Friday, November 16:  The Emirates Palace is an enormous luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi that opened in 2005, with 400 rooms and suites, 114 domes, and a 1.3km private beach.  It is reported to have cost 3.9 billion British pounds, or 6.3 million U.S. dollars, making it the second most expensive hotel ever built, after the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.  Many of the suites offered are furnished in gold and marble. The main central lobby houses an expansive marble floor, balconies and a large patterned dome above, decked out in gold. The hotel boasts 1,002 Swarovski crystal chandeliers. The topmost floor has six Rulers’ Suites which are reserved solely for Emirati royalty and dignitaries.  If you’d like to stay in this super-expensive hotel, please see Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi.

Emirates Palace

The nice thing is that visitors are allowed to walk all around most of the ground floor at any time of day, at no charge.

In addition to all the glitz and glamor, the hotel houses the Saadiyat Island Cultural District Exhibition, which showcases models and background information about the five key cultural institutions which will be built on a nearby island: The Guggenheim, Louvre, Maritime Museum, Sheikh Zayed National Museum and Performing Arts Centre.

Click on any of the images below for a full-sized slide show.

Construction on the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, created by Frank Gehry, is already underway.  This museum, which will showcase international modern art, looks like a jumbled pile of geometrical shapes, including cylinders, prisms, cones and rectangular blocks.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Frenchman Jean Nouvel, will have a white dome perforated by lacy designs, allowing light to filter through like sunlight through a canopy of leaves.  The galleries will include paintings, drawings, sculptures and decorative arts drawn from the Paris Louvre’s collection.

The Maritime Museum, designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, has a Zen-like, pared down quality.

And finally, the Performing Arts Centre has a fluid, futuristic design by Iraq-born Zaha Hadid.

A later phase will include the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, a local branch of New York University, art pavilions and parks.  For more information, you can visit Saadiyat Cultural District: Master Plan.

After leaving Emirates Palace, which we can’t imagine ever spending the money to stay in, we take a drive out to Yas Island to see the 5.5km Yas Marina Circuit, a Formula One racetrack.  We see it, but, as neither of us are all that interested, we don’t stay long or even make a stop for photos.

Instead, we have a nice lunch at the Automatic, and then we head back to the hotel to relax a bit before the next exciting event on our trip: a desert safari planned for the afternoon and evening.