IPRN in Dubai: Day Six
Updated: Sep 13, 2017
After a blissful, jet-lagged sleep, I took late checkout at the hotel and taxied to the world’s most luxurious hotel, Burj Al Arab, the famous sail-shaped palace that was featured in a Discovery Channel documentary that an astounding number of people I’ve spoken with report having seen.
Jonathan Choat and I, dressed more formally than usual, drove up to the security hut, flashed our lunch reservation confirmation (tourists can’t just wander into the hotel and rubber neck; you have to commit to spending a small fortune at one of its restaurants) and entered a space that is so over the top that Donald Trump and the world hotel commission gave it seven stars.
Rising 321 meters above the Arabian Gulf, the Burj Al Arab is one of Dubai’s most recognizable landmarks. One must pass through a phalanx of greeters and discreetly armed security personnel to enter the lobby, said to be one of the highest open atriums (atria?) in the world. Two stories of cascading, choreographed dancing waterfalls are flanked by up and down escalators, and giant tropical fish tanks make up the interior walls. Everything seems shiny and golden, even the beautiful people with their big jewelry. Everywhere one looks, there are colors, primary and bold. In the Discovery documentary, the interior designer thought that after all the opulence and colorful expanses she used in the guest suites, the atrium should remain a restful white.
When His Highness the Sheikh entered for the first time, he looked up at the atrium and said, “More color!” So each floor’s ceiling is a different shade of blue, a mini-sky inside. Gabriel the Malay bellman escorted us to the exterior elevator that goes direct to the Al Muntaha restaurant 27 stories up. We watched the beach rapidly recede as we rose. Gabriel passed us off to the lovely Thai hostess, and we entered the restaurant through a tunnel that seemed to be lined with printed circuit boards that flashed and blinked in colored lights.
We were seated next to the window in the hammerhead shark nose of the building. Had the day not been so overcast and the sky filled with the perpetual dust from 24-hour construction, we might have had a great ocean view, but just watching the people surrounding us was sport enough.
We chose the prix fixe menu and a nice bottle of Argentine Malbec. I asked the sommelier to let Lord Choat taste the wine, and darn if that didn’t make everyone treat us like royalty. Of course, Jonathan is a lord only in my mind and in his attitude and bearing, but he could have been but for an accident of birth.
We discussed the vagaries of the PR business at length, and then turned to the hotel’s clientele, a mixture of large, Russian mafia-types accompanied by stunning young blondes, the normal Arab businessmen elegant in white robes and head scarves, followed by their black-robed women, only their eyes visible. There were a few obviously British types in the bar, and a whole contingent of couples and single men and women who didn’t look like any nationality at all, just rich and sophisticated.
Not to be outdone in sophistication and savoir faire, we rode the elevator down to the lobby and promptly went back up to the restaurant and down again, our own little Disneyland ride in the fastest, quietest, smoothest elevator I’ve ever experienced.
Gabriel the bellman remembered me by name (could it have been the 10 dirham tip for escorting us to the restaurant?) and insisted on giving us glossy brochures about the hotel, including a nifty shopping bag with the hotel’s logo. We walked out into the staggering heat and humidity, past the hotel’s many white Rolls Royce limousines, the Ferraris, Lamborghinis and custom Mercedes sports cars arranged like motorized jewels around the circular driveway, and back to the real world. Only another 20 hours in the air, and it’s home in exotic Sannazay.