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Burj al Arab: Tower of Fools

A night in the sole "7 star hotel" in the world costs between 1200 and 12000 Euros. But the Arabic dream temple's promises aren't kept. A weekend at the wannabe fairy tale castle makes mostly poor and philosophical. Only a fool tries to buy happiness with money: 7 stars aren't heaven on Earth.

Burj al Arab with sand beach in Dubai
Picture by T. Micke

"The only 7 star hotel in the world opened in Dubai" the media parroted a press release years ago although, the hotel rating system has got a 5 star maximum as every hotelier knows.

As if this fantasy rating wasn't enough, the hotel management of the Burj al Arab (in English: Arabian Tower) is showing off in video presentations and letters with huge golden letters spelling out: "A world beyond all imagination..."

Golden Versace taps in the Suite of the Burj al Arab Hotel
Picture by T. Micke

Beyond all imagination??? With which expectations should a hotel guest enter the lobby? Is this a supernatural hotel? Divine? Heavenly? Astronomic?

The prices are in each case astronomic: 1200 euros for the cheapest room (a suite of 170 square meters), slightly more than 12000 euros for the royal suite with an area of 780 square meters. Those who want to look at the admittedly impressive architecture of "Burj al Arab" from close, have to leave up to 35 euros per person at the entrance gate.

Beyond all imagination, however in a negative sense, is e.g. the wellness area on the eighteenth floor of the futuristic building.

View down into the lobby of the Burj al Arab Hotel from the top floor
Picture by T. Micke

200 suites but an inside pool that already looks jam-packed when there are only 5 people in it. The sauna situated right next to it is in a rather bad shape. After only one year, the benches look stained, almost moldy and some of the coat hooks for the bathrobes are damaged. There is no employee around to pour water onto the hot stones and there aren't any sauna oils available for self-service. There is no separate room for relaxation but only two very uncomfortable designer chaise lounges next to the swimming pool.

Looking for relaxation outside the hotel is not much easier. Due to the exposed location of the hotel the wind blows so hard that opening a parasol becomes a hard task.

King size bed with ocean view in the suite of the Burj al Arab Hotel (Dubai)
Picture by T. Micke

Inside the hotel the "sound of the roaring sea" is provided by two man-high ventilation shafts approximately located on the fifth floor. The outside pool is too small for more than 10 strokes but there is a Baywatch like life-guard. If a dip in the sea is desired, one has to be driven to the neighbouring hotel by golf cart. At the hedged beach of the "Jumeirah Beach Hotels" one may easily trip over the wiring harness in the sand needed to illuminate the palm trees. Lying on the deck chair, one can enjoy the almost inevitable view of the access bridge leading to the Burj al Arab bringing back homey memories of Viennas Danube island and the "Super-Highway" crossing it above.

Crazy color codes in the different flors of the Burj al Arab Hotel (Dubai)
Picture by T. Micke

The fact that you have to drink out of plastic cups at the pool bar and at the breakfast buffet and that some of the badly legible elevator buttons are at waist-height seem now almost irrelevant.

A tad embarrassing, however, are the typos and grammatical errors in the welcome letter of the European hotel manager, the pamphlets and the tags of the buffet. Also for that price one expects the inevitable butlers to speak flawless and understandable English.

A mail shirt of 24 carat pure gold at the juweler in the Burj al Arab Hotel
Picture by T. Micke

That a very good but certainly not perfect hotel business like that, gets famous for its uniqueness reminds one of the fairy tale "The emperor's new clothes" by Hans Christian Andersen.

Whoever wants to believe in something, will believe in it. And if someone just spent a night in the most spectacular and expensive hotel in the world, it would do his vanity a bad turn to complain at home about the hotel's little mistakes in front of all the jealous people. After all, all that matters is that one was able to afford it. Happiness all inclusive. – Or maybe not?

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© A report by Tobias Micke (17-12-00) – Contact