I must admit that, for a while now, I have been intrigued by the tag ‘7-star hotel’. It was at once an allure and a mystery. But what are the standards that set a 7-star hotel apart? I was about to find out.
In my eight years of practically living off my suitcase, travelling to various destinations and hotels, I thought I had seen it all. That was until I arrived on my private helicopter on the private helipad of the Burj Al Arab. If not through an over-the-top helicopter transfer, guests can also choose to arrive here via complimentary chauffeured Rolls-Royce.
The Burj doesn’t do things by halves and that is obvious from the moment I set foot on the iconic sail-shaped superstructure, for the interiors of which 20,000 square feet of gold leaf was used.
Impressed At First Sight
As I enter the majestic atrium, standing tall at 590 feet, a kaleidoscope of colours greet me – the omnipresent gold combines with the deep colour of the saffron and ultramarine tiles and ornate furniture. The cascade waterfall uses lights, water and mist to create an effect of water jumping down the stone steps.
The staff at the check-in desk are quick to note that they have been expecting me and a butler escorts me to my suite. As I go up to my room, I can’t help but notice that even the elevator doors are covered in 24-carat gold. Every room has a sea view, thanks to the hotel’s triangular design. I climb a swooping marble staircase to get to my bedroom that is festooned with balloons, candles, bouquets and gold-leaf covered chocolates and macarons. I sink into my marshmallow-soft bed, with bedding made of Eiderdown feathers. There’s also a pillow menu with a choice of hundreds of pillow fragrances, from soothing lavender to rejuvenating lemongrass. For anything I may need, my butler can be summoned through an 18-karat gold-plated iPad. My bath area comes with a set of his and her Hermes toiletries, including cologne and perfume, and a marble Jacuzzi bathtub (adorned with roses).
The hotel’s dining space affords an aquatic view of the marine life. Photo courtesy: Burj Al Arab
Fine Dine With A Shine
More than its famed luxury, what delights me are the many surprises the hotel packs in. From returning to my suite to rose petals, celestial bouquets and desserts to a surprise gold tunnel that leads me to the Burj’s underwater restaurant—Al Mahara.
Luxury begins from the first meal of the day—I tuck into raspberry-glazed croissants, gluten-free muesli and the freshest avocado toast at the glass-sided Bab-Al-Yam restaurant while staring at the azure waters of the Arabian Sea, washing it all down with a decadent mango smoothie.
From French flair at Francky Semblat-helmed Al Muntaha to drinks at Gold on 27, a gleaming bar where signature cocktails come in their own dry ice clouds, the hotel’s Michelin pedigree is on full display. Expect smoked salmon butter with your bread rather than the regular one. It is the Burj after all.
I try the property’s newest culinary offering, Sal, helmed by famed chef Roberto Rispoli. Alongside jaw-dropping views of the sea, it serves South European cuisine with laidback luxury. Seafood is front and centre—think salt-crusted sea bass, crispy calamari and trenette pasta with crab.
The ultimate afternoon tea at the Sahn Eddar Lounge must rank as one of my favorite culinary experiences. From a fresh mise-en-bouche, Alaskan king crab to a Crustacean jelly and royal Baeri caviar with blinis, the dishes in the seven-course menu are a lesson in fine dining. I was also served the biggest selection of finger sandwiches—from Cajun chicken, Maine king crab, tomato sandwich maki, French foie gras, curry mayonnaise to smoked Scottish salmon.
The crowning glory, however, was the dessert trolley with selections that ranged from strawberry coconut crumble cheesecake, Emirati roasted pear eclair, lemon meringue tart to a vanilla raspberry mille feuille, each a piece of art. Of course, dessert at the Burj cannot be complete without gold and this time it was in the form of the Gold cappuccino, made using 100% Arabica beans, mixed with foamed milk that is then blended with 24-carat gold. Served alongside a Grand Cru Guanaja, a chocolate marshmallow also sprinkled with gold.
Burj Al Arab’s luxurious infinity pool overlooks the Persian Gulf. Photo Courtesy: Burj Al Arab
Overall, I find the service at the Burj to be as indulgent as it can get, with the staff always eager to please. Waiters greet me by my name despite my lack of reservation.
After the gastronomic indulgence, it is time to pamper the body. I was looking forward to my experience at the Talise Spa, which is known to use the world’s most luxurious concoctions in its treatments including La Prairie that comprises caviar and, you guessed it, gold.
My husband and I go for the 120-minute ‘Royal Rose’ couples treatment, which includes a 30-minute scrub, a 30-minute facial and an hour-long body massage. This soothing experience begins with an organic body scrub. To my delight, the scrub infused with natural, ambrosial scents of budding flowers show instant results as I bid adieu to the tan I was stuck with after a recent beach holiday.
Then comes my favourite part of the experience: a facial that leveraged ingredients like organic rose, beech bud, aloe vera and argan, leaving me with a rosy glow. And days after, after ditching my makeup, I am still struck by how shiny my skin looks. This is followed by the Majestic Floral Massage, which made use of organic shea and jojoba floral butter. The captivating spa music, coupled with the slow, rhythmic movements of my nimble-fingered therapist kneading my muscles into mush, transports me to a cosmic consciousness.
Post a luxurious soak in a hot tub, embedded in the property’s gorgeous infinity pool, I meet the eyes of a woman opposite me. “Are you floating too?” she asks. I nod.
To read more stories on travel, cities, food, nature, and adventure, head to our web forum here or our new National Geographic Traveller India app here.
Burj Al Arab is just over an hour from the Dubai Airport; room rates range from Rs80,000 for the deluxe marina suite to Rs4.4 lakh for the diplomatic three bedroom suite; spa treatments range from Rs52,000 for the gold facial to Rs1,46,000 for a romantic moonlit couple’s journey. The Burj Al Arab afternoon tea will set you back by Rs10,000 with soft beverages while the one with champagne starts from Rs12,000.
is a travel journalist, spa and wellness connoisseur based in the U.A.E. Her passion for travel was ignited at the age of 13 and since then, there has been no looking back. She is dedicated to unearthing the best in destinations, hotels and holistic hideaways, world-over.
Hey there! Like what you see (or not)? Tell us what you think at email@example.com.