieve a decade-long goal was the ultimate redeeming experience.
If you dream of visiting the Burj al Arab and aren’t secretly married to a Saudi prince or Russian czarina, afternoon tea is your best bet. It’s not a budget activity — afternoon teas start at 285 AED ($78) and our Sky Tea cost 450 AED ($123) — but every moment of it was absolute delicious pleasure.
Considering the food that you get, the views, and the Burj al Arab experience, I consider it much better value than afternoon tea at the fanciest hotels in London, for example.
Does that make it worth it to you? Then absolutely go and indulge yourself at this fabulous hotel.
Essential Info: The Burj al Arab is a private resort, and it’s closed to non-guests. However, you can visit if you have a dining reservation at one of the restaurants. Afternoon tea is the most economical option.
There are several kinds of afternoon tea at the Burj al Arab. We experienced the Sky Tea, which costs 450 AED ($123) per person. Other options include High Tea (285 AED/$78), Ultimate Afternoon Tea (410 AED/$112 with unlimited champagne, 360 AED/$98 without), and Asian Afternoon Tea (285 AED/$78).
Sky Tea is the only one served in the SkyView Lounge. Keep in mind that alcohol is not served during Ramadan.
Many thanks to the Burj al Arab for inviting us for a complimentary tour and Sky Tea. Special thanks to Izabela for taking the time to show us around and indulging my desire to take crazy pictures. All opinions, as always, are my own.