14 November 2005

UAE - Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi

As you do when any visitors come to town to stay, you take them to places that sometimes you've never seen either. Such as when M's parents were in Dubai for 2 weeks, and we took them to the Emirates Palace at the western end of the Corniche in Abu Dhabi which is the capital city of the UAE.

Run by the Kempinski Hotels management, (the same compa
ny with hotels in Ajman and a new one about to opened at the Mall of the Emirates), this amazing place really has to be experienced to be believed. No expense has been spared to make this an iconic landmark on the Abu Dhabi waterfront.
It's main purpose is to serve as a place to host the royal families and heads of state of the GCC countries when they come to visit the UAE, and need a place to rest their weary heads. There's no going in the main entry door for these folks: from the gates at the front 2 corners of the hotel grounds, there's a car access ramp especially for the GCC visitors which puts them into a private Majlis (meeting and welcome) area, after which they are whisked into their suites. Quite rightly too - who would want to mix with the hoi polloi below, who if our palace tour guide could be believed, can spend over Euro 3,000 per night to stay in one of the 'smaller' suites.

On our visit in October '05, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the guards at the gate waved us through without making us stop to give us the 3rd degree. They have VERY tall doormen at the front entrance, and we chatted to a couple of them who were from Nigeria and the Philippines. They told us that they were picked for the job based on their height! Every staff member that we encountered was extremely pleasant and helpful, and we were made to feel very welcome. Even when we ventured into areas that were out-of-bounds, the security guards went to great lengths to politely steer us back to where we were officially allowed to be.

J had booked us into Le Vendome Brasserie for lunch. There mu
st have been at least 100 dishes on the buffet tables: there were 5 long benches bowed under the weight of every conceivable dish that you could imagine. It did make us wonder how much food is wasted, as there were only around 20 people in the restaurant, and the amount eaten didn't cause a dent in any of the food.
After lunch, we signed on for the hotel tour which we were lucky enough to get for free, because we had eaten in the hotel. Our guide was a very pleasant, tall Russian woman who took us on a tour of 3 different sizes of accommodation suites, the gym, the auditorium and the ballroom.

There is a distance of 1 km to walk from one side of the hotel to the other! We were shown suites in the main dome area, as well as in the West Wing of the hotel.

The gym is state-of-the art, as is everything else in this place. All the rooms have the latest electronic equipment - free internet, audio and stereo equipment; with at least one over 50" plasma TV mounte
d on the walls - some suites had 2 of these: 1 in the lounge and 1 in the bedroom.

You could host a party in the bathrooms, and some suites had dining rooms that could seat small, intimate soirees of about 20 people!

Our tour group did think that the furnishings were a bit bland a
nd neutral for the size of the rooms. It would have been nice to have a splash of bright colour in either the curtains or the bedspreads, instead of all the beige and neutral 'colours of the desert' in which the rooms were decorated.

If the Swarovski family wasn't already rich, then they could surely retire on what was earned from the chandeliers that their company was commissioned to create and assemble for the Palace. Each one was a work of art, and all people on the tour agreed that we wouldn't like the twice-yearly job of hand-polishing every individual crystal in the hundreds of chandeliers that were installed throughout the hotel.

The grounds of the hotel are beautiful. From a distance, we saw a pool that looked like a river which wound its way around islands of greenery. The river had a water current running through it, so the swimmers could either go with the flow, or swim against it. The beach was manicured to perfection, and there were lots of areas to sit in the shade and relax with a cool drink served by the ever-attentive staff.

With the tour officially over, we were invited to privately walk around the public areas at our leisure, after which we drove back to Dubai; totally bemused at the opulence, richness and grandeur that we had just witnessed.