DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, (AP) – Dubai developers threw a $20 million party Thursday complete with Hollywood celebrities Robert DeNiro and Charlize Theron and fireworks that lit up the evening sky.
The party, which was headlined by Australian pop star Kylie Minogue in her Middle East debut, was to celebrate a new $1.5 billion marine-themed resort built off the Gulf coast on an artificial island shaped like a palm tree.
Celebrities and stars such as Michael Jordan, Lindsay Lohan, Wesley Snipes, Mary Kate Olsen, Shirley Bassey and others were on hand for the festivities.
Does this all seem a bit much at a time when much of the world is reeling from the global financial crisis?
Not really, according to Sol Kerzner, the chairman of Kerzner International, which owns the Atlantis hotel.
“If I had it all over again and I understood that the timing was what it was, one might modify a couple of the things … but not significantly,” Kerzner told The Associated Press Thursday. “When you consider $20 million, it’s a lot of money (until) you consider it up against establishing a $1.5 billion resort.”
Kerzner International split the party costs with state-owned developer Nakheel, which built Palm island where Atlantis is located.
The Dubai Atlantis resort opened for tourists in September. The hotel’s top floor aims squarely at the ultra-wealthy. A three-bedroom, three-bathroom suite complete with a gold-leaf, 18-seat dining table is on offer for $25,000 a night.
The rest of the 113-acre resort is dedicated to family entertainment with a giant, open-air tank with 65,000 fish, stingrays and other sea creatures, including a rare whale-shark captured by the hotel in the Gulf and considered a hostage by environmental activists.
There’s also a dolphinarium with more than two dozen bottlenose dolphins flown in from the Solomon Islands last year amid protests from animal rights organizations.
Thursday’s lavish party is only one of Dubai’s many attempts to remain in the spotlight — part of the city-state’s meteoric rise from little more than a patch of sand to the business and entertainment capital of the Middle East in about a decade.
Britain’s most famous cruise ship, the Queen Elizabeth 2, will sailing in next week and will be converted into a floating hotel off Palm island.