Monday, December 20, 2010


Image borrowed from with thanks 
My first reaction to this story's headline was, who's the Scrooge offended by a Christmas symbol this time?

Santa shoved Jesus aside long ago, and we seem to tiptoe around other Christian symbols more than ever for fear of offending the good people of other faiths. And here is this enormous, generous tree as a hotel centre-piece in a society inextricably linked with its belief in Islam.

But, fortunately, this story doesn't appear to loaded up with any sentiment other than perhaps-we-loaded-the-tree-up-with-too-many-expensive-jewels. And it's for this very reason that it's so odd.

In one of the richest places on the planet, in a hotel that cost around three-thousand-million dollars to build, that has a gold-bar vending machine (why not?), serves 5kg of edible gold on its petits-fours each year, and a $1 million dollar all-inclusive (I should think so) package, $11 million sounds about right for a Christmas tree.

In an unusual turn of events, hotel management has felt compelled to clarify just who has paid for the bling. They have even gone as far as saying that the hotel is just supplying the location for the tree. This may be so, but in a country that thrives on hubris, this is really odd.

I've been to Abu Dhabi a couple of times and would recommend a visit to anyone travelling through the region or on to Europe. Great airline, fascinating place, great food (Lebanese Flower is my pick), simultaneously ultra-modern and traditional, welcoming, familiar, unfamiliar, friendly...and blow-you-away things at every turn. Take an $11 million Christmas tree for starters. Raise it one Ferrari World, a Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a Yas Marina Circuit, a planned Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim museum, a Louvre, and you get the picture.

Image - Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Emirates Palace may be one of the world's most expensive hotel buildings, but it really is lovely and, if you've got the money, surprisingly good value. I very much enjoyed my paid-for-by-someone-else stay in one of the lead-in hotel rooms. My only complaint, really, was that it took my butler AGES to run through all the features of the room and property.

Like Abu Dhabi itself, Emirates Palace really is something.

And $11 million for a Christmas tree? Bah, humbug!

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