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Burj Al Arab vs. Emirates Palace

Two hotels of epic luxury, both iconic in their own way. But which will win out in a head to head? Kipp finds out.

 

When Kipp first arrived in Dubai, back in the day, we admit we didn’t know much about the Middle East, or the UAE. But we did know one thing: there was a plonking great hotel shaped like a sail and we could not possibly ever hope to afford to stay there. The Burj has transcended its luxury traveler target audience to become an aspiration.

Editor's Score 1

Emirates Palace has a more difficult time of it. In the latest Sex and the City movie, producers wanted to make the movie on location in Abu Dhabi, but of course this was never going to happen. So instead of simply changing the script to set the movie somewhere else, they merely filmed it somewhere else, and pretended to be in the UAE. The four characters in the show “stayed” at Emirates Palace, which was impersonated by the Amanjena Hotel in Marrakesh. Can you imagine pulling that off with the Burj?

Editor's Score 0
 
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Kipp knows a thing or two about luxury. We’re ridden the gold part of the Dubai Metro. Once. And we bought some expensive soap by accident, too. So when we hear the Burj comprises of 202 duplex suites, the smallest of which covers 169 meters square, the largest 780 meters square, we were compelled to find out what was on offer at the top end. The answer? A Royal Suite, complete with rotating four poster canopy bed, private elevator and private cinema. Wow.

Editor's Score 1

The “jewel in the crown” of Abu Dhabi knows how to make a guest comfortable, too. Rumor reaches Kipp that one floor of the hotel is not open to the public as it is set aside for leaders of the Gulf States. We’re betting they’re the best ones, of course, but in the meantime the rest of us could make do with a Palace Suite: Swarovski chandeliers, Daum crystal masterpieces and plush furnishing throughout. We simply can’t work out which we’d rather imagine staying in. Tie.

Editor's Score 1
 
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In this category, Abu Dhabi has a bit of a historic disadvantage. Dubai has been a hotbed of celebrities for more than a decade, thanks to its heavy investment in luxury shopping destinations and hotels, and a slightly more liberal approach to <ahem> night life. Celeb guests at the Burj have reportedly included Claudia Schiffer, Bill Clinton, Naomi Campbell… The list goes on, but nobody save the hotel staff knows who’s on it, as they keep it quiet. Respect.

Editor's Score 1

Which is more than can be said for the Palace. It has a section of the website where it even touts some rather mediocre guests, including Naomi Watts and Orlando Bloom, Andy Murray, and Lionel Richie. But the Palace does have an ace up its sleeve: Thanks to its huge grounds it is also, on occasion, a concert venue, and the stars apparently stay in the hotel post gig. So who can we say has been a patron? Killers, Coldplay, Andrea Bocelli, Shakira – to name just a few. Tie.

Editor's Score 1
 
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Cost
 

As the Burj is all suites, to compare like for like we decided to pick a random date, and see how much the cheapest suite at each hotel would be. AED 3,987 per night is the “advanced purchase rate,” quoted by the Burj website for a deluxe one bedroom suite. Kipp will have to check its piggybank…

Editor's Score 0

Thanks to an odd “Football at the Palace” deal, which seems to extend beyond the World Cup, you could bag a Khaleej Suite for around AED 2,750 per night. It’s an easy win for the Palace. Kipp won’t even have to go scrabbling about down the back of the couch to afford that. (No, we’ll have to sell it.)

Editor's Score 1
 
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Has its own specially made island plus a private bridge. Enough said.

Editor's Score 1

Not that the Emirates Palace is exactly slumming it. The vast building dominates Abu Dhabi’s famed Corniche. Unlike the Burj, which is built upwards, the Palace sprawls across an epic 1 million square meters of carefully sculptured gardens and glorious beach. Kipp can understand how that worked on paper, but in reality the whole place seems a little lonely. It looks more like a real palace than an inviting hotel. Not good enough, when you’re up against a hotel with its own island.

Editor's Score 0
 
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Cuisine
 

Kipp has often been accused of letting its stomach rule its head, so we didn’t trust ourselves for this one. We asked a trusted friend and former food critic to tell us what each hotel has to offer in terms of culinary delights. Their response? Simply, “Burj Al Arab.”

Editor's Score 1

What about the Palace, we asked, surely one of the many wonderful restaurants… “Burj Al Arab,” interrupted our friend knowingly, before wondering off in search of truffles, or something. Cryptic, but clear.

Editor's Score 0
 
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In 2005, the Burj Al Arab grabbed the attention of the world in the simplest, most stylish way possible. It hired two of the greatest tennis players on the planet, and had them play a game on the helipad (with a photographer in tow, of course). The resulting images of Roger Federer and Andre Agassi were nothing short of iconic – even people who can’t name the hotel will know what you’re talking about when you mention “helipad” and “tennis.” It was brilliant.

Editor's Score 1

Poor old Emirates Palace. How do you compete with one of the most iconic photographs of the early 21st century? The Palace has had the odd attempt, and it certainly knows how to grab a good headline. Take its introduction of the world’s first gold vending machine earlier this year, it ticked practically every PR box and got coverage worldwide. But will it be remembered in a few years? Kipp says no.

Editor's Score 0
 
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Editor's Score 6

Editor's Score 3
 
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A romping win for Burj Al Arab. We almost feel sorry for Emirates Palace. Not too sorry, mind you, as we still can’t afford to stay there.

 

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