Hotel Profile: Burj Al Arab

The world’s first seven star hotel, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai is one of the most indulgent and staggering hotels in the world. Since we’ve already covered the hotel in both our opening hotel facts blog, as well as in our round up of our favourite hotel lobbies we thought we’d take a closer look at this modern landmark of the industry.

Architecture of the Burj Al Arab

Construction started on the hotel back in 1994, as the city of Dubai was still emerging as the economic powerhouse and tourist hot spot that it has now become. Taking around five year to complete, it was opening in December 1999, for a total cost of approaching a billion dollars. With Dubai’s mercantile history and coastal setting, the building of the hotel was designed to represent the sail of a ship. Its striking curved structure has since become an icon of modern Dubai, representing the city’s sheer ambition and loftiness. The position of the building as a symbol of Dubai was an ambition of architect Tom Wright (no relation to architect Frank Lloyd Wright that we’re aware of) when he conceived of the shape of the structure in 1993. This article features some of his original design drawings. The hotel is constructed on land reclaimed from the sea, a process which has become another symbol of the city’s ambition and boundlessness.

In numbers

As we’ve noted in a previous blog, the hotel is one of the tallest in the world, although much of the height of the building doesn’t consist of occupied hotel rooms. The total height of the hotel stands at just over 1,000 feet. Whereas the highest room in the hotel is around 650 feet. With some underground floors, the floor total is 56 with 202 rooms spread across them. Some way up that staggering construction is the hotel’s own helipad, which allows guests to arrive by helicopter. Whilst for many this isn’t a practical necessity, it has become almost a gimmick of the hotel, that it offers guests the opportunity. Within Dubai companies even offer a service of airport to hotel helicopter transfer, for those who want the luxury experience of the arrival. This helipad featured in a marketing stunt featuring Roger Federer and Andre Agassi in back in 2005, with the pair playing out a few games on the surface of the helipad facility. It’s quite possible that they lost some tennis balls in the Persian Gulf. If you’ve not seen the footage it can be found here, and it’s well worth a watch unless you have a fear of heights!

A Theatre of Opulence

al mahara restaurant

The Al Mahara, featuring its own Aquarium

The interior of the hotel is as if not more remarkable. Continuing the theme of the sea from the ship sail structure, motifs of waves run throughout the hotel’s decoration and interior design. From the stunning lobby (also featured in a previous blog here) to the restaurant and many of the hotel’s public spaces. Salma Samar has described the interior of the hotel as a ‘theatre of opulence’ which ‘creates a baroque effect’. The intricacy of the often very busy design certainly does suggest a kind of baroque or rococo feel, but with a less formal feel. Perhaps this is what he means by a ‘an expression of wealth for the mainstream’, which became one of the more noted quotes on the hotel and the city as a whole. The hotel features the Al Mahara restaurant, which features its own aquarium and is reached by a simulated submarine voyage. This is one of many facets to the hotel which border on the ridiculous. Whilst first time visitors on a once in a lifetime trip might walk around drop jawed, the hotel is also built for a client base which likes to think itself perfectly at home in this world of excess and sometimes bewildering luxury.

This is one of the ways that the hotel has marketed itself over the years. Almost laughably luxurious. It’s 7* rating rightly claims just this, that the hotel is in a category largely of its own.