Sunday, January 4, 2009

Atlantis: Dubai's Maddest Hotel


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Atlantis Lost Chambers suite

This is the place to check in to if the words 'financial meltdown' merely cause you to frown in faint puzzlement...

It was the Greek philosopher Plato who spawned the legend of Atlantis, a great empire founded by the sea-god Poseidon. Although scholars agree that Plato's tale was just that, the lost city of Atlantis has long captured our imaginations.

Its remains have been "found" over the years by psychics, adventurers and amateur archaeologists in locations ranging from Sweden to Palestine, Central Asia to Antarctica and Ireland to the Mediterranean.

According to Plato, Atlantis' inhabitants were punished for their greed and decadence by being submerged in a deluge. In Dubai, where decadence is certainly not a punishable offence, Plato's lost city has now been recreated in hotel form. The man behind the myth is Sol Kerzner, the squillionaire who created the giant piece of tack known as Sun City in South Africa. He's already built a resort called Atlantis in the Bahamas, and has now expanded his empire to Dubai with the opening of the new 1,539-room, $1.8 billion megaplex Atlantis The Palm.

The maddest hotel in Dubai

Britain's Times Online website described the development as 'the maddest hotel in Dubai'; quite an accolade for a city where bonkers architecture is most definitely the order of the day (think ski slopes in shopping malls). So just what is it that makes Atlantis so crazy? Well, for starters, it's situated in the centre of a manmade sand island shaped like a palm tree. The two 120-metre high towers that span the site are linked by a bridge containing what's quite possibly the world's most expensive suite — at $33,000, this is the place to check in to if the words 'financial meltdown' merely cause you to frown in faint puzzlement.

An aquarium in your bathroom

There's arguably no point staying in a hotel called Atlantis, though, if you're not actually underwater. Fortunately, the hotel's Lost Chambers suites provide views from both the bedroom and the bathroom windows into a lagoon filled with 65,000 marine animals. So you can relax on your bed and watch giant manta rays float slowly by, or admire the sharks from your toilet. If you can't tear yourself away long enough to eat at one of the hotel's seventeen restaurants, your personal 24-hour butler can organise room service.

Waterslides — with sharks

By day, guests can frolic in the 42-acre Aquaventure waterpark, built to look like an Atlantean monument, where waterslides like whitewater rapids shoot you through a 'shark-infested lagoon' (presumably the sharks are on the outside) before 'water escalators' take you back up to the top for another go. There's also the chance to swim with those ever-obliging dolphins at a dubiously-named 'conservation centre'.

The 'lost' chambers

The hotel's pride and joy, however, is the Lost Chambers — giant underwater fishtanks filled with lumps of carefully styled cement, supposedly 'modelled on the architecture of Atlantis'. Apart from there's no such thing as Atlantis. So presumably the Lost Chambers should really be called the Made Up Chambers. The hotel's website describes one part of these as 'An ancient refining chute with filtering grills previously used to separate ore, surrounded by lobsters in pools that have filled the chute over time.' Er, sorry? The hotel opened in late September this year, so presumably those 'ancient' refining chutes (what IS a refining chute anyway?) are actually just a couple of months old.

Still, if you're determined to find the fabled lost city, book a flight to Dubai — it may be expensive, but it's still cheaper than a submarine and a searchlight…

Would you cough up for a visit to Dubai's Atlantis? Have your say using the ‘comments’

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