Check In: Burj Al Arab
“My favourite hotel is the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. When I think of luxury, I think of this hotel,” says supermodel Claudia Schiffer, and she’s not the only A-lister to enjoy the trappings of this UAE icon. From big-time politicians such as Bill Clinton, to billionaire business tycoons including Richard Branson, right through to Dubai-loving Premier league footballers and their bikini-modelling WAGs (yip, we saw you Coleen), this hotel attracts all kinds of celebs. Tennis stars seem especially drawn to it, with Venus Williams, Anna Kournikova, Monica Seles and Roger Federer all being regulars. Federer famously played a promo match against Andre Agassi on the hotel’s helipad when it was turned into a tennis court for the day back in 2005, plus our sources tell us he’s a big fan of the hotel’s high-tech gym, and if it’s good enough for Roger...
The sail-shaped landmark on the sea is just as treasured by residents who schmooze at its many restaurants, sign up for gym membership or book in for a deluxe spa treatment for a taste of the Burj Al Arab magic. Top off all of the above with a stopover and you have the ultimate night out. Famed for its seven stars (a rating that doesn’t actually exist in hotel classification, but that’s deserved nonetheless), it’s a temple to technicolour decor and gold leaf decadence with two-storey suites, 24-hour butlers and reception desks on every floor. Each of the 202 double-decker suites boasts a rain shower, a Jacuzzi and Hermès toiletries, and if you need to nip out for anything, you can call on the hotel’s fleet of chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royces. In fact, here at Ahlan! HQ, we reckon the only thing more memorable than a night at the Burj, is a Gold Package night at the Burj. Ready to be swept off your feet?
The Gold Package
With the aim of offering couples “the most romantic experience imaginable”, the Gold Package costs Dhs1,000 more than standard room rates and includes additional treats for each night’s stay. Said treats include a scenic drive around Dubai in one of the Rolls-Royce Phantoms; a couples’ aromatherapy massage followed by a moonlit swim in the spa’s 18th floor infinity pool decorated by candles; mind-blowing flower arrangements that include having your suite scattered with rose petals; his and hers gifts from the Burj boutiques and dinner for two on the beach! It’s sooo worth the extra dirhams.
The Beach, Spa, Pool & Gym
The Burj Al Arab is built on a man-made island; around its base are sun loungers, a pool and Bab Al Yam cafe, and across the bridge on the mainland accessible by golf buggy there’s also a private beach and the Majlis Al Bahar al fresco restaurant. For the best ‘here’s me with the Burj Al Arab in the background’ picture, look no further.
Indoors, at the Assawan Spa and Health Club on the 18th floor, there’s an infinity pool – the effect is pretty special on a clear day. There’s also a pool-side Jacuzzi; allocate a few hours to sit in it and gloat before or after a spa treatment. A 55-minute massage costs from Dhs695, the masseuses here are masters of their trade, and any spa stocked with full-size Hermès products is going to be uber luxe.
In the gym, the equipment is so ridiculously top-of-the-range that each machine has an electronic monitor to count your reps so you don’t have to. Don’t worry about working up a sweat either – a nice chap will be around shortly with chilled towels to cool your brow. Want to sign up? Annual membership to Assawan costs Dhs35,000 per adult, plus Dhs10,000 joining fee.
The Restaurants & Bars
BAB AL YAM: Pancakes, waffles, French toast, chocolate sauce, maple syrup, whipped cream, nuts... and that was just dessert – during breakfast! Dear Diet, we’re sorry, but we couldn’t stop at the healthy smoked salmon and poached eggs, or even at the second course of beef medallions, creamy polenta and Dauphinois potatoes (not classic breakfast staples, we’ll grant you, but delicious all the same). We love the bright, breezy and insanely tempting Bab Al Yam which translates as gateway to the sea and has views to match.
AL IWAN: There’s a gold rush going on at this glitzy Arabic restaurant – turn right at the upper lobby fountain on the first floor and follow the glow. Lunch starts at Dhs350 per person, and dinner starts at Dhs395. Trad food in Dubai’s most famous icon – sounds like an essential stop for visiting chums, no?
SAHN EDDAR: Afternoon tea in the world’s tallest atrium? Sorted. Prices start at Dhs275 per person; mums will love it and the tourist-watching comes at no extra charge. (Service resumes after Ramadan.)
MAJLIS AL BAHAR: Hidden gem alert! Located at Burj Al Arab’s private beach as the name suggests (it translates as ‘beach-side lounge’), with a Med-meets-Middle Eastern menu, this place is ultra chilled by day and totally romantic at night. Arrive in time to catch the sunset and then stay until closing time.
JUNSUI: We’ve been raving about Junsui’s Korean short ribs and cereal prawns signature dishes since they won the restaurant a place in the Hot 100 Restaurants 2012. Serving from brekkie (Dhs250) right through to dinner (Dhs395), with lunch (Dhs350) and high tea (Dhs275) in between, this sparkling Asian hot spot is our biggest restaurant crush of the year. Prepare to be dazzled.
AL MUNTAHA: Meaning ‘the highest’ or ‘the ultimate’, this international restaurant is on the 27th floor 200 metres above the sea with ‘wow’ views. Main courses range from potato gnocchi and seasonal vegetables at Dhs220 to a 200g Wagyu fillet at Dhs525. The service is utterly impeccable – think dinner at Downton Abbey and you get the picture.
AL MAHARA: Better than sharing tank-side space at The Dubai Mall, luxury seafood restaurant Al Mahara (meaning ‘oyster shell’) is another Hot 100 Restaurants winner structured around a massive aquarium, offering ringside seats to some serious uninterrupted fish-watching. We’ve unofficially christened the huge Napoleon wrasse ‘Bob’. Say hi for us and do sample the Tsarskaya oyster (Dhs375).
JUNA LOUNGE: Rare premium drinks and an extensive selection of Cuban cigars are on the menu at this next door neighbour to Al Mahara.
SKYVIEW BAR: Adjacent to Al Muntaha on the 27th floor, this famous lounge has a Dhs225 minimum spend reservation policy. Most drinks range between Dhs65 and Dhs225, but the “haute couture” ones go for as much as Dhs4,900. Gulp! Mixologists can also create personalised drinks to suit guests’ tastes and pass on the recipe to recreate at home. Outside of Ramadan, afternoon tea (‘SkyTea’) is also offered at Dhs425 and Al Muntaha diners can take pre- or post-dinner drinks.
This landmark hotel has some heavyweight luxury shopping options obvs, including a Chopard boutique and souvenir shops offering a product range that spans from humble fridge magnets to miniature Swarovski crystal Burj statuettes and special edition William Edwards-designed Burj Al Arab fine bone china. Expect to pay Dhs220 for a gold-rimmed coffee cup – we’re yet to see this stuff on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow but who knows what it’ll be worth in 50 years!
The guided tour of a suite conducted by one of the Burj butlers takes 20 minutes, such is the extent of what’s on offer, from TVs that rise from mini bars to mirrored ceilings. Every suite in the Burj is a duplex and during a tour you’ll learn how to operate the video entry system on your front door, as well as the complimentary laptop, printer and fax machine, the hidden panel in the wall concealing tea- and coffee-making facilities; the remote-controlled curtains and the Jacuzzi bath (try not to swoon as you spot the full-sized complimentary his ‘n’ hers Hermès toiletries, including body lotion, soap, bath tablets, fragrances and the best shampoo and conditioner in the world (so say us). The decor palette may run the gamut of the whole rainbow and the pot of gold, but staying here is definitely something worth wishing for.
Standard rack rate: From Dhs10,000 for a deluxe one-bedroom suite, but prices are based on best available rate, which changes on monthly basis with seasonal discounts; during August the best available rate is Dhs4,990
Gold Package per night: Add an additional Dhs1,000 per night (therefore during August the best available rate is Dhs5,990)
Assawan Spa & Health Annual Club Membership: Dhs35,000 per adult, Dhs45,000 per couple, Dhs7,500 per child (Dhs10,000 joining fee); membership includes access to the pools, gym, beach, complimentary studio classes and discounts on spa treatments, food and drinks throughout the hotel. Membership applications should be made to Yulia Dziakhtsiar on 04 3017338/7480, firstname.lastname@example.org
55-Minute massage: From Dhs695
INFO: Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Road, Dubai, 04 301 7777, email@example.com, www.jumeirah.com.
Check the Burj’s website for day deals. Currently, the Junsui Massage Classic promotion is available weekdays until 30 September and includes a 55-minute classic Swedish massage, use of spa facilities and a buffet dinner at Junsui for Dhs905 per person.
WIN! WIN! WIN!
Share your most romantic story with the Burj al Arab for a chance to win a Gold Package stay. Entries should be 250 words or less, and will be reviewed based on creativity and originality. The most romantic entry will be chosen by a judging panel, which will include an as yet unnamed celebrity novelist! The winner will be announced on 30 September and together with their partner, they’ll be invited for a four-night stay including a Rolls-Royce Phantom scenic drive and a beachside dinner.
INFO: Competition closes 2 September, visit www.burjalarabromance.com to enter.