Stephen Covey is the author of many life-changing practical books on reinventing yourself to be the best you can be, (my favourite being First Things First, where there is a Chapter: ‘The first thing is to make the first thing, the first thing’). He also wrote:
Live out of your imagination,
not your history.
…and so lived the amazingly creative thinker, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Emir (Prince) and Hakim (Ruler) of Abu Dhabi and Rais (President) of the United Arab Emirates.
Sheikh Zayed ruled Abu Dhabi over the 30 years when it was transformed – under his foresight – from not more than an encampment around a lone fort into an amazing, tree-lined city with a diversifying economic base that will successfully – and grandly – survive beyond the eventual end of the current oil and gas reserves on which the nation’s immediate excessive wealth is based.
The beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque may be his most sacred legacy – and The Emirates Palace Hotel perhaps the most magnificent secular one.
Surrounded by 85 hectares (about 210 acres) of organic, landscaped gardens, and fountains …
… that form a welcome oasis for migratory and local birdlife,
…this grandiose structure was designed to be an icon of the Emirate - and to place Abu Dhabi at the centre of Emirate politics.
Although it is a luxury hotel operated by the famous Kempinski Hotel Group, the Emirates Palace Hotel is much more than a hotel.
It was specifically designed to provide sumptuous accommodations for visiting Heads of State, with three floors given over to this and to the facilities necessary for conferences for the 6 member nations of the Gulf Co-operative Council and also of the 22 member nations of the Arab League.
The state-of-the-art conference centre can accommodate 2000 delegates and there is a medical centre, media centre, boutique shopping mall – the expected variety of spas, restaurants, and bars (with 128 kitchens and pantries – producing amongst other things 5kg of edible gold delicacies every day) - a helipad, and almost 1.5 kilometers (nearly a mile) of private beach.
The beach is staffed to attend to your every need – even if that is to be left alone!
It was into this elegant luxury that I was escorted for a birthday breakfast while working in the Emirates.
It’s possible to purchase a package for a meal, afternoon tea, or breakfast – and I have to say it is a magical way to celebrate.
You arrive to a shady entrance…
…and pass through these enormous cast glass doors…
… past two of these Curio cabinets.
They each weigh more than 1 tonne and were hand-crafted in Thailand.
One dreads to think of the value of the curios inside.
From here you find yourself in a shiny entrance, with art-deco-styled chandeliers and lanterns…
…in the highly polished marble floor…
…as if drawing you magically onto a secret pathway you want to follow…
…to contemplative corners.
The flower displays are exceptional – even by Emirates standards - here with orchids…
…and in the bars…
The marble used in the Emirates Palace came from 13 countries and outside is as highly polished as inside – to keep the ever present desert dust from settling on the grand structure.
There are more than 113 domes, their gold plated mosaics on the filials on the top being the only gold in the entire construction (according to the architect’s overview – and contrary to urban legend).
The largest central dome is one the widest spans in the world and is an essential feature of the cooling for the building to keep it ecologically sound.
It seems like some sort of opera house towering above the entrance lobby, with the detail of each balcony like some elaborate theatre box from which to view the performance on the stage below.
But the stage for our performance was here beneath these lofty arches,
…looking out onto the western end of the cornice lagoon, across the private beach.
We first walked around under the high arches of the verandahs, soaking in all the patterns…
…and the turquoise sea reflected in the pink-framed doorway windows…
…the inside somehow seeming to merge with the outside to form small cameos of beauty.
It was Ramadan, and we had also been following the fasting tradition along with our colleagues, but not today. While they would wait to break their fast in communal meals after the imman’s call to prayer in the evening, we devoured a delicious breakfast in our lofty restaurant.
Companies, families and communities hold special Iftar meals – often in Iftar tents – and you have never seen so much food disappear so quickly.
The Iftar tent at the Emirates Palace was set in the gardens, adjacent to the hotel.
It was no small affair.
It sat just a few steps from the shoreline, and the supports and their shadows criss-crossed the broad white tent in patterns above…
…while below, the details of the entrance walk added to the art of the whole presentation.
The Emirates Palace is a sort of fairyland for me, with my fascination with reflections…
…for it seemed that each window…
…had been specially designed to capture several facets of the environment..
..and not just to undertake its main function of maintaining the interior coolness.
The breakfast was wonderful. I cannot imagine how the afternoon tea with gold drizzled chocolates must be… but to be made to feel special, this was a birthday treat that excelled!
Coco Chanel could have been talking about the elegance of the Emirates Palace Hotel when she said:
Some people think luxury
is the opposite of poverty.
It is not.
It is the opposite of vulgarity.
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