Before Dubai was Dubai, and before the Burj Khalifa was built, there was the Buj al Arab—really the only landmark that existed in Dubai fifteen years ago. One of the world’s iconic hotels, it’s regularly referred to as the only seven-star hotel (there’s no such thing), and known for it’s impeccable service, with a manned butler station positioned on every floor. The suites (particularly their specialty versions, like the Presidential and Royal), are over the top in every sense—enormous spaces filled rotating canopy beds (some with gilded mirrors overhead), man-cave-like library rooms, formal dining tables, private cinema spaces, different patterned rugs and pillows everywhere, sweeping grand staircases, gigantic marble columns, dressing rooms bigger than most NYC-sized apartments, tubs bigger than most NYC-sized bathrooms, and gold, gold, and more gold. It’s sensory overload to be certain, but the fact that the decor hasn’t been brought into this decade is all part of the shtick. Actually staying here will cost you—but plan to see the inside of the Burj Al Arab while you’re here in any case, because it’s a trip in and of itself. (You won’t miss the exterior, which looks like the sail of a ship, visible from touch points throughout the city. Legend has it that British architect Tom Wright said all the world’s best known buildings are both interesting but simple enough that a kid could draw them in a few lines—think of the Eiffel Tower. The Burj Al Arab can be drawn in four.) There a few dining options at the Burj, including poolside Scape.

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