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Review: Burj Al Arab, Dubai – “the world’s most luxurious hotel” (Part 1)

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This is my review of the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai.

I should warn you in advance that this is not a standard HfP hotel review, because this is not a standard hotel. Logic and intellectual criticism don’t really apply.

I had always wanted to try the Burj. If you stay at any of the other Jumeirah hotels in Dubai, as we often do, you can’t avoid seeing it. It is even taller than it looks in photographs. I’d been in the lobby and bar before so I had a feeling of what to expect.

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

The snag is cost. It is usually £2,000 – £2,500 per night (remember that website prices usually exclude 25% of VAT, hotel tax and service). It can reach £5,000 per night in peak weeks. However the hotel was closed for many months due to covid, had only reopened three days before we arrived, and was keen to get people in.

Emyr Thomas, our hotel booking partner, had access to a rate which was noticeably lower than the hotel website (you can contact Emyr here with luxury hotel requests). There was also a ‘3-4-2’ deal running. The net result was that we were going to pay an average of £900 per night, although this ended up dropping to £450 per night for reasons I will explain.

The key for us with the Burj is that – at 170 square metres for entry level rooms (the average UK house is 76 square metres) – you only need one room. We are a family of four and this was a decent deal compared to paying for two rooms at one of the beach-front hotels, given that Christmas pricing doesn’t come cheap. For a couple the maths would be different.

“The world’s most luxurious hotel”

These are the hotel’s words – they are even printed on the envelope your bill comes in. It is, of course, nonsense.

Having spent well over 100 nights in Jumeirah hotels over the years, let me explain all you need to know:

  • No hotel group spends as much money on construction and fit-out as Jumeirah, in my view. Money is literally no object when the Dubai state is your owner. The quality level is exceptional. This doesn’t apply to some of the hotels outside the Middle East which it manages but does apply to everything it fully controls.
  • Service levels are not great. There is no shortage of staff – a life guard once told me that the company employs 500 life guards alone across the Dubai hotels and water park – because they are cheap, but Four Seasons it ain’t. Any request for something to be done should be treated as just that, a request. It might happen, it might not. To be fair, the staff will smile a lot whilst not doing what you want.

About Burj Al Arab

What is interesting about one of the world’s most iconic buildings is that there is no big name architect behind it. The hotel was designed by WS Atkins, the engineering group, and is as much an engineering achievement as an architectural one.

To put it in context, it is the 3rd tallest hotel in the world. Construction required 230 x 40 metre concrete piles to be rammed into the water. It opened in 1999.

Don’t blame Atkins for the interiors though ….

Arrival

We landed in Dubai at around 1.30am. Since you would be crazy to pay for a night at the Burj only to arrive at 3am, we booked into the brand new Sofitel The Obelisk near the airport.

Sofitel The Obelisk – website here – was excellent. We paid £99 per room and the quality level was exceptional. It was massively ahead of InterContinental Festival City where we ended up later in the trip. If you want a five-star business hotel near the airport then this is for you. The only downside is that the Wafi Mall it is attached to is effectively derelict with only a handful of stores trading. The Festival City mall, on the other hand, is excellent.

We went to bed at 3am, got up around 11am, had a snack at Paul in the mall – about the only food place which hadn’t closed down – and then headed down to the Burj for 3pm check-in.

Because the hotel is built out into the sea, you approach down a long drive:

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

They have got very strict on security in recent years so don’t turn up hoping for a look around. The best option is to book a table in the bar for drinks or in the lobby for afternoon tea.

Unfortunately, at 3pm, our room was not ready. It wasn’t ready at 4pm and it wasn’t ready at 5pm. We finally got the keys at 5.30pm. We were offered a free meal whilst we waited but we didn’t need another meal. For some reason they refused to upgrade me into an available room beyond the upgrade I had already got for booking via Emyr.

When we finally got the keys, the Guest Relations Manager asked me what I wanted as compensation. I said I wanted the first night comped. Slightly surprisingly she agreed. (That said, having kept two kids entertained in the lobby for 2.5 hours whilst waiting for a set of keys, we probably deserved it.) This meant that I didn’t pay for Day 1 and wasn’t paying for Day 3 due to the ‘3-4-2’ deal. Only Day 2 was charged in the end.

Here’s a view from the lobby, looking up:

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

Rooms at Burj Al Arab

So, what do you actually get in a 170 square metre room? Remember that this is ‘entry level’ and the smallest room they have. We were upgraded but that was simply to a higher floor with a better view.

You get a staircase and a Christmas tree:

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

… you get a big bedroom with a mirror above your bed (classy):

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

You get a dressing room (not shown), a big bathroom with full-size Hermes toiletries (RRP £35 per bottle) and your own jacuzzi:

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

You get a huge living area (it doesn’t come with a receptionist, that is my daughter!):

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

…. and (the sofa is made up as a sofa bed here, with an extra bed installed alongside):

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

…. and

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

If you look out of the window:

Burj Al Arab hotel review Dubai

There is clearly no point discussing the actual practicalities of anything in the room, because that isn’t why you stay here.

Part 2 of my Burj Al Arab review – click here – also published today, looks at the butler service and the leisure facilities including the new pool deck, before trying to draw some conclusions.


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Comments (56)

  • Anna says:

    If our Easter trip goes ahead we’ll be able to see the Burj from the Hilton Jumeirah 🤣

    • Rob says:

      You will, but it is a long way away. What Dubai now tends to call ‘Jumeirah’ is down by the marina and not actually where the Jumeirah Beach Hotel / Madinat Jumeirah / Burj is. That said, it’s so blinkin’ huge that you can probably see it from space ….

  • Voldemort says:

    The 1990s is calling and it wants it’s hotel decor back!

  • Tony says:

    I visited Dubai once in 2000 as a 4 night stopover on the way to the Maldives. We stayed at the Jumeriah Beach hotel, and back then you could wander into the Burj freely and look around. I see it hasn’t changed much. Aside from the fact that its hot (which in itself wasn’t always a great thing), and the impressive waterpark, I just didn’t “get” Dubai at all. At the time it felt like the whole place was a huge building plot – has that changed now?

  • Ross Parker says:

    Trumpian dictator-chic. Can’t help but think that this money would have been better spent at a suite in the Obelisk. They are 268 square meters, and exhibit taste.

  • cinereus says:

    Actual lol at the mirror above the bed!

    And some people say Dubai is for people with more money than class.

    • Anna says:

      I wouldn’t be able to sleep out of fear that it would fall off the ceiling during the night!

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        I’d struggle not to panic that I’d fall off the ceiling or wherever my brain imagined I was!

    • The real John says:

      I thought it was for people who like to see themselves doing things in bed.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Well … I did mention that but looks like my very much tongue in cheek remark was deleted …

  • Jill ( Kinkell) says:

    Enjoyed the reports, but can’t say I’ll be booking! Passed through Dubai several times on way to Mauritius and spent a day in the city…..not my scene. The 4 days inAbuDhabi was far more interesting, but the place I really want to spend more time exploring is Oman.

    • ChrisW says:

      Beyond the Zayed mosque (which is spectacular) and the Louvre is there that much to do in Abu Dhabi if you’re not a water park or F1 fan? I liked it because it was very quiet and peaceful and the ideal place to quietly read a book by the pool with no interruptions. I wouldn’t call it an ‘interesting’ place though

      • Jill ( Kinkell) says:

        The Fort that was surrounded by sand 50 years ago and is now in the middle of a sea of Skyscrapers, the architecture of some of the buildings. The hop-on and off bus routes were great for getting about. To see how such a place has changed in several decades is phenomenal, the artificiality of it, the development of islands which are just sand…..but in a few years will be covered in buildings. The a mosque was fabulous and we joined a free tour of 20 or so folk and got right inside to walk on the fancy carpet and stand under the super gaudy chanadelier.

      • Andy says:

        The Abu Dhabi Louvre is cool from an architectural perspective, but other than that it doesn’t hold a candle to any museum in the major European capitals. Without the Louvre name attached to it, it wouldn’t even make the list of things to do in Abu Dhabi

      • Sandra says:

        If you like lots of things to do it’s definitely not the place for you. It’s more of a relaxing holiday with a few trips on the odd day you want to move from the pool, shops, beach. A boat trip out for a half day/day is good, the water is still quite shallow further out and there are small islands, usually empty, where you can relax on your own (take a picnic, shade, water etc). We used to use a Lebanese American guy (can’t remember his name) who took private trips out from the marina near Marina Mall. A hotel concierge should be able to arrange something for you. There’s also the usual desert, camel farm, dune bashing trips – some better than others and if you trek out to the oasis town of Al Ain there’s the zoo (if you like/agree with them) that used to be quite good for younger children. Apart from that, skyscrapers, malls and sand 🙂

      • Alex Sm says:

        Camelccino, blue tea, gold bullions vending machine and occasional art exhibitions at Emirates palace are not bad

  • laineyling says:

    We went to jbh last year and found the resort colossal. A bit like being in a mini (tourist) village. we had a toddler which was why we chose dubai/jbh and decided to have a meal at the burj to check it out. Was probably the worst meal for price/quanlity/value perspective and the burj has absolutely no atmosphere. It’s a strange place, and personally not to my taste. Perhaps I’m too common as i preferred the decor at jbh

  • The Savage Squirrel says:

    Mirror above the bed. Hahahahahaha.
    Nearly as classy as the place in Brighton that has the same. To be fair, the Brighton one has a stripper pole in the bedroom too while there isn’t one here, so maybe the Burj Al Arab is only the 2nd “most luxorious hotel” in the world….?

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