Column: Burj Al Arab: A seven-star hotel?


The Burj Al Arab (Tower of the Arabs) Hotel has become the symbol of Dubai and the best example of its over-the-top architecture and lifestyle. With rooms starting at $1,500 a night, it is frequently called the most luxurious hotel in the world.

The Burj, which opened in 1999 at an estimated cost of $1 billion, is on a small man-made island in the Persian Gulf about 900 feet northwest of Jumeirah Beach, connected to the mainland by a causeway. Its uniquely curved shape evokes the sail of a dhow, a traditional Arabian (and Indian) water vessel. At 918 feet, the Burj is the fourth-tallest hotel in the world, accommodating a 600-foot closed atrium, said to be the tallest in the world. The hotel includes 202 two-story suites, ranging in size from 1,800 square feet to 8,400 square feet, each including a marble staircase to upstairs bedrooms featuring mattresses filled with eiderdown, the soft feathers eiders use to line their nests. Almost a half-acre of 24-carat gold leaf adorns the hotel’s interior, including bathroom fixtures and elevator doors.

Guards at the entrance to the causeway limit entry to persons displaying reservations for the hotel or one of its nine associated restaurants serving truffles and caviar, including Al Muntaha (The Ultimate), which is cantilevered more than 600 feet above the Persian Gulf and reached by elevator, and Al Mahara (The Oyster), reached by a simulated submarine ride and including one of the hotel’s three aquariums. Many of the hotel guests arrive by helicopter, landing on a heliport near the top of the hotel, or in one of the white Rolls-Royce limousines maintained by the hotel. Because of its unparalleled extravagance, the Burj Al Arab Hotel has been called the world’s only seven-star hotel, two notches above the highest official hotel rating.