Saturday, June 13, 2009

Desert Notes: Living life in luxury

Have you ever wondered what it would be to live life in the most sumptuous of palaces, with every desire catered for, and every wish granted? Now you can – in Abu Dhabi.

This week I was fortunate enough to be given a tour of the UAE’s newest and most luxurious hotel – the Emirates Palace Hotel.

We had been watching the development of the project with interest ever since our arrival in the UAE in March last year. From an enormous but bland looking shell has grown the most beautiful building in Abu Dhabi.

It has been designed to reflect the beauty of the region, with its colours reflecting the colours of the desert sands. It has a distinctly Arabian feel.

Set in ground of 1 million square meters, with a private beach of around 1.3 kilometres long, with beautifully landscape gardens, the Palace Hotel is a spectacular sight to behold.

But the exterior simply fades into comparison when you drive up to the main doors and step inside.

You are greeted by a bevy of beautiful ladies, and smiling doormen, dressed in specially designed outfits. Known as “Welcome Ambassadors”, there are a total 30 of them, 17 nationalities. The outfits are beautiful, carrying Asian, Moroccan and Arabian designs and patterns. As you walk in you are immediately offered everything from Arabian coffee to Asian tea, with half a dozen eager voices offering their assistance. Perhaps too eager, I would suggest. It can be a little overwhelming.

I was ushered through into the enormous domed lobby area, and while I waited for my hosts, I got busy with my camera.

The “Grand Dome” as it is known is the largest of the 114 domes that have been built to reflect the Islamic architectural style of the region. It is 42m wide with a surface finish of silver and gold coloured glass mosaic tiles. On the apex sits a gold finial. It has just recently been confirmed that it is in fact larger than the dome in the Vatican City.

I was taken on a tour of the hotel by Rumy Tsolova, the Marketing Manager for the Emirates Palace, and Noura Souraj, the Public Relations Manager.

The atmosphere is cool, and calming, and extremely luxurious. Tones of gold, and the colours of the desert sands, and stunning lighting let you know you are somewhere special.

And special it is. Emirates Palace houses a magnificent collection of 1002 chandeliers made with Swarovski’s premier Strauss crystals. Around 110,000 m3 of marble decorate the interior - 13 different types from Italy, Spain, China and India.

The attention to detail is incredible – from the crystals imbedded in the door handles, to the subtle colours and shades used throughout the palace. Everything is finished with the utmost care. It is unbelievably beautiful.

And the rooms were the same. Absolute luxury from start to finish – from silk fabrics to Baccarat crystal, and discreet service doors, to specially commissioned artworks on every wall, every aspect of the hotel whispers elegance, luxury, beauty.

There are three types of rooms, each grander and more beautiful than the next. To quote from the press release:

Grand Rooms - Tranquil colour combinations of light blue, gold and crème in silk upholstery, brightened up by honey brown wooden veneer and marble floorings, create the perfect atmosphere for relaxation. Added to this are magnificent views of either lush exotic gardens or intricately landscaped swimming pools or glistening blue waves of the Arabian Gulf gently breaking onto Abu Dhabi’s most beautiful white sandy beach.

Khaleej and Khaleej Deluxe Suites - Strategically located at the tip of the East and West Wing of the Palace, the Khaleej Suites comprise a spacious lounge area, bedroom and a luxury bathroom. The Khaleej Deluxe Suites offer complete options for entertaining and living with a separate lounge and a dining room, combined with spectacular 180-degree scenic, sea, pool, and garden views.

An ambience of elegant grandeur is enhanced by exquisite Spanish marble toppings, decorative chandeliers of textured Graniglia glass with a beige and gold finish, and 100% silk embroidered fabrics.

Palace Suites - Your private palace within the Palace, the Palace Suites represent luxury at its finest with a spacious living area, elegant dining room and three regal bedrooms. A lavish entrance hall adorned with soft hues of gold and silver under Swarovski crystal chandeliers will lead you into a plush living room decorated in delicate yellow or blue silks and Daum crystal masterpieces followed by a dining room where elegance is the centrepiece and only the finest cuisine is served.

The Palace Suite guest quarters include a magnificent master bedroom and two more bedrooms decorated in gentle tones, gold and silver leaf and rich marble with a spacious bath including jacuzzi and rain shower.

But the feeling of palatial living does not end with the room design. It is in the whole atmosphere of the place. Including the service. Over 2000 hand-selected and specially trained staff members are there to meet your every need. From 24-hour butler service, to the 170 chefs in 128 kitchens and pantries.

It would be impossible for me to describe absolutely everything that the palace has to offer its guests, but in summary, the hotel is aimed at making you feel like you really are living in a palace. Two particular services caught my attention. One was the “Bath Ceremony.” The guest selects from a range of special oils and bath products. Then the bath is prepared for you, to your exact specifications and requirements. You don’t need to do a thing other than climb in and relax.

The second is the poolside service, which is intended to be “anticipatory” service. In other words, the poolside “butlers” will be there to meet your needs before you even know you need it – from washing the sand off your feet as you come off the beach, to replenishing your towels, and spritzing you with Evian Mist to cool you off.

And then there is the technology. All Emirates Palace luxury rooms suites are equipped with the ultimate in gadgetry - including extra large plasma TV’s in each room, a wireless internet network that covers the Palace, pool and beach areas, a fully interactive TV system and electronic programming guides to provide instant rewind and pause of television programming. There is also a selection of online books, which you can choose to read yourself, or have them read to you. A selection of over 3000 music tracks are also available. Your room telephone can be carried and answered wherever you are in the hotel – be it the beach, the conference facilities or the spa.

It is just simply phenomenal. And I haven’t even touched on the conference facilities, the restaurants, the shops (including everything from Rodeo Drive to a caviar shops) to the private driveways and other services.

It is not just a palace in name. It’s a palace in every other way too – from service, to style, to beauty.

It is simply stunning.

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