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UAE: Dubai welcomes A-listers for extravagant opening of Atlantis, the Palm

November 21, 2008 |  3:01 am

Dubai_party With Denzel Washington, Robert DeNiro and Charlize Theron walking the red carpet under a sky bursting with what seemed a galactic storm of fireworks, Dubai was in the spotlight of extravagance Thursday night.

As the world wobbles to the woes of the global financial crisis, the Persian Gulf city, known for its excesses, hosted reportedly the most expensive private party ever thrown: A $20 million gala to celebrate a new luxury resort built on a palm tree-shaped artificial island.

Everything was designed to ooze wealth and chic at the launch of the 1.5-billion-dollar Atlantis, the Palm hotel.

Around 2,500 guests including Hollywood celebrities and star athletes, politicians and royals were present. The fireworks were seven times bigger than this year's Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing and "visible from space," according to organizers.

And the party was headlined by Australian pop star Kylie Minogue, who wore a black and gold corset and pants, designed by John-Paul Gaultier.

One disappointment, though, was that one of the most glamorous guests, Oprah Winfrey, was not able to attend. 

Sol Kerzner, the South African tycoon and the chairman of Kerzner International, which owns the Atlantis hotel, reportedly said at the party:

“From the beginning, I have been working with my team to create places where people can escape their everyday lives. Atlantis, the Palm is the realization of a vision. ... Tonight was a landmark event.”

The marine-themed resort started hosting tourists in September. The hotel has a gigantic aquarium with 65,000 fish and a rare whale-shark, as well as a dolphinarium with more than two dozen bottlenose dolphins flown in from the Solomon Islands, not without protests from environmental activists. 

The two pale rose towers of the five-star hotel contain 1,539 rooms, including a three-bedroom, three-bathroom suite that features a gold-leaf, 18-seat dining table for $25,000 a night.

With its giant tower, lavish hotels and fancy malls, Dubai has become in few decades a Middle-East hub for business and tourism.

The local English-language daily, Khaleej Times, described the party’s atmosphere as dazzling: 

“Mesmerized guests, including A-list celebrities, watched in admiration and wonder as one of the largest display in world unfolded in front of their eyes. Many stood on chairs and took innumerable photos to capture the show that was both fascinating and extravagant.”

Reporters from Dubai’s Gulf News blogged live from the party until 3 a.m.:

“On a more surreal note, massive pink dragons and jellyfish are snaking (is that the right word??) through the crowds offering culinary delights from mega chefs Giorgio Locatello and Nobu Matsuhisa. Dozens of men are dressed as gladiators as the story of Atlantis is told (the legend that is, not the building of this hotel).”

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut.

Photo: Fireworks over Dubai. Credit: Sky News