The glittering metropolis of Dubai has long captured media attention and column inches for its extravagant and ostentatious reputation for gold-standard luxury. However, whilst Dubai has made the headlines, Abu Dhabi has flown under the radar by comparison. You would do well not to judge a book by its cover, of course – for all Dubai’s conspicuous wealth, it is Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE and its centre of political power, that has come to be recognised as the world’s richest city.
In a region which is famed the world over for being a playground for millionaires and billionaires, it says much when something emerges of such eye-watering lavish expense and luxury that it raises even Emirati eyebrows. And yet, that is exactly what Emirates Palace – the crown jewel of Abu Dhabi – has achieved in recent years. Endeavour Magazine caught up with the General Manager of Emirates Palace, Holger Schroth, to find out more.
Situated on its own private beach in the heart of Abu Dhabi, Emirates Palace is one of only two seven-star hotels in the world. What is there to say? Dubai’s Burj Al Arab aside, the breath-taking sight of Emirates Palace is utterly without rival. The Palace, with its wonderfully intricate architecture and stonework, has been modelled on a sumptuous palace that could have been lifted from the pages of the Islamic Golden Age. Emirates Palace truly is the last word in luxury, such is its opulence and attention to the smallest detail, and is an example of what can be achieved if you have a US$3.5 billion budget with which to build the world’s most decadent hotel.
When asked to elaborate, Holger explained: “Emirates Palace is more than a mere hotel; it is a living landmark. Unlike landmarks in other countries, we are a landmark you can actually stay in and feel a part of history. But we do much more than provide a night’s respite to tourists visiting or people travelling for business. Our property hosts preeminent events, such as annual international sporting events, training camps and sessions, industry conferences, local gatherings and so many weddings, Emirates Palace sits in the heart of the capital as a symbol of the nation’s past, adjacent to its future and as a symbol of UAE heritage.
Locally, regionally and nationally, people view us as the must-see tourist destination, while businesses utilise our event space when the want to make a lasting impression on clients by hosting their affairs in a setting that is widely regarded as the very quintessence of Arabian culture.”
Emirates Palace is widely regarded to be a glittering legacy left behind by the late President, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who originally commissioned construction of the hotel in 2001. The Palace is as colossal in size as it is luxurious, occupying a surface area of one million square metres of floor space – more than ten times that of Buckingham Palace. And if this alone wasn’t impressive enough, much of this space is laid with the finest imported marble, and gilded with 6,000m2 of 22-carat gold leaf. There is little doubt that Emirates Palace has succeeded in its creator’s goal of showcasing not only the beauty of Arabian culture and architecture, but in also demonstrating the unimaginable wealth and splendour of the city of Abu Dhabi.
The designers of Emirates Palace understood that first impressions count, which is why no expense has been spared in ensuring that a visitor’s first experience of the Palace is nothing short of otherworldly. Upon entering the Palace’s main atrium, guests are greeted by the sight of one of the tallest domes in the world – larger even than the dome of St. Peter’s cathedral in the Vatican. However, this colossal gold-gilded dome – one of 114 to be found in Emirates Palace – is not the only spectacle to greet guests.
Every effort has been made to highlight the grandeur of the Palace. The atrium interior, like that of the entire structure, has been decorated with 13 different colours of marble, ranging from sunrise yellow to sunset red – much like the different hues of the desert surrounding Abu Dhabi. Then, there are the golden horns and chandeliers that it houses in abundance, along with a further 1,002 Swarovski crystal chandeliers, and an expanse of gold, silver, and glass mosaics. If this spectacular entrance wasn’t already enough, there is a second VIP entrance to the Palace exclusively for the use only of visiting royal figures from other Persian Gulf countries, one modelled in an Arc de Triomphe fashion, through which their motorcades pass through.
Such opulent décor also extends to the Palace’s 302 grand rooms, which themselves come with floors of inlaid marble and soft carpeting. Recessed ceiling lighting almost imperceptibly illuminate a muted colour-scheme inspired by the desert sands outside. While the Palace is clearly aimed at an exclusive high-net worth clientele, guestrooms are divided into Coral (110m²), Pearl (140m²) and Diamond (220m²) categories.
In addition to these guestrooms, there are 92 suites, which are include 20 Khaleej suites (110m²), 20 Khaleej deluxe suites (165m²), four Royal Khaleej suites (110m²) and 16 three-bedroom palace suites (680m²). A stay in one of the Palace’s luxury suites will come at great cost, but will provide an experience that is unlike anything else guests will have ever experienced. This is as it should be – the Emirates Palace is also the official guest palace of the government of Abu Dhabi, after all, and is well accustomed to hosting heads of state and their entourages. The highest floor has six rulers’ suites, which are out of bounds to all except members of the Emirati royal families.
Emirates Palace has been awarded its seven-star rating for good reason, and it’s spacious, elegant rooms are furnished to the highest levels of comfort, and decorated in warm tones to create a welcoming atmosphere that will instantly put guests at ease. Irrespective of which size room or suite guests stay in, however, all are spacious, elegant and furnished to the highest levels of comfort.
This comfort, whether being offered to heads of state, business people or newlyweds, is matched by an equally high standard of service. As one might expect, guests can call upon a 24-hour butler service, and can rest easy in the knowledge that every possible step has been taken by the hotel’s staff to make their stay an experience which will last a lifetime. When you are operating a hotel with a reputation for being the most luxurious in the world, the devil is always in the smallest detail – one must always go above and beyond to meet the expectations of an elite clientele. In this respect, through its 2000 well-trained and passionate staff, whom Holger considers to be the key to the hotel’s success, Emirates Palace delivers:
“The key is visibility so I always ensure I make daily tours of the properties extensive grounds (over one million square metres) and engage with the team. Training is the fundamental element of any successful enterprise and at Emirates Palace we have a dedicated department who works diligently throughout the year ensuring that each and every one of our employees not only develops the skills that will aid them to carry out their duties to the best of their ability, but also to develop life skill that they will practice way beyond their time at Emirates Palace.”
Take turndown service, for example – while the guest is away, staff put a sachet of lavender between the sheets to perfume them. When they are done, they then tuck the lavender under the pillows so that the fresh scent will lightly linger as the guest sleeps at night. Other small but significant services at the Palace, which is managed by the elite global hotelier, Kempinski Hotels and Resorts, include the bath butlers standing by to prepare one of seven baths listed on the bath menu. For guests who are feeling particularly lavish, there is even the option to have a bath tub filled with champagne at your leisure. There is even a pool and beach service, where attendant staff members are on-hand to clean guests’ sunglasses, cool them with soothing sprays of water, and supply fruit sticks, as they rest either near the 1.3km private beach or the two pools which stretch out to a length equivalent to several football pitches.
Quite simply, everything about Emirates Palace exists to exceed the wildest expectations of even the most discerning of guests. With such luxuries as the Emirates Palace Spa, recognised as the best in the world only last year, Kobe beef in its BBQ Al Qasr restaurant, genuine Albino caviar – only 6kg produced per year at £30,000 per kilo, of which the hotel has two kilos – and 52in plasma screens in each room, truly, Emirates Palace is a must-visit location, whether you are visiting Abu Dhabi for business or pleasure.
Holger concluded the interview by noting his excitement about what’s to come for Emirates Palace. With further improvements in the pipeline, Emirates Palace will not cede its standing as the first word in luxury anytime soon. He said: “We are continuously upgrading and improving our facilities to maintain our high standards. We recently renovated Emirates Palace Spa, and in October 2015 we upgraded our alfresco beachside restaurant, BBQ Al Qasr with new kitchens and a revamped lounge area.
We are also in the process of planning numerous special projects for next year and beyond, which we are very excited about and will expand upon at the appropriate time.”