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LUXURY HOTELS: Burj Al Arab, Dubai, UAE
Style:Glitz and glam
Scene:Private mini-island
Seen in the lobby: The sheek and sheiks
AS WE ARRIVE at the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai an orange Lamborghini pulls up behind us, its winged doors rise and out steps an elegant Arab swathed in white.  Oil rich. Undoubtedly. A member of the royal family.  Possibly.  We strain for a glimpse of his number plate - the lower the number, the more important the car - the sheik of Dubai is of course number 1.
His flaming orange arrival confirms everything we've ever expected from this legendary and lavish hotel.  This is not a place for shrinking violets. Low-key celebrities need not apply. This is an unashamedly extravagant celebration of excess.
Arguably the world's most famous hotel, certainly the most photographed the Burj Al Arab billows like a silver sail on its own man-made island.
burj exterior
burj exterior
burj al arab pool
burj al arab
royal bathroom
royal kings bed
royal entrance
No tourists are allowed across the hallowed bridge and into the exclusive lobby (though tour buses stop for photo ops at the nearby beach). But, overwhelmed by Burj Bling, guests all seem to turn paparazzi at the sight of its glittering, golden interior so the flashes continue to go off.
And in this case all that glisters IS gold, 24 carat gold leaf to be exact. Everywhere. Even the staff uniforms are embroidered with golden thread.   I take my sunglasses off as I enter the inner sanctum but maybe I should put them on again because it really is remarkably shiny in here. Guests are even given gold plated iPads on arrival to act as their virtual concierge.
It used to be the tallest hotel in the world but that honour now goes to the recently opened Marriott Dubai, down the road. Who cares, the Burj Al Arab is beyond such things.   No other hotel can claim its charisma, besides there are so many other impressive statistics. For example: Around 1,790 square metres (17,000 sq ft)) of 24-carat gold leaf was used to embellish the interior, with 24,000 square metres of marble.  Not to mention the fact that the Statue of Liberty could check-in to its 180 metres (600ft) high atrium and still stand straight
The hotel also has one of the world's largest fleet of Rolls Royces (rivalled only by The Peninsula Hotels and one of the highest helipads Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have both tee'd off on the helipad, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer playing tennis there and a formula one racing car has even spun there.  As I said the Burj l is all showbiz.
To top it all the two Royal Suites, Spanning the entire 25th floor, are a money-honey pot for visiting VVVIPs (very, very, very, important persons...). Which makes them perfect for The Luxury Travel Bible readers of course.  As I walk in the impressive staircase, makes me think of old Hollywood Movies, even the decor is in the kind of Technicolor beloved of 50's films -all bright yellows, reds and blues. This is like being inside an Arabian princess jewel box with a touch of bordello thrown in (Think mirrors over the bed and leopard print chaise longues and a revolving bed on as round dais). The black round marble bath in the king's bathroom in the King's bathroom and the gold tile shower complete the picture.
The most frequent visitors are Arabian sheiks, Russian oligarchs and mega-wealthy Chinese. Luckily the sheiks love the vibrant colours and cushions, the Russians can never get too much 24 carat and the Chinese adore red and gold. As for me I just love the over-the-top opulence of it all. I lounge on every available silk and velvet cushion (which takes a while -there are a lot) rotate the bed (well who wouldn't) and relax in the female boudoir and the private screening room (with gold-edged TV screen). There are only two bedrooms but many rooms to explore all decked in glorious gold, ruby red, sapphire blue and emerald. You get the idea. The hand woven multi-patterned carpet is sink-into soft under my bare toes.
If you can't quite run to the $25,000 plus required for a 'royal' stay, fear not, the Burj Al Arab is an all-suite hotel, so there is no such thing as a mere room. The entrance level offerings are still two floored suites. Much is made of the service in this hotel, with good reason; a reception desk on every floor and butler service ensures near-instant gratification of most whims.
If you can leave the kaleidoscope colour of your suite the Restaurant offerings span from   European though Far Eastern to Arabic. Our favourite is the Al Muntaha (which juts out from the opposite side to the helipad) with spectacular views of Dubai and the Palm Island.  At the opposite extreme, the subterranean Al Mahara will have you dining with the fishes surrounded by floor to ceiling aquariums. Tuna anyone?
Recreation-wise there's a private beach, personal shoppers, yacht charters, helicopter transfers -you name it they have it. In fact I suspect the Burj Al Arab can arrange anything your extravagant little heart desires.
Toda Dubai's numerous luxury hotels may have more stars than the Milky Way but the Burj Al Arab is the starriest of them all, despite the fact that the 'Seven Star' moniker is one the hotel itself doesn't claim.  What it actually has is star quality.
Unless you've had your head in the desert sand since it opened in 1999 you can't fail to know what it looks like.  I expected not to like it but I was won over by its Arab baroque and its sheer razzmatazz.  It is an Aladdin's treasure of a hotel. The style snobs may turn up their surgery-perfect noses but frankly staying here is tremendous fun.
As the years go by it becomes all the more extraordinary.  There will only ever be one Burj Al Arab - enjoy it.
Check in: Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah 3 - Dubai - United Arab Emirates. Phone: +971 4 301 7777
Key Count: 202 suites
Ultimate Luxury:  The dazzling Royal Suites
Most Indulgent Moment: Arriving by helicopter onto the dizzyingly high helipad
Insider Secrets: Sightseeing is banned. If you want to see but not stay making a restaurant reservation is one of the most economical ways to see the Burj Al Arab.
The Little Things: Gold plated iPads act as a virtual concierge
Junior Luxies: Not specifically catered for but welcomed
Dress code: Men are requested have to wear collared shirts in the common areas.   Women - you've either got to compete with your surroundings in terms of glitz and gold or keep it simple. White linen anyone?
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Hotels Link:  www.jumeirah.com
Hilary Doling 21/3/14
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