Hotels on islands are old hat in Dubai now, but 15 years ago the Burj Al Arab was one of the very first in the emirate to boast such a unique location. It was also the first hotel in the world to surpass 305 metres in height, and with its striking dhow sail-inspired design, it quickly became one of the most recognisable landmarks on the planet. Built at the site of the old Chicago Beach Hotel, which many locals and long-time expats will still remember fondly, the iconic structure sits 280 metres offshore. Over five years, it cost a breathtaking US$650 million and took 3,000 companies and contractors to create. In December 1999, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, officially opened the hotel, and the doors to what one reporter later termed the world’s only ‘seven-star hotel’ – home to what are still some of the city’s, and the world’s, most sought-after dining experiences.
But the Burj Al Arab is far more than a hotel. It has helped put Dubai on the map for millions around the world and hosted some of the UAE’s most audacious stunts. In March 2004, Tiger Woods became the first golfer to tee off from the property’s iconic 27th storey helipad, 212 metres up the 320-metre structure, and the event helped scoop Jumeirah International huge media attention for several years to come. Next, in 2005, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer played a practise match on the landing space ahead of the men’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship. In 2011, Rory McIlroy followed in Tiger’s footsteps and rounded off the golf season by teeing off from the very same spot and in a heart-stopping 2013 stunt David Coulthard burned rubber by performing a series of doughnuts in Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s 750bhp Formula One car. In the same year, freestyle motocross king Dany Torres performed a hair-raising training session on the small circular space and just this year, in January, China’s world champion table tennis players faced off in a queasily breezy match overlooking the city. In (probably less-endorsed) news, the hotel even broke the hip-hop scene this November when it appeared on the cover of Wu-Tang Clan’s hugely anticipated sixth and latest album, ‘A Better Tomorrow’, alongside the likes of the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the Hollywood sign.
But such lofty heli-heights aren’t just for the fast, the furious and the very famous. As of this year, mere mortals from around the world can hold their wedding on the helipad for a keen Dhs200,000. Of course, it might just be cheaper to book one of the 202 duplex suites, which will set you back a mere Dhs5,000-10,000, depending on the season.
This December also marks ten years since the launch of the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project (DTRP), which is based at both the Burj Al Arab and Madinat Jumeirah, and run in collaboration with Dubai’s Wildlife Protection office. More than 700 turtles have been rescued, cared for and released back into the emirate’s waters since the project began, and the hotel runs an educational programme to raise awareness of the importance of looking after the species. According to the hotel, many people who visit the centre are unaware there are even turtles present locally, but leave having learnt exactly what to do if they find an injured one. It’s undoubtedly been a decade and a half to remember for one of the world’s most photographed hotels. Here’s to another eventful 15 years, and many more after that. For more information about the property, visit www.jumierah.com.
The Burj by numbers
180 metres The height of the Burj Al Arab’s atrium – the tallest in the world.
1,600 The number of staff working in the hotel.
280,000 litres The amount of water in the aquarium in the centre of seafood restaurant Al Mahara.
25,080 The number of afternoon teas served by the hotel in 2013.
Dhs2.65 million The value of truffles consumed in the hotel in 2013.
25 The number of nationalities working in the hotel’s food and beverage department alone.
Ten years of Madinat Jumeirah
It’s seems there’s no end to the landmark celebrations for hospitality group Jumeirah this year, as its much loved Madinat complex marks a decade of service. Here, the group shares some fast facts.
3.3 million The number of guests Madinat Jumeirah’s abras have transported since opening.
500 The number of artists who are displayed at Art Dubai when it is held at Madinat Jumeirah each year.
700 The number of turtles released back to the sea by the Turtle Sanctuary at Madinat Jumeirah.
433 The number of rooms and suites set to be added to the complex when its new hotel (currently under construction) opens in 2016.
1,177,537 Dubai’s population when Madinat Jumeirah first opened. Today, there are more than 2,257,000 people living in the city. Over the ten-year period, it’s the equivalent of 300 people moving into Dubai every single day.