Canyon Torque 29 AL 6 review – Full-Suspension – Mountain Bikes

Canyon’s previous-generation Torque was one of a dying breed of long-travel 650b-wheeled bikes.

It’s been reworked substantially this year, with new frame details, revised geometry and bigger 29in wheels at each end.

Canyon Torque 29 AL 6 frame and suspension

Canyon relies on its familiar four-bar suspension design on the new Torque.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

In common with other new Canyons, the Torque’s low-slung frame has good standover clearance, rocks some pretty slick lines and is better finished than ever.

Out back, there’s the tried-and-tested four-bar suspension design we’ve come to expect from the German brand, plus a SRAM universal derailleur hanger, which will be easier to replace if you damage it hucking off cliffs away from home.

The new Torque is also available in carbon fibre, with adjustable geometry (via a flip chip at the tip of the seatstays, which isn’t on the alloy version) and 29in, 650b or mixed (MX) wheel sizes.

Cables are routed into the chunky aluminium frame.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

This, however, is the seriously robust-looking aluminium chassis, with big, beaded welds on the compact front triangle.

The old shock yoke is gone, with the air-sprung Fox Float X2 damper now attaching directly to the seatstay tip, and the smooth-edged rocker link wrapping around the curved seat tube to meet the stays further down.

There’s (finally) room for a water bottle on the curvy down tube. The pivot hardware uses steel inserts for durability, but the frame is still said to be 200g lighter than the previous generation.

Canyon Torque 29 AL 6 geometry

Geometry is pretty standard for a bike of this type, with the effective seat tube angle 78 degrees.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

This aluminium Torque lacks the geometry-adjust feature found on the carbon version.

Instead, Canyon has split the difference, giving the AL version the head angle from the slack setting (63.5 degrees) and the effective seat tube angle of the steeper setting (78 degrees) as found on the carbon frame, along with the 30mm bottom bracket (BB) drop.

These angles are pretty normal for a ‘bike park’ machine nowadays, and Canyon has stretched the latest Torque’s (carbon and aluminium frames) sizing so it’s in line with many contemporaries.

The large frame tested here has a 485mm reach (the key indicator of distance from hands to feet). While this sounds roomy, it’s actually 5mm shorter than the reach on the carbon 29er and doesn’t leave the frame feeling massive.

This is something to be aware of, because loads of rival mountain bikes with marginally shorter claimed reaches on paper feel bigger than this.

Canyon Torque 29 AL 6 specifications

Fizik’s Gravita Alpaca X5 sits on an own-brand dropper post.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

It’ll be no surprise to hear that Canyon has nailed the component choices.

As one of the biggest brands, it’s at the front of the line for the best parts in times of supply issues, and by selling direct to the customer and delivering in a cardboard box, its prices are roughly 25 per cent better value than shop-bought rivals.

Highlights include stiff and strong DT Swiss freeride FR 2070 wheels with 30mm-wide (internal) FR 560 rims that are hard to dent and damage. These are shod with arguably the best Maxxis tyre combination – a 3C MaxxGrip-compound Assegai up front and faster-rolling MaxxTerra Minion DHR II at the rear, with EXO+ and DD casings, respectively.

The choice of Maxxis front and rear tyres is spot-on.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

The trade-off for the strong wheels is more weight to lug uphill, and the workhorse drivetrain and brakes weigh marginally more than pricier kit, too.

However, Shimano’s SLX kit is perfectly sorted and reliable, providing wide-range gearing to winch up the steeps and powerful enough four-piston calipers and Ice-Tech brake pads that really bite on fast descents.

While the Performance-level Fox 38 fork and Float X2 shock have reduced adjustment and a slightly less refined ride quality than the brand’s priciest Elite and Factory kit, you can still add low-speed rebound and compression damping at both ends, via countable-click dials and a sweeping compression knob on top of the oversized fork leg.

Canyon’s own bar, stem and dropper seatpost are well-finished, a sensible shape and function well, plus the bike comes with a bottle cage installed to save you some money.

Canyon Torque 29 AL 6 ride impressions.

Climbing performance

This is not a bike designed primarily for climbing.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

With a frame construction rated ‘Cat 5’ by Canyon, the Torque shares the same bombproof build quality as the Sender DH rig raced at World Cups, which gives you a clue as to the major intentions here. Basically, this thing isn’t designed to win any climbing competitions.

That said, it pedals fine, with minimal bob (no matter which sprocket you’re in on the cassette), smooth turnover and a good seated position, which places your hips over the cranks and never tips your weight too far back, even on the steepest pitches.

Being built like a DH tank, the limiting factor to climbing speed is the Torque AL’s weight. At over 16.5kg, it’s a noticeable chunk of bike to lug uphill for extended periods.

Add to this the designed-to-last wheels being heavy and the sticky/grippy front tyre being painfully slow-rolling on tarmac and smooth fireroads, and climbing can be a bit of a drag. Don’t expect to get anywhere particularly fast uphill or over undulating ground.

This is all typical for the category, although there are a few bikes – such as Propain’s Spindrift – that defy expectations of how sprightly and frisky a super-long-travel enduro mountain bike can pedal and climb. Those bikes are way faster under power and quicker to accelerate than the new Torque.

Descending performance

Point the Torque 29 AL 6 downhill and it really comes into its own.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

With 29in wheels and 170mm of travel, you’d expect Canyon’s rig to thrive downhill with minimal drama and maximum speed, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Pretty much nothing unsettles the wheels on the ground or scrubs the edge off its pace, and the suspension at both ends feels deep and fluid enough to iron out creases on seriously rocky and rooty terrain.

The large size has stacks of stability and a calm ride. It trucks on down everything from raw, loamy enduro tracks littered with natural obstructions and blown-out holes, to faster baked-hard, big-bermed DH or bike-park style terrain.

The suspension is well tuned and not so numbing or isolating that you can’t get a sense of the terrain under the wheels, but if you want to turn off your brain, stand tall, look ahead and let the Torque do its thing, you’ll fire out the exit of tracks of practically any steepness and severity unfazed.

One area where this 29er seriously differs from its predecessor (and, to an extent, from the MX CF Torque) is that it’s definitely not as manoeuvrable or as responsive to sudden inputs of body language – for example, when initiating a lean angle to cut through turns.

It also feels as though the suspension sweet spot keeps your centre of gravity marginally higher than on the old 650b-wheeled Torque.

Both these factors mean it sits marginally higher through turns and flat corners, and it isn’t as easy to load the chassis in the mid-stroke to switch direction, pump hollows or bounce back off the rear end for extra acceleration in the apex of turns.

Smooth arcs, rather than acute angles, are the way to maintain speed, then, and the whole bike feels soft, forgiving and smooth rather than taut and springy.

Testing the latest carbon Torque earlier in the year, the frame felt absolutely bombproof, but transmitted a lot of terrain feedback through hands and feet. This isn’t the case here.

This may be a consequence of the alloy frame being better-damped, the bigger rear wheel, or the different shock and fork feeling slightly less supportive – it’s hard to say.

The Fox Float X2 damper now attaches directly to the seatstay tip.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

What is clear, though, is that there’s less of the harshness and sense of a slightly fatiguing, rattly, vibration-laden ride apparent on the beefier carbon chassis.

Instead, the AL rides silently, even through the roughest sections and with puncture-defying higher tyre pressures, despite its lower-tier suspension.

This might make it the better latest-generation Torque to take somewhere such as the Alps or your local bike park for non-stop, hand-wrecking, arm pump-inducing uplift laps.

How does the Canyon Torque 29 AL 6 compare to rivals?

Canyon is right on the money with the new Torque when it comes to pricing and spec.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

As a 650b-wheeled bike-park rig, Canyon’s previous-generation Torque had a unique, distinct set of attributes that saw it rule on jumps and man-made features, fizzing over with energy and tautness.

This new model is totally sorted, but being smooth and composed, rather than super-agile, it fails to transcend the crowded marketplace of similarly capable long-travel enduro rigs.

It’s still a sorted package, though, and you can’t argue with the price or spec here.

It’s unlike two long-travel chameleons in this category that balance super-enduro capability with a taut, responsive ride quality; Propain’s Spindrift and the Evil Wreckoning – the German bike blending high-speed enduro smoothness with corner-slicing attitude, and the latter popping and hopping off every trail feature more like the previous-generation Torque.

Canyon Torque 29 Al 6 bottom line

Solid is very much the defining word for the Torque 29 AL 6.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

A solid package in every sense of the word, Canyon’s Torque AL 6 has got your back in the gnarliest terrain, pedals well and has great kit.

It’s a tad heavy and doesn’t quite have the taut, responsive attitude of the MX CF version, though, or that bike’s ability to encourage flicking off every little rise, lip and berm.

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Dubai on a budget – affordable tours of the Burj Al Arab, and other tips from a luxury travel expert

There’s been an unexpected development at Dubai’s Burj Al Arab.

elf-billed as one of the world’s most exclusive hotels and with rates starting from €1,370 a night, the sail-shaped landmark is now welcoming more or less everybody to roam its spangled interiors on ‘Inside Burj Al Arab’ tours. In addition, included in the not-so-princely price tag of €62, visitors are even allowed access to the Royal Suite.

It’s an unusual initiative from one of the world’s most expensive properties and famous hotels — set just off Dubai’s coastline on its own little private island and with security guards manning its gates 24 hours a day.

Still, there was never any doubt that a receptive audience would appreciate the opportunity. When the hotel opened in 1999 it immediately asserted the emirate’s appetite for audacious architecture, subsequently consolidated by the 2010 opening of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and last month’s inauguration of the oval-shaped Museum of the Future.

One of the world’s most photographed buildings and with over one million followers on Instagram, the Burj Al Arab, like the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, is genuinely iconic.


The Club Suite Living Room at the Burj Al Arab

That’s not to say it’s to everyone’s tastes. I’ve stayed in the Burj, as everyone calls it, on a couple of occasions. Spread over two floors, entry-level one-bedroom suites are mammoth. Bathrooms are stocked with full-sized Hermès amenities, including his’n’hers aftershave and perfume, and there’s a butler on standby to help with quibbles and queries.

Interiors, however, are… characterful. Suites are vibrantly decorated in gold and purple, mirrors are suspended over the beds. When I’m there, I surrender to it: with so many of Europe’s more modern luxury hotels playing it safe in greige, it’s oddly refreshing to see an alternative approach delivered with such conviction. It’s paying off too: the hotel has remained packed all these years. Occupancy was at 85pc during my late-February stay.

With demand so high, guests on Inside Burj Al Arab tours won’t see regular guest rooms, nor the hotel’s various restaurants and beach club which can also be booked by day guests but at significantly higher rates and with less availability. Surprisingly, however, they’ll be guaranteed access to the hotel’s Royal Suite.

Prior to being incorporated into the tour’s itinerary, this suite secured average rates of €23,000 a night. But occupancy could be sporadic and repurposing the suite has proved lucrative: accommodating up to 12 people, tour groups depart every 15 minutes between 9.30am and 8.30pm daily. I was told up to 700 people a day signed up during the peak winter season, though more typically the number is somewhere around 500. At €62 per person, that still equates to about €31,000.


The Talise Spa at the Burj Al Arab

That’s a lot of visitors, though the groups remain surprisingly inconspicuous to overnight guests (before joining myself, I hadn’t noticed the tours taking place). That’s because participants enter the property through a side entrance where they’re briefed on the Burj before wandering through the lobby, past one of the hotel’s huge aquariums, and then up a designated elevator to the 25th floor. Here, there’s a chance to pause en route to take pictures of the showstopper atrium — one of the highest in the world at 180m. But other than that, tour groups and hotel guests remain apart.

Up on that higher level, a besuited butler introduces all 780sqm of the two-bedroom Royal Suite. For better or worse, this is where the Burj really meets expectations. The carpet lining the grand staircase is leopard print; at the touch of a button, one bed revolves; the original design of the majlis-style sitting room was rejected for being insufficiently pink.

Catching my gawps, my butler surmised visitors’ usual response to the décor: “Many of the Inside Burj Al Arab guests prefer softer shades and aren’t necessarily big fans of these colours, although when I ask if they’d be happy to stay here, everyone says yes,” he tells us.


Johan O’Ceallaigh in the Burj Al Arab

After exploring the suite, the tour concludes in an adjoining zone packed with artefacts and heirlooms relating to the Burj’s history. There’s the napkin upon which architect Tom Wright scrawled his original design for the hotel. Nearby stands the F1 car that David Coultard did donuts in on the hotel’s cantilevered helipad. Through the windows there are clear views down below to the World, a map-shaped archipelago of artificial islands, and a sprawl of other ambitious luxury properties that belong, like the Burj, to the UAE’s Jumeirah Group.

It’s a fitting finale before tour groups are brought back down to earth (via a small outdoor café and bar, and a gift shop where you can pick up Burj-branded souvenirs including small boxes of chocolates for €41).

Do it: Book tours at (€62pp). For overnight stays (from €1,370 in low season) or other experiences at Burj Al Arab, see jumeirah.comJohn was a guest of the Burj Al Arab.

Six ways to do Dubai on a budget

Had the pioneering Burj Al Arab not set such an enduringly successful precedent, it’s possible the surrounding city would have evolved very differently. But today, Dubai is a dab hand at providing extravagant distractions for privileged travellers. Experiencing the very best of the city’s luxury offering will never come cheaply, but similar to this tour, there are ways to enjoy what’s on offer a bit more economically. Here’s just a small selection…

Book Brunch

Dubai is chock-a-block with luxury hotels, and many host lavish weekend brunches that grant visitors a taster of what’s on offer. Often unlimited drinks are thrown in and the spreads can provide unexpectedly good value.

At the newly opened canal-side St Regis Downtown, Dubai, for example, the buffet-brunch concept sees chefs from the hotel’s restaurants serve signature dishes at tables indoors and out, so it’s possible to experience its full culinary offering in one afternoon. Dishes might include black truffle and porcini tagliatelle from Italian restaurant Basta, top-tier sushi and desserts galore. There’s live entertainment, kids under 13 dine for free, and the spread is so generous you should definitely skip breakfast (you might also end up ditching your plans for dinner).

Do it: Brunch costs €88 inclusive of soft drinks or €112 with alcohol. John was a guest of the St Regis;

Hire a Supercar

Dubai’s spotless metro is frequent and reliable, but the Ferrari and Lamborghini dealerships you’ll spot when travelling on it are reminders that this is the city of the supercar — even the police fleet includes an Aston Martin. While buying a Bugatti might not be viable, it’s possible to hire all manner of outlandish automobiles — some by the hour if you just want a quick photo.

Do it: Among the city’s many supercar-rental specialists, offers Maseratis from €260 per day.

Go (Beach) Clubbing

Endlessly sunny weather means Dubai’s beach clubs do a roaring trade with locals every weekend. But on weekdays they often cut their rates to lure holidaymakers. High-end Drift overlooks a one-kilometre beach and offers an infinity pool, excellent Mediterranean restaurant and beautiful skyline views.

Do it: Access costs €62 during weekends but various discounts otherwise await, including a ‘ladies’ day’ offering on Tuesdays that sees women pay €25, including a welcome cocktail.


The Dubai Mall. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Shop Seasonally

Some people like shopping, and many of them are in Dubai. The city’s colossal malls are attractions in themselves, while this constant consumerism has also precipitated the emergence of discount outlets selling lots of ‘last-season’ wares.

Do it: If that sounds like fun, try Dubai Outlet Mall (for discounts on the likes of Burberry and Marc Jacobs;; Garderobe (pre-owned products from Chanel and Celine; and Brands for Less (which includes beauty and homewares alongside clothing from Calvin Klein and Adidas;

Lounge Around

One of the world’s best airlines, Dubai-based Emirates offers excellent business- and first-class lounges (it also flies direct to Dubai from Dublin). Unusually, those facilities are also available to economy-class passengers who pay a premium to access them. If flying economy to Dublin, it’ll cost you €95 to use the business-class lounge for up to four hours. That includes unlimited dining and free-flowing champagne.

Find more information on Dubai and its latest Covid-related restrictions on

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Nayef Al Fayez, minister of tourism, Jordan | Videos

Jordanian minister of tourism, Nayef Al Fayez, speaks to Breaking Travel News editor, Chris O’Toole, during World Travel Market in London.

He tells us how the country is reopening following the Covid-19 pandemic and how new airlift from the UK will accelerate the recovery.

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BTN interview: Antonino Cardillo, general manager, the Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah | Focus

BTN interview: Antonino Cardillo, general manager, the Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah

The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah has been honoured with the title of Middle East’s Leading Luxury Beach Resort at the World Travel Awards.

Here Breaking Travel News speaks to Antonino Cardillo, general manager of the property, to find out how it feels to have been honoured by voters from around the globe.

Breaking Travel News: Having claimed a top title at the World Travel Awards, how does it feel to have won?

Antonino Cardillo: My Team and I are ecstatic to have won the award.

Our successes have always been achieved through the unremitting dedication of our colleagues who everyday go above and beyond the expectations of our guests.

We are so proud of this achievement and constantly endeavour to exceed in all aspects of service.

BTN: How will the trophy help you to promote the Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah as we move into 2022?

AC: Being recognised as a preferred destination is key to help promote not only the hotel, but Al Zorah as a destination.

This award adds much value to the hotel’s position and visibility, with which we aim to be recognised as one of the best places to stay, unwind and create remarkable experiences.

BTN: What is that caught the eye of voters; what do you think it is that the Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah from its competitors in the Middle East?

AC: Both Al Zorah as an area and the Oberoi have been designed as an escape from the hustle and bustle of the world outside.

With the hotel built on the edge of a one million square meters mangrove, the destination is intended to be a natural oasis.

White pristine beaches and extraordinary experiences is what staying at the Oberoi is all about.

More Information

The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah has been thoughtfully designed as a retreat where you can switch off and take time out.

The best hotel in Al Zorah, it offers sophisticated contemporary architecture, wide open spaces and a natural palette that harmonises with panoramic ocean vistas and long white sand beaches.

Find out more about the Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah on the official website.

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Breaking Travel News interview: Abdulaziz Al Raisi, chief executive, Oman Air | Focus

As the Middle East winners are unveiled at the World Travel Awards, Breaking Travel News speaks to Abdulaziz Al Raisi, chief executive of Oman Air, about taking a number of top titles.

Breaking Travel News: Where does Oman Air stand with rebuilding its network in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic? Are departures close to reaching 2019 levels?

Abdulaziz Al Raisi: The severe reduction in global passenger demand caused by the pandemic as well as travel restrictions across our network have led to a temporary suspension of some of our routes, and limited frequency on remaining routes.

As vaccination rates pick up globally, we aim to increasingly reopen our routes – however, this will depend on the relaxing of travel restrictions worldwide and the gradual recovery of global demand for air travel.

We will also continue to strengthen relationships with our codeshare partners to offer our guests even more destinations to fly to.

Our main objective is to identify routes that connect Oman to the world, contribute to Oman’s economy, and promote tourism, business travel to Oman and Oman as a destination.

Finally, we plan on streamlining our fleet of aircraft by replacing and retiring older aircraft with newer aircraft offering greater fuel efficiency and fewer emissions while enhancing passenger comfort.

BTN: What measures are Oman Air taking to keep passengers safe in the wake of the pandemic?

AAR: Elevated health and safety standards have been an integral part of Oman Air’s guest experience since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic early last year, and have since remained at the forefront of the airline’s operational priorities.

Oman Air was quick to respond to the health challenges brought about by the pandemic – not only on board our aircraft but across our entire guest experience – and safeguarding the flying public in the face of unprecedented crisis continues to guide the airline’s recovery plans and reassures our passengers that they can fly with confidence.

Oman Air and our holidays division proudly display the Safe Travels stamp from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

BTN: The carrier recently boosted flights to Salalah for the Khareef season – how important is domestic tourism to the carrier?

AAR: Domestic tourism in Oman is an important part of our business, especially in Khasab, a popular port city on northern Oman’s breath-taking Musandam peninsula, and Salalah in Oman’s southern Dhofar province, a destination renowned for its spectacular beaches and lush, green landscape during monsoon season (Khareef).

Both destinations are big draws among tourists in the GCC as well as Europeans in search of unique experiences in the Middle East.

Both destinations are easily accessible from Muscat International Airport, with relatively short flying times making them ideal for day trips or overnight stays.

As infrastructure projects in other parts of Oman are completed, we expect to see increased demand for domestic travel—both among locals looking to explore their own backyard, and international travellers seeking to venture beyond Muscat. 

BTN: Oman Air has been honoured with the titles of Middle East’s Leading Airline – Customer Experience and Middle East’s Leading Airline at the World Travel Awards – how does it feel to have taken such prestigious titles?

AAR: We are extremely honoured and proud of this prestigious win which confirms Oman Air’s hard work to provide an exceptional travel experience to its guests.

This win will motivate our dedicated team to continue ensuring that every Oman Air passenger experiences the best possible products and services.

BTN: What do you think it was that caught the eye of voters – what is it that separates Oman Air from its competitors in the region?

AAR: Oman Air offers a unique expression of Omani hospitality, culture and identity.

We also focus on every aspect of the passenger experience to provide a premium and personal travel journey that meets the needs of our guests.

This is what distinguishes Oman Air from its competitors.

BTN: Oman recently outlined its vision for 2040, building a diversified economy to face the future. Where does Oman Air, as the national carrier fit into the plan?

AAR: Vision 2040 envisions tourism as one of the key pillars of economic diversification.

The sultanate’s attractiveness as a tourist destination is clear: an enviable location between Asia, Africa and Europe puts two third of the world’s population within eight hours flying time, one third within four; the sultanate is one of the safest and most secure places in the world – not just in the region – and offers exceptional nature, climate, leisure, culture and history.

Oman Air plays a vital role in Oman’s Vision 2040 strategy by connecting inbound tourists from source international markets to Oman’s tourism ecosystem.

Aviation feeds the tourism sector as much as tourism feeds aviation, and both sectors share a common objective – entice more international travellers to Oman and diversify the economy for sustainable growth.

More Information

Find out more about the award-winning Oman Air on the official website.

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The Burj Al Arab, one of the world’s most exclusive hotels, is opening its doors to the public

Editor’s Note — Editor’s Note — CNN Travel series often carry sponsorship originating from the countries and regions we profile. However, CNN retains full editorial control over all of its reports. Read the policy.
(CNN) — Showers embellished with 24-carat gold tiles. Duvets filled with eiderdown harvested from abandoned duck nests in Iceland. Pillow menus. Thirty different types of marble. A ceiling made of 21,000 Swarovski crystals representing the Milky Way. These are just some of the luxuries that await at Dubai‘s Burj Al Arab, one of the world’s most exclusive hotels.

Up to now, if you weren’t a paying guest at the hotel or dining at one of its restaurants, your Burj Al Arab experience was likely confined to snapping photos of the structure from the adjacent public beach.

But from October 15 this year, the Burj Al Arab’s secretive doors are finally sliding open, with a new Inside Burj Al Arab experience promising to offer visitors a glimpse inside, and lift the veil on some of the UAE hotel’s intriguing stories.

For almost 22 years, the Burj al Arab has been standing proud on its own private island just off the Jumeirah seafront, instantly recognizable with its design modeled on the shape of a billowing sail.

Its cantilevered helipad, suspended 210 meters above the water, has played host to many headline-grabbing events over the years. Andre Agassi and Roger Federer knocked a tennis ball around in 2005. David Coulthard spun donuts in an F1 car in 2013.

In February 2021, with the world in lockdown, DJ David Guetta used it as the stage for his “United at Home” livestream event. And in August 2021, as part of Dubai Tourism’s glitzy new campaign, Hollywood duo Zac Efron and Jessica Alba skydived off it.

So why allow public access now? Andy Nicholson, general manager and experience director of Inside Burj Al Arab, points to 2021 being the 50th anniversary of the United Arab Emirates and the recent opening of Expo 2020 Dubai, the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East.

This year “the spotlight is really on Dubai, and it seems like the perfect time to open up one of the city’s icons to visitors,” he says. “It’s a glimpse of the original home of luxury in Dubai.”

Epic opulence

So what exactly will visitors experience when they enter these rarefied spaces? Starting from a new welcome center, the 90-minute tour begins with a buggy ride over the 340-meter bridge that connects to the private island on which the hotel stands. But there’s a pit stop to make first.

“We noticed that most guests come and stand on the bridge to take photos of the hotel,” says Nicholson. A new platform has been created to let visitors have the perfect vantage point.

On arrival at the Burj Al Arab, after a traditional welcome with a sprinkle of rosewater by Emirati hosts, you enter the cavernous atrium — at 180 meters, the tallest in the world — and the tour proper begins.

Without the context of other skyscrapers flanking the building, it’s hard to grasp its scale, but at 321 meters in height it’s three meters shorter than the Eiffel Tower (including tip) and 60 meters shorter than the Empire State Building.

The atrium manages to feel modern and retro at the same time, an Arabian Nights-meets-Jetsons setting, with layer upon layer of curves and color shades that become lighter the closer they get to the sky. At the top of the escalators, that glide upwards past twin aquariums, a fountain dances to the rhythms of traditional Emirati dance before shooting a final plume, geyser-like, 42 meters up into the air.

A glass elevator speeds visitors up to the 25th floor (in real terms, the 50th — each suite in the hotel is spread over two floors) for the main event, a tour of the opulent Royal Suite, after which there’s time to explore the interactive Experience Suite, sipping Arabic coffee and learning trivia about the Burj Al Arab’s architecture and interiors, as well as the pivotal role the hotel played in the development of Dubai.

Original sketches by interior designer Khuan Chew are on display, as is the napkin on which British architect Tom Wright sketched the first draft of his proposed structure in October 1993.

Building an instantly recognizable icon

The Burj Al Arab is the result of the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. His brief for the building was simple — to create the most luxurious hotel in the world, a building that would become an icon for the city.

Prior to coming up with the now instantly recognizable shape, Wright considered various symbols of Dubai’s culture and history for inspiration. But he came to a clear conclusion — if the building was to become an icon of a city that was boldly looking to the future, it should not be rooted in the past. Rather, it should be moving forward, and thus the sail-shaped building was born.

It took five years to build the Burj Al Arab — two years to create the artificial island on which it stands, and three years to build the hotel itself. When originally announced, the location was considered an unusual choice by many due to the fact that it was around 15 kilometers from what was the center of Dubai at the time. But its seaside backdrop on Dubai’s loveliest beach is one of the reasons it has become such an icon.

The great indoors

The interior of the Burj Al Arab is perhaps even more jaw-dropping than the exterior. Sheikh Mohammed envisioned an aesthetic inspired by Arabic styles from across the Middle East and given a contemporary interpretation, and instructed designer Khuan Chew to push the boundaries of color and decoration. And push them she did, creating interiors that dazzle with a sense of the theatrical in a space that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

“Fun is something that we want to include in the Inside Burj Al Arab experience,” Nicholson explains. “The whole building is full of joy with its audacious design and colors, and the new tour picks up on that.”

Royal Suite butler Roman Sedev, dressed in a gold tailcoat and white gloves, fully embodies that sense of fun as he opens the doors to the suite with a flourish and a grin, welcoming the visitor into a space dominated by a central staircase covered in leopard-print carpet.

A superlative space

Whether it’s your personal style or not, the Royal Suite is nothing short of astonishing with its no-holds-barred exuberance. The highly polished yellow floor reflects the 24-carat gold ceiling, just part of the 1,790 square meters of the material used throughout the hotel. There’s a private lift to take you up to the second floor. And it’s on the second floor where things become even more “extra.”

“Khuan Chew called the dining room a ‘sunburst room,'” says Sedev, pointing to the trompe l’oeil blue sky ceiling dotted with fluffy clouds above a dining table set for 10, sitting on top of a carpet that’s like a burst of sunlight. Leopard print makes an appearance again on the high-backed velvet dining chairs, in the cushions in the adjacent majlis room, on the ottomans in the bedrooms, and in some of the carpets.

And it’s those carpets that really stop you in your tracks. The attention to detail and craftsmanship that goes into them is extraordinary, each one taking three months to make by hand. And this being the Burj Al Arab, a stain or fray is unthinkable. “We always have an extra one in storage so we can change it immediately if anything happens,” Nicholson explains.

Once your eyes adjust to the opulence, the details start to jump out. Golden falcon talons grip the door handles. Walls are covered in silk that appears to change color depending on where you stand, with hand-stitched ladybirds embroidered in more of that 24-carat gold. There’s a dedicated team of artisans who come and do repairs whenever needed.

A glimpse into an exclusive world

Now that the doors are open to visitors, is there a chance that the hotel’s guests might be a bit miffed to be sharing their space?

“Our atrium is the biggest in the world, and we definitely have space for everyone,” says Nicholson. Each group is limited to a maximum of 12 people, and most of the experience takes place on the 25th floor which is reserved exclusively for visitors to Inside Burj Al Arab. In-house guests can take the tour too. “This is a working hotel, open 365 days a year,” continues Nicholson, “and the new tour offers a glimpse behind the scenes, bringing to life 21 years of amazing stories about the hotel and its people.”

Visitors won’t be asked to vacate the premises immediately after the experience, either. A new outdoor lounge, Uma, has opened exclusively for Inside Burj Al Arab, and each of the hotel’s restaurants can be booked by non-guests.

You could also just go all out and book yourself in for the night, although with prices starting at around $1,500 a night, it’s about 14 times the cost of a tour.

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New York Takes AL Wild Card Lead

The Yankees had the Red Sox just where they wanted them, and a potentially costly 7th inning error in left field let it slip away momentarily.

But after a major controversial call from home plate umpire Joe West, Aaron Judge delivered the go-ahead run, doubling in DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo in the top of the 8th inning to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. Two pitches later, Giancarlo Santon would deliver the punishing blow.

The 6-3 win gave the Yankees their 89th victory of the season, improving to 89-67 on the year with their sixth straight “W.” The Red Sox lost their third straight, falling to 88-68.

West called a foul tip that slipped in and out of the glove of catcher Christian Vazquez on the transfer. It should have been a strikeout, but West called it a foul tip and Red Sox manager Alex Cora did not challenge.

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Breaking Travel News interview: Elie Farhat, general manager, Telal Resort Al Ain | Focus

Breaking Travel News here talks to Elie Farhat, general manager, Telal Resort Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, about his resort’s inspirational approach to the challenges set by Covid-19, and his upbeat prognosis for the future.

Breaking Travel News: What operational changes have you implemented at Telal Resort Al Ain in order to continue operating through the pandemic?

Elie Farhat: We have implemented various things to ensure the safety of our guests and colleagues.

During the early stages of Covid-19 last year, we took the decision to close the resort for 15 days in order to perform a thorough cleaning, sanitisation and disinfection of the entire resort and its surroundings.

We also took this time to train our team members on how to handle and care for our guests while protecting themselves.

We always ensure to follow the government standards and protocol on Covid-19, including the installation of sanitisation tunnels in both our colleague entrance and guests’ entrance, checking temperatures, using of disposable masks and gloves, and maintaining social distance of at least two metres.

Last October, we became Go Safe certified – this is a programme endorsed by the Abu Dhabi Government, which testifies to the implementation of cleanliness and hygiene standards designed to minimize the spread of Covid-19 in tourist premises.

Up until now, we are providing free sanitisation kits to all guest rooms, minimizing any paper collateral inside the room.

We are also allowing guests to park their cars on their own or even close to their villas, to make them more comfortable and feel safer.

For the restaurants, we still do not serve buffets and the tables are arrange with two metres distance – we keep up to date with the government rules and regulations and ensure to adhere to it.

I am also pleased to say that majority of our team members have been vaccinated and for those not, they are taking a PCR test every two weeks to guarantee and maintain a Covid-free environment.

Breaking Travel News: What has been your approach to tackling the global travel restrictions, in particular the constantly shifting travel corridors?

ER: The current global travel restrictions, especially the constant changes have been challenging, up until now.

However, we are one of the fortunate resorts that somehow benefited from the local market.

Given our remote yet accessible destination, being close to nature, and accommodations which are socially distance by default, combined with the winter in UAE – our local business compensate for the loss of international travellers.

Breaking Travel News: Why is collaboration across the global travel industry essential to navigating the post-pandemic landscape?

ER: It is essential to show our support to each other and build camaraderie.

Moreover, it is also important so when the right time comes, when global travelling becomes a norm again, the consumer will be aware of the property, the destination and what it can offer, and these things can happen through our continuous collaborations across the industry globally.

BTN: Describe the lockdown experience at the resort.

EF: The lockdown experience was really tough, no one was prepared for that.

The resort was almost empty for a month or two due to the lockdown, but we started picking up slowly.

We started seeing bookings on weekends, mainly coming from Abu Dhabi since there is a border restriction between Abu Dhabi and other Emirates.

By July last year we were seeing strong pick up, and from August until December we were in full swing.

Our strategy was to focus on ADR, and it plays well.

There’s limited volume, however people who cannot travel abroad are willing to pay extra to get a private pool and for a change of scenery.

We decided to focus on quality business rather than quantity and our ADR in 2020 was stronger than 2019, which is very interesting.

On the other note, the food and beverage, and events is still not back to its normal business, mainly due to the event restrictions that are still in place.

BTN: What trends in travel and tourism do you see emerging in the aftermath of the crisis?

EF: I think in this new normal, travellers will be more conscious in choosing their travel destinations and hotels they stay in.

They will be willing to pay more for safety and exclusivity, this is what I am seeing in Telal Resort for the past six months.

Our occupancy is less but our ADR is actually higher compared to pre-Covid times.

I also see the trend towards remote places, accommodation with private pools, wellness, nature, cultural experience, and adventure tourism.

As for dining experience, I feel that private arrangements and al fresco dining will continue, and people will also be more health conscious in term of their food choices.

BTN: Have you had any positive changes in your own outlook in reaction to the crisis?

EF: While this crisis brought so many challenges and uncertainty within our industry, I personally think that this experience helps me to be more resilient.

As the general manager of Telal Resort, I am responsible for the safety and wellbeing of my team and our guests, it was a tough time but with the support of our external and internal stakeholders, each of every team members, and guests who trusted us, we were able to make the best of the situation.

While 2020 has been tough for most of us, we are fortunate that our business has bounced back earlier than expected, and that is all because of the passion and hard work of each and every team members of Telal Resort Al Ain.

More Information

Telal Resort Al Ain is considered the United Arab Emirates’ Leading Boutique Resort by voters at the World Travel Awards.

Find out more on the official website.

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