ABU DHABI // A year ago the Emirates Palace hotel Christmas tree entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive of all time as it dripped with Dh42 million worth of gold and gemstones.
This year, organisers decided to take a more traditional approach. Adorned with gold and silver foil ornaments encased in cloth ribbons, the tree symbolised the harmony of both western and Middle Eastern cultures. Ornate Christmas balls custom-ordered from the Netherlands represented the country's pearl trade.
It took 48 hours and a team of 30 workers to set up the tree. Carol singers and a band played Christmas tunes as the tree lit up for the first time this year.
Reem Makri, from Tunisia, said the tree reminded her of her years spent in France. After hearing about last year's display, she was pleasantly surprised to find a traditionally decorated Christmas tree.
"Having such a fancy display might make those who are not as privileged feel left out," she said.
The event made Thomas and Evelin Sonntag, tourists from Germany, feel a little home sick.
"It's wonderful to see people from all countries gathering to sing Christmas songs," he said. "Back home it's a lot colder, and it's easy to feel the Christmas spirit. Here you've got the sunshine and the beach, but you still see people coming together to celebrate the holidays."