Dubai eyes palm extravaganza, despite financial woe

Thu Nov 20, 2008 3:44pm EST
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By Ola Galal

DUBAI (Reuters) - The world may be tightening its belt but mere money woes have failed to thwart the star-studded grand opening of Dubai's Atlantis hotel on a palm-shaped island visible from space.

The launch of the $1.5 billion mega resort on Thursday will feature red carpet appearances by a who's who of A-list stars from Oprah Winfrey to Charlize Theron, under a sky exploding with what promises to be the world's largest fireworks display.

While even Dubai is feeling the pain of the global financial crisis, and prices of real estate on the much-vaunted Palm Jumeirah are plummeting, Australian diva Kylie Minogue will open the glitzy Gulf tourism hub's ocean-themed hotel with her debut concert in the Middle East.

"It's not the perfect timing to open a $1.5 billion resort. On the other hand, we don't build something like this with the short-term in mind," said gaming and resort magnate Sol Kerzner, chairman and chief executive officer of Kerzner International.

"I believe Dubai will come to be one of the top destinations in the world."

Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, the world's fifth largest oil-exporter, kicked off a regional real estate boom when it opened the sector to private investment in 2002.

Boasting year-round sunshine and sandy beaches, Dubai, home to developments from the sail-shaped Burj al-Arab to the world's tallest tower, has attracted a growing number of tourists.

Atlantis Dubai, a pink maze of arches that looms large on the city's skyline, includes an aquarium boasting 65,000 sea creatures including sharks, eels and rays, a water park and a priceless sculpture made of 3,000 hand blown pieces of glass.   Continued...

<p>Atlantis, The Palm is seen in Dubai during light tests, ahead of the opening of the resort, November 20, 2008. The $1.5 billion mega resort with 1,539 rooms is the first resort to open on Dubai's Palm Jumeirah artificial island. REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh</p>