Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dubai - Burj Al Arab

I'm stumped.  I don't know whether to begin this post with an apology, an invitation, or a lie.  This is my personal blog, so I see no reason to lie.  Therefore, I'm sorry.  I'm sorry for this next post, but if you're anywhere near Dubai, please let me know so I can invite you to share in this unparalleled opulence that I've never experienced anything quite like before, and can safely say, will never again.

How did I end up in Dubai?  My dad and I decided to go on safari, that's how.  It had to do with flight coordination to S. Africa, and how my dad said, why don't we extend the trip somewhere, and then suddenly all roads led to Dubai.  With my travel agent hat on, I gave my dad a rundown of a few nice hotels where we could stay and threw in an aside laugh at the end about the over-the-top, alleged 7 star hotel, Burj Al Arab.  My dad stopped and said, have you ever stayed in a 7 star hotel?  I should note that technically they're a 5 star, some say 6, but Spinal Tap fans and followers of a British travel journalist who first reported on this hotel, know that sometime you have to break the scale.  So here, I am, staying at the scale breaking, many starred, "most luxurious hotel in the world."  With apologies and invitations extended, let's get into it.

I was met at the Dubai airport by a hotel representative who was dressed in a finely pressed white suit, shoes and hat.  If that seems out of place to you, you should probably stop reading now because then he handed me a bouquet of pastel colored roses while opening the door to his matching, white mega Mercedes.  There was a plethora of drinks to choose from and then he handed me a list of music so I could select what I wanted to listen to on the way to the hotel.  Yup, just an average Wednesday for me.

I was accosted greeted at the entrance to the hotel by 4 different people calling me by name while each handing me something different and taking my bags.  Soon there is wet cloth (the first of about 7 to come) in one hand, local delicacy date in the other, and am on the inside, a place tourists aren't allowed in without a meal reservation or pre-authorization from a hotel guest.

The Burj Al Arab is the 4th tallest hotel in the world, coming in at a little over 1,000 feet high.   It's just a little shorter than the Empire State Building.  It sits out at the end of a man made island and the building was designed like the sail of a ship, which I tried not to think about while I was sleeping, perched on the corner of the mast, flying high in the air, suspended above the Arabian Gulf. 

There's a large fountain at the entrance that releases fire balls in the air up to 26 feet high, and more fountains inside with choreographed spraying and lights between huge fish tanks along the walls.

As I was being whisked along, my head was craning up and around, trying to take it all in, and next thing I know I'm sitting in a large, high ceiling room at an enormous desk. They checked me in and when we were done, I get up to go and come to realize we're in my room, or rather suite, or 2 story home.

My "butler" then arrived and spent about 45 minutes touring me around my place and showing me how all the gadgets work like the TV where you can see who's at the door and let them in with a click of a button, because of course it could take you upwards of 10 minutes to get there yourself. 

There are 14 phones in the place, an office, living room, dining room, bar, spiral staircase, bedroom, sitting area and bathroom that my entire apartment in Paris could fit in, complete with party tub jacuzzi.  That invitation is only extended to "special" friends.

Then there are the sweeping ocean and city views in floor to ceiling windows that go from the ground floor seamlessly to the bedroom.  The impossibly long drapes go up and down with the push of a button, in about 10 minutes.

There's butler service 24 hours a day with someone sitting at the entrance to my floor (as well as on call) who always stands and greets me by name when I come or go.  With every shift change, everyone still knows my name, where I'm eating that night, what pillows I like and which fruit I prefer.  Someone just came by asking if I'd like a leek tart and welcome cocktail.  Bien sur!  There's an 8:1 ratio of personnel to guests.

I sat out at the pool today with ocean views and luckily breezes too.  Everyone says how great the weather is now that it's cooled off to a paltry 96 degrees with what I have to guess is about 90% humidity.  I will tell you that running along the beach this morning was not as good of an idea as sitting by the pool and drinking smoothies.  They set up a little cooler beside me with ice, water, and washcloths.  They came by every now and then to refill ice or handout a random icy, peach sipper.

And you can imagine that the food is super sized too.  I ordered the "healthy breakfast" this morning and it filled my entire dining room table.

They have buffets in several of the restaurants here and there's probably 75 choices like tonight's Asian cuisine that encompassed Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and well, chocolate fountains are a favorite in any country.

The Burj Al Arab's fish restaurant Al Mahara is the most notable not only for the cuisine, but also for the room centerpiece of a giant floor to ceiling aquarium.

All tables are positioned around it in a circle so there's not a bad seat in the house.


They also gave us a book of all the fish represented, which luckily was different than the fish on the menu.

They also have a great panoramic bar on the top level of the hotel, which is a nice place to start or end an evening, with amazing views of Dubai, and a very interesting cocktail list.

As I head upstairs to bed, I end with another apology, a standing invitation, but no lies.  More to come from Dubai.

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