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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 in Dubai.
The Burj al Arab, Jumeirah
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 hotel 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 permission to visit, but they also offered to show me around!
In this post, I’ll share with you a complete hotel tour – the pictures speak a thousand words – as well as details of my Burj al Arab high tea experience.
Burj al Arab Tour
The Burj al Arab entrance and lobby impressed me 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. The Burj al Arab is all about breathtaking grandeur.
After being greeted by the PR team, it was time to do what I’ve always wanted: Explore the glamorous and extravagant suites.
Inside 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 my visit, despite it being the lowest point of low season (Ramadan plus the middle of the summer). Instead, I 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 and the master bedroom was spectacular! I can’t tell you how hard it was not to jump on that bed.
The master bathroom was equally as impressive as the rest of the suite. How much would you love for this to be your bathroom?! Look at the size of that tub!
The guest bedroom isn’t too shabby either.
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 al Arab began selling them to their guests!
The best view of the Burj al Arab
After leaving the suite, I went to the spa floor, where you’ll be able to take the best picture of the hotel.
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 a perfect position.
One reader remarked to me that the Burj al Arab 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.
Afternoon Tea at the Burj al Arab
Whilst the hotel is not open to visitors, you can get a taste of the Burj al Arab by joining their afternoon tea.
The Burj’s PR team generously invited me 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.
I started my tea with something I had never tried before: sparkling date juice.
“You won’t believe where this is made,” our waiter told me.
“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, they brought a pot of tea and a cappuccino and I was 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 a tower of desserts in a tray shaped like the Burj al Arab itself!
Starting from top to bottom, I 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 Burj al Arab afternoon tea menu was the sweetest dish of all: camel milk creme brûlée.
By that point, though, I had eaten so much that I was struggling to get through my final delicious bites.
And a surprise – A birthday cake! A sweet way to add to the occasion.
And finally, the dish that almost made me burst — lychee and rose sorbet.
I was DONE. Stuffed, sated, and absolutely full of sugar.
Booking Afternoon Tea at the Burj al Arab
There are two seatings daily, the first is at 1 PM and the other at 4 PM. The Sky Tea costs 635 Dirham ($173) for adults and 315 Dirham ($85) for children under the age of 11.
You can easily make your reservation for afternoon tea here.
Yes, it is pricey but you’re paying for the experience of dining at one of the world’s most luxurious hotels with unmatched views of Dubai.
There are also a variety of other options available which allow you to experience the Burj al Arab. These include spending the day at their pool, dinner at their stunning aquarium restaurant or sunset drinks at the SkyView Bar. Here are a few more tours that may interest you.
I am never going to be able to afford to stay at the Burj al Arab in Dubai. 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 hotel 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 it’s your dream to visit Burj al Arab and you aren’t secretly married to a Saudi prince or Russian czarina, afternoon tea is your best bet. It’s not a budget activity 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.
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 cheapest way to visit the Burj al Arab.
Sky Tea is the only one served in the SkyView Lounge. Keep in mind that alcohol is not served during Ramadan.
Where to stay in Dubai
Burg al Arab is undoubtedly the best place to stay in Dubai – a girl can only dream! But unfortunately, this is out of budget for many travelers.
If you’re looking for a luxurious place to stay, I highly recommend the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates. The hotel is exquisite! The Kempinski takes luxury to the next level with its stylish furnishings and tastefully decorated rooms. Location wise – it doesn’t get any better than this.
If you’re looking for a mid-range place to stay, Rove Downtown offers a luxurious stay at an affordable price. The rooms have a simplistic design with large windows offering gorgeous views of the city. There’s also an outdoor pool which is the perfect place to relax after a long day out.
If you’re looking for a budget place to stay in Dubai, I recommend Backpacker Dubai. This hostel is ideally located near all the top attractions and the rooms are spotlessly clean and comfortable. You’re guaranteed to meet other tourists here and it’s a great option for solo travelers.
Many thanks to the Burj al Arab for inviting me 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.