We had crossed the Gulf of Oman and were doing about 400 knots and descending fast. The aircraft was a few minutes away from Dubai International Airport, and the clouds were yet to part ways. A beacon over 800 metres above the sea of Dubai appeared at a distance in my window and that’s the usual welcome every traveller to Dubai and the neighboring Emirates gets before landing. The thing is, I was going to get a lot closer to that beacon than others on the flight. I was watching with intent, marking coordinates in air, waiting for the moment I stepped into the premises of the Burj Khalifa and checked into the Armani hotel.
Some places are known for their aesthetics, some for their architecture, some for a postal address and some for their grandeur. Then there are a few that are known for all of them. This is one of those places. A Maserati Quattroporte picks me up at the airport exit and I rumble into the hotel porch within minutes. The Quattroporte’s V8 had ruffled the eerie silence I had just experienced as I stepped outside the aircraft but as the concierge opened the Ermenegildo Zegna silk-lined doors of the Quattroporte, the silence was back.
It was the first time I was standing under the Burj Khalifa. Every time you stand under a skyscraper, you instinctively look up to find the tip of the iceberg. Under the Burj Khalifa, your neck travels a bit before you can even get to finding the tip. It inspires awed silence. And then I step into the hotel after a quick security check (the building is a landmark so security is tight everywhere). The lobby is dark, darker than I would have imagined, and because it’s Dubai, you step in from bright sunlight into what appears to be a dark room at first glance. My retinas adjust themselves to the darkness of a place with a very imposing high fashion character, and I was discreetly whisked away to the lounge outside the check-in counters. The hotel wants you to feel at home, but this isn’t your usual home. A team of Armani employees wearing impeccably tailored suits welcome you, give you time to think about what you are wearing, which was a pair of sneakers, denims, and a T-shirt for me, and brief you about check-in formalities before showing you the way to the lift lobby. Everything around is a shade of caramel, there is rich Italian marble all around and other fittings seem sourced from rare and expensive locations around the world.
I reach the seventh floor and walk the ramp-like corridor to my deluxe room. Thankfully, it is brighter on the inside. The thick, hinged door opens up into a small lobby. There’s a living room, a bedroom, a walk-in closet and a bathroom that’s bigger than the other rooms. Everything on the inside is branded with the Armani logo — from the furnishings to the bath towels. The toiletries are equally unique with pebble-shaped soaps, bath washes with a deep and classy, exclusive fragrance and a lip-smacking tray of desserts that was replenished on every day of my stay at the hotel. There are no swaying doors inside. Everything slides, which also seems to be a safety precaution because the building itself sways and you don’t want doors banging in a hotel. There’s nothing to worry as the Burj Khalifa is engineered to sway or bend so that it doesn’t break in harsh conditions (it’s said to sway back and forth by about 5.5 feet!). Everything on the inside is controlled by an iPad. From mood music, to lighting to the blinds on the large curving windowline to my right. The windows open up to the view of the Dubai Opera building and it gets me thinking what the view would be like from a little higher up.
The Armani hotel occupies 10 floors of the Burj Khalifa with 160 guest rooms, seven restaurants and lounges and a spa, all designed to the exquisite tastes of Giorgio Armani. The place is supposed to reflect Armani’s lifestyle and design philosophies, which going by the design of the hotel, is a very unique and an expensive way of living. A five star hotel should give you the experience of the luxurious life you don’t experience otherwise.
I dined twice at the Armani Deli to stick with my Italian experience. The desserts were delicious, a round warm cake with melted chocolate inside and topped with gold leaves on one day and a raspberry cheesecake on another. You dine al fresco in front of the musical fountain that separates the Burj Khalifa and Dubai mall (the largest mall in the world – the Emirati obsession with records). But if you are at the Burj Khalifa, get out of the Armani hotel and get in to the elevator that takes you to the 122nd floor. The express elevator travels at 10 metres a second and after little over a minute, the doors open to the entrance of At.mosphere, the highest restaurant in the world (in a building of course, you will find many in Leh-Ladakh otherwise). You take a flight of cantilevered stairs to enter the restaurant after passing the irritating punctuation mark in the spelling mistake, and depending on your booking, you either get the window table or the non-window one. Minimum dinner spends are between 680-800 AED (`12,000-14,000) per person.
I’ll leave the food review for another time because that’s an article in itself. In a line, the steak will leave you with a memory that lasts a lifetime. Don’t be alarmed by the prices though. Everything in Dubai is over the top and there is no such thing as too expensive. The rooms at the Armani hotel range from `35,000 to `4.35 lakh a night depending on the type of room you stay at. Three days later, I was back at Emirates Terminal 3, snacking on the macaroon that was replenished in my room that morning. I checked out of the luxury lifestyle on a sweet note, until next time.