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What It’s Like To Spend A Luxurious Night At Abu Dhabi’s 7-Star Emirates Palace Hotel
(3 February 2014)


Visitors to Abu Dhabi won’t get inside the ruling family’s presidential compound without a diplomat’s visa, but the 7-star Emirates Palace hotel on West Corniche Road is the next best thing. In a country where every luxury hotel is over-the-top, this one, built by the royal Al Nahyan family in 2005, is more like the royals’ guest house, and that makes it stand out.

Plus, unlike the 7-star, $1,600-a-night Burj al Arab in Dubai, seven-figure incomes are not required, as rooms start at $470 a night. But if guests do feel like splurging, there are $500-an-hour Maybachs at their disposal. Forget getting behind the wheel — this man-toy comes with a driver.

Click here to go inside the lavish Emirates Palace >>
“In every hotel you go, you have to pay for the glitz. Whatever you pay at the Palace may be a little more than most hotels, but you will get a lot more too,” said hotel general manager Holger Schroth. “The hotel is so big, you have a lot of places to be anonymous and alone. We could have just filled the place with gold, but we’d rather spend it on the retail end and the service end to really give visitors the experience of living in a palace.”

For true one-percenters, there are 48 7,320-square-foot Palace Suites. Guests can get in for a mere $15,000 a night, which is about half the price of most big city presidential suites (A suite at the Four Seasons in New York will cost you over $30,000). James Cameron stayed here, as have Bill Clinton, Jon Bon Jovi, and Elton John. The suites are a bit more Elton than Jovi.

Enormous Swarovski crystal chandeliers hang from the ceilings in the suite entrances. There’s a Romanesque bathtub raised by marble steps, and the ubiquitous mosaic tiled wall.

There are silk brocade sofas in the living room, a private dining room with seating for 12, and balcony with views of Abu Dhabi. It looks like a city of the 22nd century, the buildings outlined with blue neon lighting.

In addition to the suites, there are some parts of the Palace that are completely off-limited to ordinary people, even wealthy ones: six Royal Ruler suites with private car access.

“Each Ruler suite is dedicated to leaders from the Emirates,” said hotel representative Mohammed Alauoi of the seven cities that make up the UAE. “No one but them has ever stayed here.”

Media cameras were not allowed inside, but we were blown away by the private cinema, private library, gold and marble staircase, spa bath, gold leaf vanity sinks, boardroom, hair salon, and ridiculous rotating canopy bed in each Ruler suite.

For the 99-Percenters
Fortunately, the Emirates Palace also lets ordinary people feel like billionaires, since a room can be had for under $500.

This version of the Emirates Palace is also remarkable: Local men roam the lobby in their dish-dasha and keffiyehs, and black-robed women don head scarves. Deeper in the lobby, live soft piano music plays for people at the Caviar Bar.

The Palace lobby has 8,000 date palms standing about 26 feet tall. The “Gold ATM” machine is gawked at mostly by Asian tourists, but it doesn’t dispense gold bars. It’s more of a curiosity dispensing little gold souvenirs.

Women guests are welcomed with little bouquets of roses, and then whisked off to their rooms. There’s no way a guest could navigate the hotel alone — it’s too massive. Plan on getting lost at least twice.

The Palace has East and West wings, separated in the middle by a 245-foot-high dome measuring 148 feet across. It looks immensely Islamic up there with all its arabesque mosaic tiles in blue and yellow. When the sun shines through just right, it appears as if a UFO landed over the lobby.

The room key is shaped like an ancient golden coin. The rooms are mini-palatial, and look worth the $470-a-night price tag.

Guest suites are 590 square feet of beige and gold upholstery and come with a private balcony. The bathroom is understatedly rich: there’s a large tub for two with marble surroundings. Your floor butler can deliver the champagne, the rest is up to you.

Disclosure: Etihad Airways paid travel expenses to and from Abu Dhabi.


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