Return to the Maldives: Touring the Burj al Arab in Dubai

Trip Report Index:

  1. Introducing and Strategy
  2. New York JFK – Abu Dhabi, Etihad First Class
  3. Park Hyatt Dubai
  4. Touring the Burj al Arab
  5. Tea at the Burj al Arab
  6. Abu Dhabi – Male, Etihad Business Class
  7. Male – Kaadedhdhoo, Maldivian and Transfer to the Park Hyatt
  8. Park Hyatt Hadahaa Maldives
  9. Kooddoo-Male-Abu Dhabi, Maldivian and Etihad Business Class
  10. Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi
  11. Abu Dhabi – Dusseldorf – London, Etihad First Class and British Airways Club Europe
  12. London Heathrow – San Francisco, British Airways New First Class

The Burj al Arab is sometimes described as the world’s only “seven star” hotel. It’s architecturally unique. The rooms are huge (the smallest is about 1800 square feet). It’s expensive, it’s a tourist attraction. And not anyone can just go there to gawk.

I made reservations to have tea there several months in advance. They really do book up, especially if you want your tea service at the top of the hotel at the Skyview Bar. Then, shortly before departure for the trip, Scott Mayerowitz of the Associated Press suggested to me that I reach out to their public affairs folks for a tour of the hotel. I wanted to do tea there for the experience, but really just to see and experience the place (with tea being one of the cheapest ways to do that).

So I did just that. They were happy to meet me and show me around the hotel, and I suggested an hour before my booking for tea. I had a hotel car take me to the Burj al Arab, and I brought with me a printout of my tea reservation and also my correspondence about meeting their staff for a tour — because when you approach the hotel you are stopped at a gate and a guard makes you prove you belong. They appear to have a list, perhaps of guests and those with other business, but I showed my paperwork and was waved through without further delay.

I was the lucky one who could prove my business, outside the gate there’s a gaggle of people looking at the hotel, pointing, and taking pictures. There must have been a steady stream of people, as there were still folks there doing the same drill when I left the hotel several hours later.

After we passed through the gate and approached the hotel itself it was unclear what to do — I figured I’d go in and find someone at a desk to ring up the person I was meeting. I was stopped three times to ask what I was looking for, I explained each time thinking that the person was going to help me but they had simply satisfied themselves that I belonged and went about their business.

Once inside I did ask at a desk, they rang up a contact, and I was escorted into a “VIP waiting lounge” which was just a dark room in the lobby behind a velvet rope and next to the gift shop.

Gawkers by the way weren’t limited to the folks outside the hotel, they were on the hotel grounds, too. Granted I was taking photos so I guess I was one of them. But there were a lineup of people waiting to drape themselves all over the fancy cars parked out front, and a busy lobby with everyone taking pictures.

A few minutes later we were greeted and taken on the tour. We walked through the shopping area and straight up to where we would have a chance to see their Royal Suites.

They have two identical suites, one always left open to be available for the royal family. Neither room was occupied at the moment so the floor was closed, though they had already opened it for us. The week prior I’m told one of the suites was occupied by a Chinese family.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. The views were tremendous. The suite was gigantic at about 8000 square feet. It had not just a grand staircase up to the second level of the room, but also an elevator. I found the furnishings and design gaudy and tacky, not my style. But there’s no question that it’s impressive for a hotel room. But so are all the rooms although the building is gigantic there are only 202 rooms spread across the 26 stories — with the smallest being about 1800 square feet (larger than my “Terrace Suite” at the Park Hyatt).

When we left the suite, since the floor was still open, there were a couple of tourists that are escort kicked off the floor promptly. Here’s the view, by the way, from the top of the hotel.

We also had a look at the spa, and the Al Mahara seafood restaurant.

The hotel is an amazing structure. There’s a reason everyone gawks at it. It’s absolutely over the top. It’s impressive, even if its design style isn’t to my tastes.

After about 40 minutes we thanked our guide for the tour and she took us up to the Skyview bar. It was important that we were on time, and a few minutes early even for our reservation, because the best seats are allocated on a first-come first-serve basis out of those with reservations…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve been there and I agree with you, the building itself is impressive. On the other hand, the decor reminded me of Carnival Cruises designer and architect Joe Farcus’ idea of luxury.

  2. Hi Gary. We are going to Dubai at the end of July. I had heard about making the reservations for tea but how did you reserve for the tour with the royal suites?

  3. Agree with ABC, no need to visit. Ever.
    UG. LY. Who needs 188 sq ft?
    Give me a Park Hyatt anyday.

  4. I like how they had to kick the people
    out of the suite after the door was left open.
    —That would have been me.

    “Oh. Pardon me. I thought this was my room.”

  5. Gary,

    We’re on the flight you passed up (JFK-AUH-MLE). Our layover is 12-14 hours or so. What’s the best suggestion on how to spend that time? Is it long enough to leave and re-enter through security, or should we stay in the lounges? Do they permit you to stay in the lounges that long?

    I’ve read that they have a hotel in Terminal A. I didn’t know if that would be a good idea or not.

    If it matters: We’re business class outbound, first class return.

    I’d appreciate any advice/suggestions.

  6. I was given a private tour of the Burj when I visited in 2007 by a member of the Jumeriah Group’s marketing department. Yes, it’s incredibly over the top, but impressive nontheless.

  7. @Adam you have to clear immigration to get to the terminal where the hotel is anyway. With 12-14 hours, it’s overnight, and after a 14 hour flight i’d just get a room and sleep…

  8. Sorry, but this looks hideously tacky. What a cacophony. I’d have a hard time sleeping there.

  9. Visited this place for tea a few weeks back–Certainly over the top, though other Jumeirah properties also impressed me.

    Anyway, in talking to the wait staff there, I found out it is possible to get a tour, you just have to request, which you can do by emailing their reservation department.

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