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The BBC's Frank Gardner in Dubai
"A monument to luxury and comfort"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 18:45 GMT
World's tallest hotel opens its doors
Guests in the lobby at the Burj al-Arab Guests arrive at the hotel, which is already a quarter full

The world's tallest hotel - where suites cost up to $15,000 a night - has officially opened in the Gulf emirate of Dubai.

The 202-suite Burj al-Arab - or Tower of the Arabs - stands 321 metres (1,060 feet) high and floats on its own man-made island.

Not only does the billowing, sail-shaped structure have its own submarine ride to an underwater restaurant complete with shark-infested aquarium, it is reputed to have the world's fastest lifts, travelling at a eye-popping seven metres per second.

The hotel's promoters say that more than 9,000 square metres of gold leaf, marble, granite and crystal have been used in the interior decor.

Burj al-Arab hotel Golf buggies ferry guests from the mainland
"Pure, sheer luxury," is how general manager Phillippe Charraudeau described the vast royal suite - the hotel's most expensive - which is on two floors, and has its own lift and revolving bed.

He believes the majority of his clients will come from the oil-rich Gulf states. Not surprising when rates start at about $900 a night.

The hotel has an army of 40 butlers and guests can choose to transfer from the airport either by helicopter or in one of a fleet of eight Rolls Royce limousines.

All suites have laptop computers, faxes and 42-inch (106 cm) television screens.


Other features include fire-spouting volcanoes, leopard-skin furniture and the world's largest atrium.

But if you were thinking of dropping in to witness the Burj al-Arab's opulence at first hand, bear in mind that just crossing its private bridge will set you back an entrance fee of $55.

"We are on a small island and it's a matter of privacy," Mr Charraudeau said, adding that the amount was redeemable by making purchases inside the hotel, the cost of which is thought to run into several hundred million dollars.

Taller than the Eiffel Tower, the Burj al-Arab is just 65 metres shorter than the Empire State Building in New York.

It tops the world's tallest hotel to date - the Baiyoke Sky in Thailand - by 13 metres.

But it remains some way short of being the world's tallest building.

That distinction still belongs to the twin Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which soar to 494 metres.

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