Gulf de Luxe. - luxury hotel in Dubai - hotel review

There is only one seven-star hotel in the world: the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. It rises over 1,000 feet in the sky from a man-made island in the Persian Gulf, and though it is supposed to resemble the white sail of a traditional Arab dhow, to me it looked more like a rocket from a 1940s science-fiction comic. The toy of the oil-enriched Sheikh al-Maktoum, it is seldom even half full: not altogether surprisingly, since the cheapest room is $885 a night, and the most expensive -- the Royal Suite -- is $8,192 (mere Presidential Suites are $6,553 -- who says that breeding counts for nothing?). For those who cannot afford the experience itself, a postcard is available of the royal bathroom.

Inside, one feels that Frank Lloyd Wright has joined forces with King Farouk, abetted perhaps by D. W. Griffith. It is impossible not to be impressed by an atrium several hundred feet high, with gold pilasters and huge tropical aquaria beside the escalators, and electronically controlled fountains that perform ever-changing arabesques, making a sound like the rhythmic clapping of hands in a Bedouin tent.

The decoration and furnishings are best described as sheikh-rococo, mainly crimson and gold, and in a gallery on the 17th floor a British artist sells his terrible hyper-realist paintings of desert fauna at $30,000 each, the exhibition sponsored by such well-known patrons of the visual arts as British Aerospace and Lockheed.

There is a restaurant 656 feet above the sea (with a truly breathtaking view), and one several yards below it too, where, according to the brochure, you can "feast on the fruits of the sea, surrounded by the Gulf's multi-colored marine life, either in the main dining room or one of the private dining rooms." One wonders whether someday a Western academic, resident in the Middle East, will rise up and write a book entitled "Occidentalism."

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