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6 insanely opulent hotels in the Mideast
Palaces, submarine rides to dinner, gold leaf ceilings -- these are a few of the Middle East's favorite things
Nothing succeeds like excess, as Oscar Wilde so rightly said.
These luxury hotels in the Middle East have taken that message to heart, putting together some of the most extravagant experiences that your money probably can't buy.
Even if you can't check in, you can check them out.
1. Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
The endless opulence at this sprawling cupola-clad palace includes 114 decorative domes and 1,001 crystal chandeliers that come with their own full-time cleaning crew.
Covered in marble and gold from wing to wing -- a 1,100-yard (one-kilometer) stroll in itself -- the US$3 billion hotel takes every opportunity to drive home the luxe message, whether with a gold bar vending machine, edible gold desserts or US$958 dish of braised abalone with truffles served at its Hakkasan restaurant.
In 2010, the hotel erected the world’s most expensive gem-laden Christmas tree, valued at US$11 million.
West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; + 971 2 690 7944; rates start at US$1,198; www.kempinski.com
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2. Burj Al Arab Hotel, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
A functionary with a clipboard guards the drawbridge to Dubai’s most iconic hotel, where white Rolls-Royce Phantoms pass for hotel taxis, the staff to guest ratio is 8:1 and US$2,700 buys a scenic aerial arrival on the rooftop helipad.
Visitors can take a yellow submarine ride to the underwater depths of Al Mahara restaurant and splurge US$675 on 1.75 ounces (50 grams) of Beluga caviar before a sky-high nightcap, and bill to match, with a US$1,300 Bon Fire cocktail.
Burj Al Arab, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; +971 4 301 7266; rates start at US$2,725; www.jumeirah.com
3. Le Gray, Beirut, Lebanon
This hotel is a magnet for art lovers.
Owner and collector Gordon Campbell Gray has filled one of Beirut’s most extravagant buildings with more than 500 handpicked works of art, including a candy-covered baby elephant sculpture by Nadim Karam.
Bar ThreeSixty, a favorite haunt of Lebanese designer Elie Saab, has panoramic city views and a blue lacquered baby grand as its kooky centerpiece.
Martyrs’ Square, Central Beirut District, Lebanon; +961 1 962 800, rates start at US$355; www.legray.com
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4. Qasr Al Sharq, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Carpet so thick you need skis to navigate the corridors and rooms of imported marble compose a 46-suite homage to all things Italianate at the Qasr Al Sharq.
The ceilings sport 132 pounds (60 kilos) of gold leaf. A chandelier studded with 600,000 Swarovski crystals hangs over the main staircase.
Recommended: Mataam Al Sharq restaurant’s signature dish of whole roasted fig bird in pomegranate sauce.
North Corniche Road, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; +966 2 659 9999; rates start at US$495; www.qasralsharqjeddah.com
5. Al Bustan Palace, Muscat, Oman
The grandfather of palatial opulence in the region, this hotel has dominated the Gulf of Oman coastline for almost three decades.
Traditionally attired Omani doormen welcome guests with one hand resting casually on curved silver daggers tucked into their belts, watching with amusement as jaws drop and necks crane in front of the 124-foot-high (38 meter) octagonal lobby done up with with rosewood, mother-of-pearl, gold leaf inlays and a colossal three-ton, 59-foot-high (18 meter) Bohemian crystal chandelier.
Royal watchers may catch an occasional glimpse of Sultan Qaboos, who reportedly retains an entire floor for personal use.
Other distractions include lagoon-facing rooms with private terrace access and a half-mile-plus stretch of beachfront, the longest in Oman.
Al Bustan Street, Muscat, Oman; +968 2479 9666; rates start at US$520; www.ritzcarlton.com
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6. Mardan Palace, Antalya, Turkey
Ok, so technically this hotel isn't in the Middle East as we describe the region, but it gets on our list due to the sheer flamboyance of the Turkish Riviera’s most outré digs.
With the largest swimming pool in the Mediterranean -- some 172,000 square feet (16,000 square meters) -- guests can take the plunge or opt for a gilt-crowned gondola ride instead.
The fantasy vibe continues with a Michael Jackson-esque zoo and dedicated spa snow room, plus life-size replicas of Istanbul landmarks on every corner and a private beach made from 9,000 tons of imported Egyptian sand.
Spa time at this hotel means a shrink-wrap Vacustyler gym session (a favorite circulation booster for NASA astronauts) or a US$700 champagne bath and massage.
Kundu Köyü, Oteller Mevkii, Lara 07110, Antalya, Turkey; +90 242 310 4100; rates start at US$306; www.mardanpalace.com.tr
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