Written by Kota Tabuchi
Of all my professional travels abroad, Jordan is the only destination that I vowed to return with my wife someday (and that day finally came in May 2012). One of the poorest Arab nations, it’s steeped in history with archeological wanders and inspiring landscapes. It’s truly a stunning destination and we had a marvelous holiday. I am happy to talk to anyone about my two trips to Jordan, but what I’d like to share with you is a rather stark contrast to our humbling time in Jordan.
As a part of booking our airfare through Emirates (wonderful by the way), we were forced to overnight in Dubai on the return leg of the trip. I was fortunate enough to take advantage of a work related “mystery shopper” program where participants were given a free night in selected hotels in return for completing an online review. To my surprise, the Burj Al Arab, the self-proclaimed seven star and dubbed the World’s Most Luxurious Hotel, was on the list. Needless to say, we were gleeful that we got to book this hotel.
After 9 days of hiking in the heat of Jordan, we arrived at the hotel caked in dirt and ripe with our soiled clothes. We were certainly the odd-men out! Walking through the main doors, we were greeted by a very welcomed and well working air-conditioning. I think we would have been happy with just that! And then we looked up at the tower of colorful rooms above and the meticulously adorned welcome area – it was sensory overload! The colors were beautiful and everything seemed to be laid in gold (they say, at the Burj Al Arab, if it looks like gold, it is gold…). We were greeted by the staff and bought up to the 19th floor to check in to our room with our private butler. As a perk of booking with Travel Beyond, we were given special “amenities” to include a full breakfast (I got a full Japanese breakfast that reminded me of home), a 1 hour couples massage in their spa located on the 24th floor with sprawling views of Dubai (one of the best I’ve ever had), a full line of Hermes toiletry products and last, but not least, a room upgrade. We were upgraded to the 3552 square foot Club Suite – the most shockingly beautiful room highlighted with hues of blue and gold to include a massive living area, a full bar, a formal dining room (where we enjoyed breakfast the following morning), full kitchen, a billiard room, an upstairs (yes, upstairs) sitting area, private business center and the most luxurious bathroom/bedroom combo ever (think pillow menu with 13 choices, 3 choices of mattresses depending on preferred firmness, full Jacuzzi and a shower with ½ dozen jets). The service of the staff was superb and we got to enjoy the most luxurious reward after our active adventure in Jordan.
Now, I’ve stayed at some pretty amazing places throughout the years of being in the travel industry. And I must admit, I do better in a tent than I do in a luxury property. However, our stay at the Burj Al Arab was truly a unique and wonderful experience. What I enjoyed in particular was that most of the people in the hotel “lobby” were visitors gawking at the hotel. The floors above were surprisingly quiet and private; a nice retreat from the hustle and bustle of Dubai. Was the décor a bit overboard? Perhaps, but everything was comfortable – not just for looks. The room was more than double the size of our condo at home and much better furnished, but it was surprisingly easy to feel at “home”.
Perhaps I was royalty in a previous life and thus the experience here felt so comfortable. Or more likely, the Burj Al Arab is onto something – providing the world’s most exclusive luxury experience without pretentiousness or prejudice. Because the Burj Al Arab is exactly that…an experience!