If we had a dirham for every time we’ve stood outside the barriers leading inside Burj Al Arab and sighed imagining what the gold-laden interiors of one of the world’s most recognised seven-star hotel must look like, we’d be a few hundred dirhams richer. The luxurious sail-shaped hotel prides itself on exclusivity and restricted access, so much of its OTT opulence has remained a mystery to the public unless you’re willing to shell out AED 3,600 for a one-night stay. And that’s just the bare minimum for the most basic suite, mind you.
12 years since it was launched in 1999, this iconic Dubai landmark has thrown open its gilded gates to the wider public with ‘Inside Burj Al Arab’, an immersive 90-minute experience that gives you a guided behind-the-scenes tour of the famous hotel’s atrium, Royal Suite and halls at just AED 249 per person. The average price of a brunch. Here are 12 reasons why you should fork up your brunch money to the Inside Burj Al Arab experience, which celebrates its first anniversary next month.
1. Breathtaking photo-opportunities
Very few spots in Dubai offer you clear vantage points of the Burj Al Arab from the front. Framing yourself and the towering 321-meter curved building in one shot without distorting either is a task and no selfie does it justice. But the viewpoint located off the private bridge that connects the mainland and the man-made island the hotel is situated on is an Instagram dream. Placed at a strategic angle, snaps clicked here both capture the scale of the massive hotel and your face in a perfect close-up frontal shot. The buggy that picks up guests from Jumeirah Beach Hotel (the tour’s starting point) makes a pitstop at this point. You can also purchase pics taken through a professional camera fixed to the spot.
2. The world’s tallest atrium
Once you enter the Burj Al Arab through a dedicated tour entrance on the side, you’ll be welcomed by a knowledgeable tour guide and an elaborate welcome ritual of scented rose water and chilled towels. Soon after, you’ll be herded through the hotel’s glamorous lobby with its sprawling indoor aquarium, golden arched reception areas and onto an escalator leading to the atrium. Then, look up. You’ll be staring at a record-breaking atrium that’s 18 stories high and at 180 metres is the world’s highest atrium. Coupled with its gold embellished pillars and the underside of the floors painted in gradients of the ocean’s colours, the atrium is a striking symmetrical visual.
3. An elevator with 360° ocean views
It’s a race against time to cram in as many exceptional elements of the atrium as you can during your walk towards the panoramic glass elevator. Your eyes will dart wildly between the detailed flame-coloured floor mosaic, the splendid central water fountain and the ornate chandelier. But none of them compare to the views in store on your elevator ride, which offers panoramic views of the ocean and Burj Al Arab’s spectacular infinity pools as it rockets you up to 25th floor in 46 seconds flat. We don’t use the term rocket lightly – at a speed of 7 metres per second. We’re no Einstein but that’s ear-poppingly fast!
4. Suites that the rich and famous have lived in
The 25th floor houses the Burj Al Arab’s piece de resistance: The Royal Suite. And the adjective ‘royal’ isn’t bandied about recklessly. Every corner of this swanky 780 square metre-suite spanning two floors is a sight to behold. Which is also our way of hinting that the rest of this list is going to be dedicated to the phenomenal interior and architectural elements of the Royal Suite. Cherish the 20 odd minutes you spend here in the lap of luxury. Access to this suite, which has housed VIP dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela and celebrities such as Lewis Hamilton, Kendall Jenner and Justin Bieber would otherwise cost you AED 88,000 ($24,000) per night. *Cries in poor*
5. Silk-covered walls and gold covered ceilings
The Royal Suite tour starts with a majestic entrance ceremony: a butler dramatically throws open the wooden double-doors to formally welcome you after you knock seeking permission to enter. Jaws will drop and your eyes will pop as you stumble into the dazzlingly bling-y hall with 24k gold-coated ceilings and staircases. You’ll be encouraged to sit on a rotating bed in the King’s bedroom, and lay down on the Queen’s bed to check out the mirror hidden on the ceiling. You can run your hands across sumptuous gold-embroidered silk-panelled walls and sink your bare feet into the plushest handwoven carpets from Kashmir that feel like walking on a cloud. The Royal Suite is a palatial room fit for a King, but with the freedom to touch and feel precious décor that would probably be be sectioned off by velvet ropes in an actual palace.
6. A gold TV
As if the chameleon-like living room that is a painted in blazing shades of red, orange, yellow to change colours based on the position of the sun wasn’t spectacular enough, there’s a 55″ gold-plated flatscreen television perched in the living room den. The first ever of its kind that was custom-made for the Burj Al Arab in 1999 when such a massive TV screen was unheard of. And you thought your neighbhours were ostentatious for flaunting their regular 55″ flatscreen TV in 2022.
7. A pink majlis fit for a Barbie
If a cotton candy machine exploded in a room, you’d have the shockingly pink majlis area in the Royal Suite. Done up in shades of hot pink, magenta, fuschia, coral and rich brocade fabrics, this sprawling seating area looks like Barbie’s Dreamhouse meets ornate Arabian-style room for Princess Jasmine. However, the modern day ladies who have graced this room that’s a riot of colour and snapped a million selfies include Selena Gomez, Gigi Hadid and the Kardashian clan. It’s rosy interiors have also garnered it the nickname of ‘Victoria’s Secret Room’.
8. A 24-k gold-tiled shimmering shower
It is totally acceptable to wear sunglasses inside this shower. In fact, we’d highly recommend it because of how literally flashy it is. If there’s a shower in the world that can make you glow like million bucks, then this one tiled from top to bottom with golden tiles is it. The taps, showerhead, soap dispensers, everything is encased in 24 karat gold. Did Midas touch it? Maybe. Can you touch it? Yes you can! In fact, you can step inside the glittering cubicle and soak up its golden glow.
9. A bathtub made of rare marble
Sorry, average spa day. You’re going to seem bland before the luxurious Hermes bubble bath that fills the marble tubs in the Royal Suite’s bathrooms. Sadly, the bath is for illustrative purposes only and one can only dream of sinking into the deep marble tub hewn from a single last-of-its-kind block of precious Italian marble. Fun fact: it’s the same kind of statuario marble Michelangelo used to carve his sculptures, so that bathtub is technically a work of art. Golden shattafs (hand sprays) and automatic toilets just up the grandeur metre of this magnificent bathroom. Subtlety is not a word you’ll find in the Burj Al Arab’s dictionary.
10. A golden marble staircase begging to be photographed
No, we do not want to work in an office, living that 9-to-5 grind. We want to sit on this grand staircase covered in leopard-print carpet, flanked by 24k gold-plated railings with intricate designs. And make silly dance videos. You know, like this viral one Justin Beiber did in 2017.
Since we don’t have platinum-records to our name, we’ll continue going to office but not before telling you that you should take at least one fairytale-esque picture on that grand staircase even if its the only thing you do during the Inside Burj Al Arab experience. Life is short, why not clock in those Instagram influencer moments when you can?
11. The napkin featuring the original sketch of the Burj Al Arab
The technology, imagination and architectural prowess that’s gone into turning the Burj Al Arab into the epitome of extravagance is captured in the Experience Suite. Here, you’ll find the 1993 napkin on which architect Tom Wright scrawled the first sketch of Burj Al Arab while sitting at the bar of the Chicago Beach Hotel (very Ted Mosby-esqe). Quotes narrating the vision of H.H Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum that drove the creation of this iconic hotel and videos featuring insights from interior designer Khuan Chew play on loop.
12. Hi-tech digital dining experience
The Experience Suite houses the Burj Al Arab’s history and mind-blowing facts and figures about its construction. A separate section houses memorabilia from legendary cultural and sporting events hosted by the hotel: think David Guetta’s DJ decks from his helipad performance, gloves from Mayweather-Moore boxing bout on the helipad and more. But what truly leaves you satisfied is the interactive augmented reality dining experience that lets you pick a culinary masterpieces from the Burj Al Arab’s menu (such as the gold cappuccino) and watch it being whipped up on a screen and appear on a plate. It looks deliciously real enough to touch without the burn of price tag that usually accompanies these dishes.