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08 May, 2005

Golden Hogwarts

Abu Dhabi's latest mega-hotel, the "seven-star" Emirates Palace, is breathtakingly grandiose from the exterior. Inside, it is a bizarre labyrinth of passages, atria, winding stairways and escalators, vaulted ceilings and cloisters, all bathed in an unnatural, yellow-beige-gold light.

Everything is in the same tones of gold and beige and pale brown and cream: there is no contrast at all. The problem is that some truly beautiful details: a gold mosaic, or a moulded ceiling like the inside of a golden shell, are lost in the all-pervasive beigeness. There is also a dearth of natural light.

The staff is excellent, the rooms lovely (bar the buggy remote entertainment/ambience control system), the food superb: but the overall interior effect is Hogwarts converted into the world's largest airport lounge.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks like we can't win. We either have the Burj Al Arab that looks like it was designed by Salvadore Dali and built by King Midas, or we get bland beige monotones.
However, it does nicely illustrate the differences between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. One is brash and outlandish, the other conservative and traditional.

08 May, 2005 16:47  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Actually, seeing Emirates Palace has given me a new appreciation for the Burj. OK - it is "Versace on acid" - but the big gold pillars are nicely contrasted with bright colours, there is a heap of natural light, and interesting and spectacular features like the fish tanks and interior fountain.

It is truly unique.

There is also no way with such an original, space-age exterior and structure that you could fit out the interior to match any genre of traditional decor. So I have a better understanding now of why they did it like they did it.

As for Al Muntaha and its bizarre decor - well we all know why that was kitted out that way - *nudge* *wink* at a good-old expat legend...

Anyway if you visit Emirates Palace, let me know what you think. The breakfast restaurant (Le Vencome?) was actually lovely, with vaulted ceilings - but it enjoyed masses of natural light as well. Much of the rest is really bland though.

08 May, 2005 17:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of bland. I was in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago, and whilst stopped at traffic lights I realised that out of the forty or so cars that were queued up, mine was the only one that wasn't white.
White must be the new black in Abu Dhabi.

08 May, 2005 17:49  
Blogger L Lucan said...

The interior designer was probably from the Sub-Continent. People from this region tend to have a propensity to dress in browns and beiges, often including an eclectic mix of checks and stripes somewhat akin to 1970's MFI furniture fabrics.

10 May, 2005 15:43  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Apparently something called KYA did the interior design, but I can't find a website for them.

10 May, 2005 20:24  
Blogger desertdamsel said...

Me also stayed at the "palace" and I was left wondering whether there was something wrong with me as I would've much preferred somethingless than 7 stars (I think it's 7?)... in fact, anywhere where I can have a bath in peace without my "butler" (who was a lady) running into my room after barely knocking to offer me fruit and gawd knows what type of berry sorbet sponge cake thing.

Another problem is that my calves still ache. The hotel is 1km long and has no buggy transport or moving walkways - so if you forget to take your book to the beach, it's simply a pain in the bum to go ALL the way back to your room and retrieve it.

Plus when I am half asleep after waking at 8am for breakfast I can barely speak - so why, on my 0.5 km walk to the unsignposted dining room, does it take at least 12 "morning Maam how are yous?" Thanks but I just want my breakfast.

Things I did like were: the big and lovely pool, the grandeur(I gasped when I saw it) and the sumptuous bathroom with built in music speakers (it's a shame you could only play one song at a time unless you were willing to get out of the bath and drip all the way to the sound console in the living room each time you wanted a new song).

Oh, and did I tell you that one of my doors opened onto an adjoining suite? Except there was a man in there. "Hi," I said. The man turned around and I, rather freakily, recognised him as an ex colleague.

My butler's take on this bizarre turn of events?

"Oh Maam, no need to lock the door now, yes?"


12 May, 2005 09:28  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I also noticed that they would ring the doorbell, barely wait two seconds, then start turning the handle. I didn't say anything, but that is TOTALLY unacceptable - I cannot imagine why they are doing it. Wait until a male staff member walks in to a local lady coming out of the bathroom, for example.

I would like hotels to introduce a system where on arrival, you can tick a box for service to be "relaxed" or "attentive".

Interestingly, a Saudi female journo I know who stayed at the Burj on a press trip (to review it) had exactly the same complaint. She was literally disturbed every quarter of an hour by room service. When she stopped answering the door, they started phoning her: "Madam - is everything ok? Don't you want your fruit bowl!"

12 May, 2005 09:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was interested in staying at these two hotels (Burj and Emirate Palace) so these were good information! Well, grand service and privacy are usually not synonymous. My friend once stayed at a hotel in Korea and was so annoyed by the butler who was standing 24 hours right outside the door.
But is it not a good feeling that everything is taken cared by the service? Did you not actually feel like a king or queen? You end up learning to be very lazy, though.
For example, another friend who stayed in Indonesia with large help ended up even forgetting how to wipe the kitchen table.

26 September, 2005 02:39  
Blogger secretdubai said...

For absolute sheer opulence and a really bizarre, unique experience, the Burj might be your best bet. But AD is definitely worth visiting, and there may well be some good restaurants open now at Emirates Palace (it wasn't fully open when I stayed there).

The main complaint I hear from people staying at the Burj is that they are "overserved" - they can't get any peace because there is too much attention.

It's led me to think that it would be a good idea for hotels to ask guests what level of attention they would like when they arrive: "relaxed" or "attentive". If the former, endless doorknocks with complementary drinks, fruit bowls, bed-turn-downs, bath-pourers etc etc could be reduced/omitted, along with the lengthy introductory tour of the in-room entertainment system and facilities (when all you want to do after a long flight is shower and sleep). These things could easily be done on request only.

26 September, 2005 02:50  

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