|By Jim Landers, The Dallas Morning News
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 18, 2006 - DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -- The rich and the royal are different from you and me.
That's why there's a checkpoint on the road leading to the island where the Burj Al Arab Hotel soars above the sapphire-blue waters of the Persian Gulf. Unless you're arriving by Rolls-Royce or BMW limousine, you shall not pass. Perhaps you should direct your helicopter to the landing pad on the roof.
The Burj Al Arab ("The Arab Tower") is a sail-shaped wonder taller than any building in Dallas, and accommodations start at $1,300 a night. Virtual tours are available online but, please, let's not have tourists with video cameras gawking in the lobby.
There are 202 two-floor suites with walls of windows facing the ocean. Each bathroom is stocked with more than $300 in toiletries. There's a restaurant suspended in the sky like a spar of the Burj's main mast. Another lies on the ocean floor, a three-minute "virtual submarine" ride away, where you can gaze into an aquarium while you dine.
The Burj is sometimes called a seven-star hotel, a distinction not recognized by haute ratings agencies such as Michelin. The seven-star rating is also often associated with the $3 billion Emirates Palace, an enormous slab of marble, domes and chandeliers just up the road in Abu Dhabi.
A more private and pampered experience is available at Dubai's Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa, set in a desert nature conservancy where Arabian oryx and gazelle romp in the dunes beside your $1,300- to $5,000-a-night private cabin and pool.
A city gains a certain cachet when it boasts an extravagant hotel, as Dallas' Mansion on Turtle Creek demonstrates. Dubai boasts 22 five-star hotels, along with an indoor ski slope attached to a shopping mall in the desert.
"These are icons," said Phil Garrison, a vice president of the American Business Council in Dubai who came here from Dallas 12 years ago. "They gain your market visibility worldwide."
Construction is well along for the Burj Dubai, a tower of towers that is planned to reach nearly twice as high as the 1,450-foot Sears Tower in Chicago. Twelve floors of the Burj Dubai will be a Giorgio Armani hotel. Above that will be offices and condominiums -- how many is still secret, as the Burj Dubai's owners try to cloud any competitor's judgment of how high they must build to claim the title of "world's tallest."
IF YOU GO
BURJ AL ARAB HOTEL
Rooms: Start at $1,300 per night
What's cool: Its helipad doubles as the world's most unique breathtaking tennis court.
Web site: www.burj-al-arab.com
Rooms: $500 to $14,000 per night
What's cool: Nearly 20 cuisines from around the globe are represented in the hotel's many restaurants.
Web site: www.emiratespalace.com
AL MAHA DESERT RESORT AND SPA
Rooms: $1,300 to $5,000 per night
What's cool: All interiors capture the essence of the local Arabian heritage, which includes tented ceilings and handcrafted furniture.
Web site: www.al-maha.com
THE MANSION ON TURTLE CREEK
Rooms: $415 to $2,400 per night
What's cool: Complimentary luxury sedan service within 5-mile radius (based on availability) and a 2:1 ratio of staff to guests.
Web site: www.mansiononturtlecreek.com
Copyright (c) 2006, The Dallas Morning News
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. For reprints, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA. LSE:RR, XETRA:BMW,