As part of Dubai’s reimagining/reconcepting/resomethinging in the mid-1990’s away from an oil sheikdom to a tourism and financial center (and by “tourism and financial center” I mean “place for malls“), they decided to build a centerpiece of a hotel that would serve as a beacon to the world, saying proudly and loudly “All your tourism are belong to us.”
Ok, actually I was going to make a joke about that song “SAIL”. You know, the one where the guy goes “……SAIL” over and over again. But I didn’t think some of you would get it.
Anyway, here’s the Burj Al Arab.
Wait, no, sorry, that’s some punk standing in front of it. It was a beautiful Friday, and by “beautiful” of course I mean “hot”. To the point that shortly after I took this picture all of my skin melted off. I made a quick recovery and made my way inside one of the most legendary modern hotels in the world. I know what you’re thinking:
How could you afford to stay there?
Couldn’t, can’t, and probably won’t ever.
So they just let anyone walk up and start taking pictures?
No actually. You have to be doing some sort of business with the hotel.
So do they sell passes or what?
Kind of. Read on.
So, here’s a map of Dubai.
As you can see above, Dubai lies mostly on a northeast to southwest direction. The downtown Dubai area (where the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall reside) are a little farther northeast. From there, I wanted to take the Dubai monorail over to the Mall of the Emirates and grab a taxi from there to the Burj Al Arab. Only one slight problem with my plan: it was Friday, the holy day for the Islamic faith. So the monorail wasn’t running. Bummer.
I managed to flag a taxi down outside (sweat level: all) and went over to the Mall of the Emirates. I’m not sure quite what I was expecting, but if you were to guess it seemed like a mall, you nailed it.
It all seemed fairly uninteresting to me, as I had just come from the Dubai Mall (not saying either was better or worse, they were both malls), so I went back out to the taxi rank and told the driver to FOLLOW THAT CAR. Ok not really, although I’ve always wanted to do that. I told him to drive toward the Burj Al Arab and I’d tell him where to drop me off so I could get some pictures.
He let me off somewhere near the hotel and I began to make my way down the street, trying to stay cool (it didn’t work).
Like most places in Dubai, they’re always building something new and exciting. There was a big construction complex between the Arabian Sea and I as I walked down the boulevard and people gawked at me for wearing jeans in the weather. It’s ok, I had to keep it classy.
I got closer to the hotel.
This is where most people taking pictures of the hotel had to stop.
The building says “Welcome Centre” but it’s really a security checkpoint to ensure that your name is on the list to get in. So how did I get in? Ok, I’ll tell you. For an otherwise ridiculous but relatively cheap (considering the surroundings) $120, you can enjoy a British-style high tea in one of the Burj Al Arab’s lovely restaurants or bars. I know this seems like a crazy amount of money, but the tea is seven courses and filled me up pretty good, so I just thought of it as a crazily expensive lunch.
Here’s another way of looking at it. Even during the low season (summer), rates at the hotel were approximately $1845/night. Yeah, I’ll pay the $120.
Once my name was checked against the list, I was invited to proceed to the hotel. They had golf carts running back and forth to keep people out of the heat, but I wanted to get some snaps, so I basked in the sunlight yet again.
I made my way closer to the hotel and set up for some shots before my camera melted.
Off to the right of the Burj Al Arab’s man made island (that just sounds nuts doesn’t it?) was the Jumeirah Beach Resort.
But enough photography, it was time to enter the magnificent and overly opulent hotel.
It was beautiful.
Everywhere you looked you were impacted by the unbelievably huge atrium architecture. It got even more dramatic as you gazed upward.
I checked in at the desk to my right for my afternoon tea. When I had originally emailed to make a reservation, I had requested the Skyview bar, but unfortunately it was all booked. So I settled for the Sahn Eddar restaurant/bar in the main lobby of the hotel. I took an escalator up to where I could check-in and be seated. I arrived on-time for my seating, 1:00pm. This meant I was late, and therefore I got the worst seat in the house. Still wasn’t a terrible seat, but I was all the way over to one side right behind the hostess’s stand, so it was just a bit noisy for me. So, when you go, get there early!
I know what you’re thinking, how do I make a reservation?
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. They’re very responsive and will tell you your options and handle the booking. Very prompt and professional.
Back to the tea
I was seated at my table and given a cold glass of water and a chilled towel to help me cool off.
After a brief respite, I was handed the menu of the day for the tea, which included descriptions of all the courses and the various options to choose from in terms of teas and coffees.
They have a champagne and non-champagne version. I, just to provide my loyal readers with a more thorough review, got the champagne. It was delicious.
Turns out you can get a bottle of this business for about $50, may or may not have a bottle at my place at the moment.
Up next, the Berries Tart, which consisted of, and you’ll never believe this, tart berries.
The presentation was gorgeous, and all of the plating was either in the shape of or had the motif of a sail, keeping in line with the hotel’s exterior.
After the berries were some finger sandwiches, made with bits of real finger. They were all unique and flavorful, although the bread was juuuust a bit stale. It didn’t take away from the taste at all though.
Then it came time to choose my tea. Unfortunately I’m not much of a tea drinker, so they offered me a latte instead, “a deluxe latte”. Ok, that sounded pompous enough, bring it.
Then it came time for the carvery course, featuring a filet of beef.
After that, I requested that my palate be cleansed, so they brought the sorbet.
(I’m kidding about asking for my palate to be cleansed, they just brought out a sorbet)
At this point, I was well into being full. Just in time for some scones!
Ok there aren’t any scones in there because I forgot to take pictures of the scone dish until I had already eaten about a scone and a half. The scones were great, very British. At this point I was really full. Then they brought the dessert pastries by.
I just HAD to get dessert, it would’ve been rude not to. Also, I just HAD to get two more when they came back by and offered more.
At this point, I was holding onto the chair to ensure I didn’t float away from all the food as my tea came to a close…
…but not before they brought me a little going away box filled with chocolates.
I packed up all of my stuff, thanked the waiters gratuitously (ha, get it?), and snapped a few more pictures before leaving.
All in all, it was a great experience.
So, what was it really like?
I don’t like bling. I don’t like things to be overstated. I don’t like gilding everything in gold nonsense. But, you know what? It totally fit. It was the Most Dubai Thing I did while there. It represented all of the excess for which the city is known. I hope and pray experiences like this never become what I expect or am accustomed to in life, which honestly clouds this review a little. I’m convinced the afternoon tea is the Burj Al Arab’s way of bringing in tens of thousands of dollars per day because tourists know it’s the only way they can get in. The service was very nice but not the most polished I’ve experienced. So while everything looked nice, it just felt like it was missing something, although not in a bad way (not sure if that makes any sense). Astonishingly, the hotel is now 14 years old! I can’t even imagine what they’ll do when they decide to renovate it, but I guarantee you it’ll be golden, glimmering, and gaudy.
I don’t think I’d come do tea again at the Burj Al Arab, but at the same time I strongly encourage you to go and have tea there! It’s a cool “party trick” of a destination, and this way you’ll be able to say you did it. It’s not authentic, not cultural, and very touristy, but you gotta do it.
The cars out front aren’t bad either.
That’s it for now. Until next time…..SAIL!