News & Reviews Rest of the World United Arab Emirates Review: Burj al Arab, Dubai

No one ever visited Burj al Arab and said “I like it, but I wish it was more tacky”.  Along with Ritz Paris or The Shining or that place Richard Gere was trafficking Julia Roberts, Burj al Arab is one of the most famous hotels in the world.  Although Ritz Paris is known for Diana’s death, Burj al Arab is known for the death of taste.

Yet against all my better judgement, there’s something about this hotel I like.  No, it’s not the self-acclaimed 7 stars that are not backed up by reality, at least until they buy an NFT for $5m that gives them a picture of a picture of 7 stars, which I think is reality.

What even is reality?

Getting there

Their concierge team reached out a few days prior to our arrival via WhatsApp to check if we needed anything.  It turned into a perfect upsell, as I decided to book their Rolls Royce transfer because they price it right at the point where I thought “why the hell not” and then when I saw how old it was, I thought “that’s why”.

They provided instructions on how to get to their newly opened lounge, which is immediately on your left after you leave Customs.  I really didn’t expect much, as I’ve never been to a decent airline arrival lounge, let alone been in a hotel arrival lounge, yet it was absolutely gorgeous.  The design felt a bit like the new modernisation of The Berkeley.  I wish I took pictures, but I must have been in such a state of shock that Jumeirah had acquired this taste, that I forgot.  We were the only guests, so had full access to their snack selection, which is mostly cakes, but that’s basically 95% of my diet anyway.  I was really impressed. They were probably less impressed with my 1-year-old daughter, as she smashed one of the glasses during our 10-minute stay.  They then walked us to the car for our 20-minute journey to the Burj.

Design

They say design is subjective, but when you look at the Burj, is it really?  Does anyone really like it?  However, in a twist that not even M. Night Shyamalan could see coming, some areas of the Burj al Arab are not hideous. They seem to have blown their entire interior design budget on anything within 200m of a swimming pool and had to hire Rumpelstiltskin to design the rest of the hotel, based on all the gold everywhere, and also the fact that it’s a bit shit and ol’ Rumpel was clearly a bit of a dick. Yet I’m actually rather indifferent to the Burj al Arab, as not all is terrible, and not all is great.  It sits right at the point where I’m glad I stayed. So dear reader, come close and let me tell you a story – it’s a story of how I’ve lost my mind.

Disclaimer: I must have been indoctrinated because every single person I spoke to there was deeply proud of working there, so if you go and hate it, just realise I’m saying all of this without free will because I’ve been brainwashed by their positivity.

There are four swimming pools at the Burj, one on the 18th floor, which also has a jacuzzi, gym, sauna, steam and plunge pool.  Plus a squash court, cos why not.  Then you have a terrace on the ground floor, which shares as much in common with the interior as I do with Tom Brady.  We share some of the same name and that’s where it ends.  The terrace is far more modern than the rest of the hotel.  When you get down to the ground floor it’s like opening the wardrobe and ending up in Narnia, as it’s an entirely different experience – like you’ve been transported from 1922 into a European resort in 2022.  There you’ll find three swimming pools, a bazillion loungers, two restaurants, both of which were superb, and also a Gucci store, in case your avocado on toast clashes with your outfit.  It’s also where you’ll have breakfast, which again I must emphasise was brilliant.

The room though is where shit gets wild.  Ours, 612, a Panoramic Suite, might on first impression look like someone had a seizure at a car boot sale and picked everything their crazy aunt didn’t want, but on second look…. it’s exactly what you thought on the first look.  Yet the design just didn’t bother me.  It’s a 200sqm suite, with great views in an iconic building that’s fairly priced and at no point do they do anything that feels like they care about the price.  They offer plenty of value here, from children eating free to access to the nearby facilities such as the waterpark, to the full-sized, his and hers Hermes toiletries that definitely are not in my suitcase.  The stay list was also extremely generous, with excellent cakes, canapes, fruit, and snacks and they even included enough bottled water to take a waterboarding class.

There’s definitely some oddities, such as how to lower the blinds you use the TV remote or using an app to order room service never worked. My biggest issue is the open planned design so I couldn’t be in the downstairs living room without being conscious of noise travelling upstairs.  Excuse me, I didn’t sign-up for an ethics lesson in being considerate.  It also feels worn down in places, not least of which are the bathrooms, but how many hotels have a jacuzzi for a bath?  That normally means you’re in Vegas, which is Dubai’s big cousin.

The tack level hit the roof when I saw a mirror on said roof of our bed.  I’ve always wondered what I looked like naked whilst stuffing myself with room service quality pizza and now that mystery is solved.  Somethings are best left unknown.

Service

You’d think I’d actively want to kick a hotel with 7 self-awarded stars, but really, let them have it.   Not because they deserve it, but the joke has been going on for over 20 years now, not once has it been true or funny and yet they persist.  Anyone with that level of commitment deserves their accolades.

Ok, I couldn’t help but note down their 7 star when I was holding my child in one hand, a bowl of her food in another and no one is helping me open a door, but in fairness to them, they were the most proactive hotel during this trip.  Although their WhatsApp interaction wasn’t the greatest, as you’re just dealing with some central figure that passes on messages like “certainly” and then you’ve gotta wait and see if they happen.  You’re much better just picking up the phone.

I cannot fault their thoroughness though, like how they took 90 minutes to clean our room as they change all the sheets, including our daughter’s cot.  Absolute overkill and we told them not to do it, but once again they’re committed.

The Good

  • Everyone working here has a strong desire to please
  • Terrace
  • Spa

The Bad

  • Friends came to visit us and one became quite ill after a meal, but he’s not reviewing this so I get the final say.  We very much enjoyed Sal restaurant.

The Luxurious

  • When said friends came to visit, we needed to let security know they were coming, then they needed to bring their passports just to get in.  Totally boss.
  • It’s the Burj.  Tell your grandkids about it one day.

Conclusion

You were expecting an angry review, weren’t you?  I couldn’t possibly like a gaudy property that looks like it was designed by a committee for the blind.  

I didn’t have time to truly review this hotel, as there are many more restaurants we didn’t get a chance to visit, notably as two of them don’t allow children.  They also offer tours, which we were tempted to do, until they said it was 90 minutes long.  I would have struggled, but my spawn definitely wouldn’t have tolerated it.

Look, I’m not telling you to quit everything you’re doing right this second to go to the Burj al Arab, so don’t shut down your business or unplug your grandma from the ventilator machine and rush out to get here, but take it for what it is and it’s a worthwhile experience.

It’s not the best hotel in Dubai, that’s still the Bulgari, but it has a lot to offer and is worth a visit – just as long as you’re ok covering your eyes in some areas.

Room type: Panoramic Suite Duration: 3 May > 5th May, 2022

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 23rd May '22

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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