Emirates Palace

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 June, 2005, 12:00am

Where is it? On a pristine, 1.3km-long private beach in Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest of the seven states that comprise the United Arab Emirates, overlooking the almost comically turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf.

Traditional or modern? Clad in pink granite, adorned with 114 domes and richly decorated with Arabic motifs and traditional furniture in earth tones - a nod to the desert sands outside - the 400-room hotel may be new but it is also decidedly traditional.

Who should visit? Holidaymakers who would like to eschew Dubai's hubbub in favour of a more laid-back yet equally upper-echelon escape, visiting royalty who can expect the same trappings and standards of service as they would at home, and Russian oligarchs. The hotel is also intent on attracting conferences and boasts a slew of well-appointed venues.

What makes it different? Billed as the most expensive hotel ever built (at an estimated cost of US$3 billion), it is an outsized facility of monumental proportions, spreading across 100 manicured hectares and sitting inside a perimeter 2.5km long. Additional statistics also impress: 5,800 square metres of South African gold leaf; more than 210,000 square metres of polished imported marble (from Italy, among other countries); and 1,002 bespoke Swarovski crystal chandeliers that require a dedicated upkeep staff of 10 and whose lights are mirrored by a squadron of Steinway grand pianos. It took 20,000 labourers, working round the clock, three years to build it.

What is there to do? Most guests head for the sugarcane beach, where some of the resort's 900-plus staff pamper them with complimentary beverages, fruit, sunscreen, foot massages and laptop computers used to access an online library of books.

What's on the menu? A top-notch parade of international cuisine ranging from Persian to Italian.

In all, the Emirates Palace offers 20 restaurants, including the seafood-only Sayad, which, with its transparent panels backlit to a cornflower blue and juxtaposed with the aquariums from where patrons pick their catch, is incongruously contemporary, as is the plethora of touch-screen controls throughout the property.

Anything else we should know? Guests can arrive by yacht, helicopter or, by prior arrangement, aboard one of the hotel's fleet of gleaming white Rolls-Royce Phantoms or 7 Series stretch BMWs. The official classification of the Emirates Palace is 'five-star deluxe'. For more information, rack rates and offers, visit www.emiratespalace.com.