The new symbol of Dubai. And that’s not an empty boast: since the turn of the millennium, the unmistakable profile of the Burj Al Arab has even be seen on car number plates in the wealthy Emirate.
Known for the audacity of the design, the unrestrained luxury of its suites, its height and many other aspects, the Burj Al Arab is undoubtedly one of the most desirable hotels in the world. Intriguing not only for its architecture, this Dubai hotel was hailed as the tallest hotel in the world at the time of its inauguration. But the supremacy of the Burj Al Arab, with a height of 1,053 feet, did not last long, however: in subsequent years, the huge sail was overtaken by other three hotels built in Dubai, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, the Rose Rayhaan Tower and the Gevora Hotel.
No hotel in this extravagant city, however, seems able to rival the fame of the Burj Al Arab. Indeed, this is a hotel that claims – not without justification – to be the only 7-star hotel in the world. It stands on an artificial island in the midst of the sea with a helipad suspended in the void that can be converted to a tennis court, as well as an “underwater” restaurant.
Burj Al Arab, the hotel that stands on an artificial island
The British architect Tom Wright designed the Burj Al Arab, commissioned by Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the man behind the great economic relaunch of the Emirate in recent years. The aim from the start was to invest in exclusive tourism by building an unbeatable hotel. The construction of the Burj Al Arab hotel was begun in 1994. The most challenging aspect for the architects and engineers was, above all, the decision to erect the skyscraper on an artificial island, an idea that was repeated and extended subsequently for the famous Palm Islands.
The construction works of the artificial island were greatly complicated by the discovery that, in the spot selected for building the hotel, the rocky, and so stable layer was around 590 feet below a layer of sand. Work continued and 230 foundation piles were driven into the seabed. The artificial island was constructed using special blocks of rock that, properly arranged, helped reduce the power of the waves: when the works were completed after three years, the artificial island on which the Burj Al Arab hotel stood was nearly 23 feet high. A dual-carriageway,1115 feet long bridge connects the hotel to the mainland. As will be seen, however, the Burj Al Arab can be reached not only by land or sea but also by air.
The specifications of the Burj Al Arab
It is difficult to say which of the specifications of the Burj Al Arab is the most amazing. It is certainly unusual to find a hotel of such height, far less one in the shape of a sail, especially one built on an artificial island in the middle of the sea.
The outermost part of the building was constructed with a steel exoskeleton, a network of large beams that gives robust protection against the strong winds that frequently blow along this coastline. The use of steel beams, given the great daily temperature range typical of this region, generated further problems, however, which had to be resolved at the structural level through the creation of “mobile” supports for the steel that can cope with the daily expansion of the beams.
And that’s not all: among the fascinating innovations introduced to make the building more stable in the face of the inevitable movements due to the wind, the steel exoskeleton is furnished with special mass shock absorbers. On the main façade, this structure is covered with a tough white textile material, which helps give the hotel the appearance of a sail and is the largest piece of fabric in the world. At night, this façade changes colour every 15 minutes to create a unique scenic effect, yet without disturbing guests inside the suites.
The luxury of the Burj Al Arab hotel
One of the structural peculiarities of the Burj Al Arab hotel is undoubtedly the helipad suspended in the void: this is a circular platform with a diameter of 78 feet level with the 59th floor, which enables guest to reach the hotel directly by helicopter, thereby avoiding Dubai’s traffic. As is well known, this curious helipad can also be put to other uses. When no flights are scheduled to arrive, the platform can be used as an exceptional golf course or a tennis court with a unique panorama. Here, at a height of 695.5 feet above sea level, the two tennis champions Roger Federer and Andre Agassi battled each other in a match with a unique location.
Clad with precious fabrics, Cararra marble and 22-carat gold finishes with a sumptuousness that draws on and enhances the typical Arab style, the Burj Al Arab hotel cost an estimated 1 billion US dollars; it’s annual revenues, however, are around 120 million dollars. This huge annual income is made possible by the special features of the rooms made available to clients. Only suites are available, of various sizes ranging from 557 to 2,250 square feet at prices from around 1,180 dollars a night to 33,115 dollars a night for the luxurious royal suite. In total, there are 202 suites, 90 of which were booked in one go by Naomi Campbell for guests at her birthday party in Dubai.
The sophisticated restaurants inside the hotel, eight in all, also attract international clients to the Burj Al Arab. For example, there’s the extremely high restaurant, Al Muntaha, built a few feet from the top of the hotel, also on a protruding platform in order to ensure a stunning, dizzying view over the sea. At the base of the hotel, there is an underwater restaurant, Al Mahara, surrounded by an enormous aquarium.