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$11 Million Christmas Tree Excess

Abu Dhabi hotel takes holiday spirit a bit too far

Dec 20, 2010

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi Emirates Palace hotel had to admit that it may have taken the holiday spirit a wee bit too far when it decorated its Christmas tree with gold, diamonds and rubies worth $11 million.

The Associated Press reports that a statement from the Emirates Palace hotel said it regretted "attempts to overload" the Christmas tree tradition by adorning it with premium bling including gold, rubies, diamonds and other precious stones from a hotel jeweler.

The statement was a rare bit of reflection on the Gulf's ethos of excess. The tree was unveiled last week with full fanfare in a hotel that features its own gold bar vending machine and a one-week $1 million package that includes private jet jaunts around the Middle East.

But the hotel management apparently had second thoughts after questions arose about whether the opulent tree was innocent good cheer or unfortunate bad taste.

State-run news agency WAM said that in hotel's statement Emirates Palace regrets "attempts to overload the tradition followed by most hotels in the country with meanings and connotations that do not fall in line with the (hotel's) professional standards." The hotel even tried to distance itself from the 43-foot (13-meter) faux fir in one of its rotundas, saying a hotel-based jeweler was solely responsible for creating and decorating the tree.

"The hotel is just a venue for exhibiting the tree," the statement said.

According to AP, the hotel also claimed the tree was not a stunt, but rather an effort to boost the holiday mood for its guests based on the United Arab Emirates' "values of openness and tolerance."

Although officially Muslim, the UAE features many signs of Christmas for its huge foreign population. Lights, carolers and Santas are fixtures in nearly every mall.

Abu Dhabi hotel takes holiday spirit a bit too far
Guest walks past the $11million Christmas tree at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi / AFP

Source: AP, WAM

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