24-Hour Room Service: Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi
Saturday 27 May 2006
The Emirates Palace is not the place to run out of suntan lotion. It may be home to 300 fountains, 114 domes, 1,002 Swarovski crystal chandeliers and 6,000sq metres of gold leaf, but dealing with such an ordinary issue in such a luxurious environment may well induce an unwelcome reality check. It is far more appropriate to indulge in a seven-course Persian feast, sip a vintage cognac or take a stroll through the landscaped gardens than attempt to track down a bottle of factor 30.
This hotel doesn't cater for the mundane. To cross the threshold is to enter a world of gilt-edged achievements: the tallest atrium in the world, an arched gatehouse to rival the Arc de Triomphe, a dome that outsizes St Paul's Cathedral. It was commissioned by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, to create an iconic landmark for his kingdom. The hotel is a fitting addition to Abu Dhabi, the largest of the UAE's seven emirates and one that has long been overshadowed by the tourist successes of its neighbour, Dubai.
Since opening last year, the golden domes of the sprawling dusky pink palace have cut a distinctive silhouette amid the gleaming towers of the city's modern skyline. Inside, the ambience of a contemporary Arabian palace prevails, with geometric patterns, mosaic tiles, towering palm trees, acres of polished Italian marble and gold leaf on every surface. Pink, gold and yellow are the dominant hues, complementing the shifting shades of the surrounding desert sands.
A gleaming white sandy beach stretches for more than a kilometre and fringes the hotel's neatly manicured gardens. For those too weary to walk from one end of its promenade to the other - and like the hotel, it is vast - a fleet of golf buggies is on hand.
As many as 10 restaurants - ranging from Lebanese to Italian - are dotted throughout the building, a 1,100-seat auditorium is the scene of conferences and concerts alike and two spas are due to open by the end of the year. And for luxury-lovers in danger of losing touch with reality? I strongly recommend a trip to the local shopping mall for some suntan lotion.
The seafront hotel overlooks the corniche and the urban skyline (00 971 2 690 9000; www.emiratespalace.com).
Time to international airport: The 38km journey takes about 25 minutes and the hotel can arrange a chauffeur-driven BMW for 250 UAE dirham (£36) each way. Alternatively, an ordinary taxi costs Dh80 (£10).
Designed to cater for varying levels of VIPs, accommodation comprises 302 luxury rooms, 40 deluxe suites, 16 palace suites and four presidential suites. Opulent golden-hued fabrics, plush carpets with traditional geometric motifs and spacious Arabian-style marble bathrooms feature throughout.
Freebies: A welcome bunch of fresh roses is handed over at reception; plates of fresh fruit; bottled water; and chocolates are placed on the pillow every night.
Keeping in touch: Every guest room and suite is fitted with at least one giant interactive plasma screen - as large as 61cm in top suites. For those able to figure out how they work, they can be used to access high-speed internet as well as watch television and keep tabs on your room bill.
A double room starts at Dh1,980 (£286) per night, including breakfast.
I'm not paying that: Instead, enjoy the rooftop swimming pool of the central Crown Plaza (0870 400 9670; www.ichotelsgroup.com). Doubles from Dh986 (£143), including breakfast.
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