I think the first thing I ever saw getting off the plane in Dubai was this huge christmas tree in the middle of the airport. Can't they appeal to tourism in a different way? I get the impression they think the tree is not of deep religious significance, just a cultural thing part of Christmas...perhaps it is...but really?? --J.
Wall Street Journal
ABU DHABI–Money may not grow on trees, but in this oil-rich emirate, it’s at least hanging from the branches.
The Emirates Palace hotel–already the home of the world’s first gold ATM–has decked out a 43-foot-high Christmas tree with about $11-million worth of precious jewelry from a local jeweler.
Diamond necklace-and-earring sets, strings of pearls, and emerald and ruby bracelets–181 pieces in total–are strewn between the more mundane gold and silver balls and bows. The priciest piece is a diamond set costing 3.5 million dirhams, or just short of $1 million.
“It’s an artificial tree, but the jewelry—that’s not artificial,” the hotel’s general manager, Hans Olbertz, said at an opening event Wednesday.
No matter that the United Arab Emirates, of which Abu Dhabi is the capital, is a Muslim country. The city-state sits on the world’s sixth-largest crude oil reserves, and is one of the wealthiest places on earth by per-capita gross domestic product. It’s opened its arms to foreigners of all stripes and, along with its glitzier neighbor Dubai, has tried hard to draw well-heeled international visitors.
“It’s a very liberal country, and it’s very refined,” Olbertz said. “We’ve always had it here, and this is just another sort of PR idea.”
Emirates Palace has a track record of over-the-top stunts. It installed a gold ATM near its lobby, where customers can buy bullion. It holds a Guinness world record for serving up the most expensive shot of alcohol–at some $2,000 for a Hardy Perfection cognac.
The hotel will try to get its tree recognized by Guinness as well, as the world’s most expensively dressed. Staff cites just one other, close competitor: a Japanese tree that has also applied for the title, with decorations valued at $10.8 million. Officials at London-based Guinness World Records weren’t available for comment.