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High Tech Meets the Arabian Nights
Dubai's iconic Burj Al Arab hotel sets the bar for luxury worldwide.

  by Arline Inge

Eager to lay down my head after a long flight from Los Angeles, I reached for my new key card and headed toward my suite. But my butler outraced me. As he held his own card up to the electronic lock, he explained that each butler knows the name and room number of each guest, and that saves the guest’s fumbling for the key. “It’s also for safety,” he assured me. “You can leave your diamond tiara on a table, and it will be there when you come back.” But later he did show me how to operate my in-room safe. And then how with a touch of a button, to open the blinds on my floor-toceiling panorama windows. How to buzz in a guest at the door, after checking his face on the big flat screen TV. How to work the subtle lighting system in the bedroom (which I never really mastered). I timed this orientation lecture: Thirty-five minutes.

The Burj Al Arab is an all suite hotel (each suite is two stories) with one-bedroom suites at 1,800 square feet, the size of an average family home in the States. From there they graduate up to 8,000 square feet for the massive royal and presidential apartments on the highest floors.

Since there is no such thing as a room and bath for single travelers, I had to make do with a palatial suite, its grand marble staircase and gilded rococo balustrade straight out of Versailles. And it was love at first sight for the cunning marriage of trendy European design and Arabic grace in my elegantly furnished parlor.

In one corner, on the well stocked bar, was the management’s welcome gift--a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck in a silver ice bucket. Next to it was a small state-ofthe- art office area with a laptop open on the desk and ready to go. Nearby, my dining table held an assortment of Middle Eastern sweets and nuts and an oversized bowl of peaches apricots, bananas and grapes, each fruit at its peak of perfection. Every evening, a fresh platter of exquisite Continental pastries would be waiting. On various smaller tables and nooks around the room stood designer flower arrangements, a huge pompom of red roses, a row of single blooms, each in its own square vase. All with every petal intact, due no doubt to the daily care of a hotel genie.

My large, comfortable bedroom at the top of the stairs held an inviting oversize canopy bed. My bathroom was a private spa with its glassed-in rain shower and a double Jacuzzi with more controls than a Lamborghini. On the richly veined marble counter stood full sizes of hisand- hers Hermes lotions, creams, scents and sprays (no sample sizes here). “Do take home whatever you don’t use of it,” urged my butler, adding a colorful gift beach bag filled with necessities for sand and poolside. Before leaving for the airport, I weighed my loot on the bathroom scale. At more than five pounds, it almost put my bag over the limit.

As I wandered back to the bedroom to select from a pillow menu with l7 different choices, I was startled by something I never expected to see at this level of grandeur. Under the ornate canopy over my bed was a large framed mirror. With Dubai’s unrestrained, sometimes wild architecture, relaxed liquor laws and forgiving tourist dress code, it’s no wonder that they call this city the Vegas of the Middle East!

One benighted member of our party had come along nursing a broken arm. “I admire your pluck,” a kindly fellow guest had remarked, while admiring the lovely curlicues of Arabian henna that covered her cast. “Plucky?” she later told me. ”What was that man thinking? My butler appears instantly whenever I buzz for him to...

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