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The Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi: ‘It’s massive! Literally dripping in gold’ |


The Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi: ‘It’s massive! Literally dripping in gold’

IN BETWEEN DEADLINES - Cheryl Tiu - The Philippine Star
The Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi: âItâs massive! Literally dripping in goldâ
Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, one of the most expensive hotels in the world to ever be built, has recently rebranded to a Mandarin Oriental property.
Photos courtesy of Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental

It’s going to take you 10 minutes to get from your room to the lobby,” a friend of mine who had stayed at the Emirates Palace advised. “It’s massive. And everything is literally dripping in gold.”

I was traveling to Abu Dhabi for the 2023 Middle East and North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony — my first time in the UAE — and I was going to be calling one of the most expensive hotels in the world to have ever been built — at over US$3 billion! — my home.

It was an easy, nine-hour direct flight from Manila to the UAE capital with Etihad Airways, which departs shortly after midnight, arriving at 6 a.m. local time — perfect for a full start of the day. (I’m pleased to report that they have a delicious vegetarian Arabic breakfast of grilled aubergine stuffed with feta, and cheese fatayer, served with cucumber, olives and tomato, which can be had all day, yum!) And since it was too early for me to check into my hotel, I went to the Etihad Arrivals lounge at the airport to get some work done before heading off to the city.

When Googling “sights to visit in Abu Dhabi,” the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, The Louvre, Ferrari World and Emirates Palace come out on top. The hotel, which recently rebranded as a Mandarin Oriental property, features over 6,000 square meters of 22-carat gold leaves (it’s larger than the Buckingham Palace), over 1,000 Swarovski crystal chandeliers, and 114 detailed domes, including the biggest one in the world, rising higher than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The Deluxe Sea View room at Emirates Palace offers stunning views of the Gulf.

Driving towards the property, it’s instinct to whip out the phone camera to capture its majesty, in video, especially in the evening when it is lit up and the fountain waters are on. (Due to its size, a photo won’t do it justice.)

Security is extra-tight here. Before entering the driveway, each vehicle is inspected, and security is present throughout the property. For hotel guests, while there is a necessary keycard scan to enter the segregated room areas, there are also guards at both the East and West wings.

While Abu Dhabi is one of the safest cities in the world, I could not have felt even safer.  They truly watch out for their guests, which, of course, include heads of state, dignitaries and celebrities. Walking to the room does take 10 minutes, but the sights along the way are breathtaking. The architecture. The domes. The gold.

“Please take lots of photos of your room!” was the resounding instruction from my friends. I think because of Emirates Palace’s incredibly ornate public spaces, there is an expectation that the 390 rooms and suites will be over the top. It’s actually more of a quiet, elegant luxury and totally brand-new (they underwent a renovation in time for the rebrand).

I stayed at the Deluxe Sea View Room, which has an ultra-comfortable king bed, a cozy sofa, a dining/work table, fresh flowers, a shower and bathtub (Diptyque Philosykos shower amenities), and a balcony that looks out to the pristine blue Gulf, offering some of the most stunning sunrise and sunset views. It was a time in my life I wanted to get home early so I could cocoon in my room and wake up early to stroll their private beach.

Breakfast in the morning is at Vendome, with buffet stations offering everything from Continental to Japanese and Chinese cuisines. The Arabic station was my favorite and I returned for numerous helpings of assorted labneh, hummus, muhamarra, mutabal, fatayer, falafel, manakish with zaatar, and so on.

There are only three restaurants in the entire Abu Dhabi to have been awarded Michelin stars, and two out of three of them are at Emirates Palace: Hakkasan (which is also at No. 49 on the MENA 50 Best Restaurants list) and Talea by Antonio Guida. (Guida’s Seta at the Mandarin Oriental in Milan is decorated with two Michelin stars).

I had lunch at Talea during my stay and it was one of my favorite dining experiences in all of Abu Dhabi, as it stood out for both food and hospitality. Led by chef Luigi Stinga, who was awarded the Michelin Young Chef Award for 2023 (he was formerly at the Mandarin Oriental in Kuala Lumpur), dishes are immediate crowd favorites, particularly the linguine astice with Canadian lobster, and orecchiete con pomodorini served with Stracciatella cheese, and the tiramisu, prepared tableside.

In total, the property is currently home to 10 restaurants, including BBQ Al Qasr, dubbed as one of the most romantic restaurants in the city, and the beach club restaurant Las Brisas, which hosted Toyo Eatery’s Jordy Navarra late 2022 to showcase our Filipino cuisine.

The gilded bathroom

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For more information, visit Emirates Palace’s website at

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