ABU DHABI SO BLINDINGLY RICH IT IS ALMOST SICKENING
  
  NeatBuzz has the hottest, most social content on the web. you will love all kinds of things you'd want to pass along to your friends.  
     
 

  « Previous Article

Next Article »  

ABU DHABI SO BLINDINGLY RICH IT IS ALMOST SICKENING



Published On: June 27, 2014, by Neat Buzz, Elizabeth Edwards, West Virginia
Tag: Abudhabi, Rich , Rating: 4.5

GENERAL CATEGORY
 
         
 

Share on Facebook   Tweet   Share on StumbleUpon

ABU DHABI SO BLINDINGLY RICH IT IS ALMOST SICKENING  | NEATBUZZ.COM

First, a disclaimer.

I suffer from blue collar anger, which is a bloody curse in this Age of Entitlement. Mom didn’t graduate high school. Dad got laid off from a defense contractor and I clawed my way through bachelors and masters degrees on my dime. There you have it. So one look at Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, has a guy like me feeling shut out. And that’s okay. I’ve accepted my ninety-nine percenter caste. But wherever you look in Abu Dhabi — with its artistic sky scrapers so 21st C it makes the United States look worn out — you subtly understand that there are parts of this world that are not for the riff-raff to experience. Luckily, I am a journalist, so I can poke around where I don’t belong, far adrift from Manhattan.



1

 

SAND, SAND AND MORE THAN SAND

 
ABU DHABI SO BLINDINGLY RICH IT IS ALMOST SICKENING  | NEATBUZZ.COM | abudhabi, rich

There are seven different types of sand in Al Ain. It’s not Abu Dhabi, but it is the region’s oasis and former home to its founding father. It’s surprisingly green here, for a desert. Al Ain is old school. It looks emerging market rustic and historic in that way cultured travelers appreciate.

The call to prayer can be heard from nearby mosques; an imam’s voice reads passages from the Koran. In the town sits the a one level clay and wood fortress that was once the family compound of Sheikh Zayed al Nahyan, the man who unified the seven emirati cities into one nation, basically, under him. Al Ain is like a pre-historic Abu Dhabi. The Sheikh’s home is big, tan and now a museum. It’s a poor man’s Graceland. There’s no running water and the Sheikh lived here in the fifties. Wood fired stoves and large pots sit in a roughly 20 square foot kitchen. There’s no power. At the time, Americans were hooked on big cars and Sears washers and driers in every home. It is hard to believe that a few decades later, Nahyan family’s newest digs would be a cool 90,000 square foot palace overlooking the Persian Gulf. This is what oil and monarchies can do to a family.

A few dozen miles away from Al Ain, it’s all Bulgari, BMW and silk hijab blowing off the jet black hair of Emirati women. The oud perfume they wear has western women mesmerized, like this is a “must have” sacred wooden scent. It’s borderline Pavlovian. The scent here gets equated with wealth and exoticism.

“It’s all very beautiful, right?” says Pep Lozano, the Spanish general manager of the $200 million Ritz Carlton in Abu Dhabi. Date palms line the landscape around the pool. We’re dining al fresco. A breeze from the Abu Dhabi Grand Canal keeps things cool, something the fashionably laid back Lozano seems to swim in. The language at our table is English, but right next to me it’s Arabic, and across from them it’s German, and on the sound system it’s London DJ Cantoma’s Cosmopole, the electronic soundtrack to scenes depicting long legged models and their consorts carrying their Voss.

Ritz built the property in 2008 and opened it last March 2013. Like all luxury hotels, it recently christened a 2,000 square foot spa. This being the Muslim world, there are separate treatment centers for men and for women. ”The city will surprise you. We have people coming here for all over the world,” he says and picks at a lobster tail with silverware.

There are dozens of hotels in and around Abu Dhabi and thanks to a stronger dollar, they are actually affordable if you can stomach roughly 14 hours in coach class to Abu Dhabi. Coach flights will run around $1,000 on the low end, to as much as $2,000 round trip, whereas business class aboard Etihad, the only way in and out of Abu Dhabi, will run at least $5,000. For uber one percenters flying out of London’s Heathrow starting next January, Etihad has their Residency cabin, which is basically a New York studio apartment for three aboard an Airbus 380. If you have to ask how much it costs, you cannot afford it. This will no doubt be the cabin chosen by the 44 year old owner of the Manchester City football club, Sheikh Mansour al Nahyan of the ruling family.

The Ritz during off season June-July goes for around $177 a night; Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri goes for just $150. Even the modern high-rise that is the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers is just $150. The most expensive of the bunch is the 850,000 square meter Emirates Palace resort hotel. A night there averages $270.

ABU DHABI SO BLINDINGLY RICH IT IS ALMOST SICKENING
  

2

 

 
ABU DHABI SO BLINDINGLY RICH IT IS ALMOST SICKENING  | NEATBUZZ.COM | abudhabi, rich

It’s November. It’s hot. You walk into the lobby and there are pictures of the deceased Sheikh Zayed immediately upon arrival and right under center of the palace’s signature dome. It dwarfs everyone that walks under it. Reception hands you a rose and the key to your room, round and gold like a gigantic, toy coin.

Mohammed Alaoui, the spokesman for the hotel, chats over a lunch at Le Vendome, a buffet-style restaurant overlooking the beach. There’s gold leaf on my chocolate cake. Where is everybody? The beach is deserted. A Red Bull volley ball net looks mighty lonely. A little bird parks on the ledge, some five stories above BBQ Al Qasr, a trendy, gazebo style restaurant opened only at night.

“Believe it or not, we’re 78% full,” he tells me. “It only looks expensive. You don’t have to be a millionaire to stay here and enjoy it. It’s a palace. You’re the king here,” he tells me, managing not to be pretentious.

For Westerners used to refined tastes and understated wealth, Emirates Palace can be gaudy. If you lived in the royal family home, still being constructed a few miles away, this would sort of be like staying in their guest house.

The standard guest rooms are suite-sized. The wallpaper looks like a sandy beach riding up on you from all four sides. The entryway has a blue, three foot round mandala carpet laid into a marble floor. A chandelier hangs over the bed. The fridge has a bottle of Laurent Perrier champagne. Out my balcony is the East Wing pool, equipped with river ride and water slide. The adult pool with water bars is a mile walk in the other direction. Golf carts can take you there if you don’t want to walk and people watch. A faux Bedouin tribesman sets up a tea tent. Another guy rides a camel. These guys aren’t 100% authentic. The real Bedouins are all middle class and have gone from pearl divers to oil men or financiers with falcons as pets. The participants here are low paid actors, usually from some other Arab nation.

As summer approaches, the hotel is getting ready for the foreigners. Brooklyn magician David Blaine is performing there this month. Bollywood songstress Sunidhi Chauhan will be there as well. But if that isn’t your thing, there’s always water parks and race cars outside the palace walls. Abu Dhabi being Abu Dhabi, the outdoor thematics are located near billionaire Yas Marina yacht club, and the race cars of course are fire engine red Ferraris.

ABU DHABI SO BLINDINGLY RICH IT IS ALMOST SICKENING
  

3

 

IT AIN’T NASCAR

 
ABU DHABI SO BLINDINGLY RICH IT IS ALMOST SICKENING  | NEATBUZZ.COM | abudhabi, rich

From the air, the Ferrari World theme park looks like a red Cylon Raider from Battlestar Galactica has landed on Abu Dhabi. Theme park aficionados go for the world’s fastest roller coaster, which clocks in at 240 kilometers an hour, which is 150 mph. It’s the usual theme park flare, the G-Force crazy 200 foot free fall ride gets Westerners and Arabs screaming in joyful unison for once; it’s borderline poetic.

Inside is the biggest collection of Ferrari memorabilia outside of Italy, and Italian restaurants like Cavallino try to keep it real for the well-traveled foodie. Next door is Yas Waterworld. It’s a good two-day excursion here for about the price of a Disney park ticket, $80 for kids, $98 a day for adults, and just as hot as Orlando in mid July.

A fifteen minute drive south and you get a taste of what the U.A.E. seems to do best: create land where there was none before. The entire Saadiyat Island complex just comes out of nowhere. Guggenheim is building their biggest art museum here. Not to be outdone by New York’s artsy class, the French are opening their version of the Louvre on Saadiyat Island in 2015.

Inside the Manarat Saadiyat pavillion near the island construction site, there’s a sundown meeting for art lovers. Arab high society and expats gawk over an art display: a paper waterfall of sorts hanging from a ceiling made by a visiting Chinese artist living in Italy. People snap pictures with their smart phones. This is what Abu Dhabi hopes to become when the oil wells run dry: a tourist mecca half way between the Western world and Asia. It’s what the global business class love about Abu Dhabi.

“I love doing business here, even in the heat,” Chuck Dougherty, CEO of American Science and Engineering tells me. His company supplies x-ray machines to Abu Dhabi ports.

This is the beginning of the end of U.A.E. Individual super wealth is dependent on unique periods in human history. The Al Nahyan family’s wealth comes from oil. Thanks to the way their government is run, that oil wealth was concentrated in few hands. This is not a constitutional democracy either. Brazil, for example, found tons of oil off the coast of Rio de Janeiro in 2007, but the country’s president can’t build a mega-mansion, nor can the CEO of its state-owned oil company Petrobras. U.A.E. became rich at a time when commodity wealth was concentrated in the hands of single rulers. Those days are coming to an end, and for the Emirates, eventually so is the oil.

But, they’ve been smart with it. Zayad was big on education and philanthropy. He died in 2004, but he managed to lay out a future for this city and the country, that’s made Abu Dhabi and Dubai a new hub for international travel, business conferences, and world trade. It’s the Middle East’s Singapore.

ABU DHABI SO BLINDINGLY RICH IT IS ALMOST SICKENING
  

4

 

 
ABU DHABI SO BLINDINGLY RICH IT IS ALMOST SICKENING  | NEATBUZZ.COM | abudhabi, rich

Saudi Arabia never diversified its economy. Venezuela never did. Iran and Iraq might as well have a burqa over the entire land mass. No one knows what goes on there except death and pain. No one is racing to see the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. They’re coming to Yas. They’re coming to Ferrari World. They’re playing golf in Abu Dhabi. They’re investing in biotech. One day, when the oil is gone, all of this will still be here.

“Saying their development and success of Emirati brands like Etihad Airways is all because it is awash in oil money is borderline racist,” says the well-traveled Marino Marin, managing director at MLV & Co., a New York investment bank. “The city went into this development model with a clear vision. They’ve invested in travel and tourism, and they’ve done it right.”

Years ago, in 1998, I was told by a Brazilian from Rio de Janeiro that if I stepped my foot in the waters of Copacabana beach, I would always return to Rio. They were right. I returned in 2000 and stayed for 8 years. Taking the same advice, I stepped in the Persian Gulf. Jumeirah Towers’ blue lights play nicely against the orange glow of Emirates Palace, so big, so kitschy, so new it’s almost make believe.

Seriously, I could do this again. There’s the Qasr al Sarab in the Liwa desert that looks authentic with its focus on bedouin tribal culture and desert life. And the spa, of course, which I can do without. I finish up a bottle of water and use the empty plastic bottle to dig up some sand, just in case I don’t make it back.

ABU DHABI SO BLINDINGLY RICH IT IS ALMOST SICKENING
  
    SEE ALSO: 
10 QUIRKY HOTELS AROUND THE USA


Share on Facebook   Tweet   Share on StumbleUpon


Comments Powered by Disqus