x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Mythology meets the Moors, with sea creatures everywhere

The story of Atlantis, the mythical island that was swallowed by the ocean, is depicted in eight murals 19 metres above the lobby floor.

The aquatic theme is continued in the furniture, the carpets, the lamp fixtures and everywhere guests might look if they study the details.
The aquatic theme is continued in the furniture, the carpets, the lamp fixtures and everywhere guests might look if they study the details.

DUBAI //There must be very few luxury hotels in the world where those checking in would be delighted to be told the bedroom and bathroom of their suite was underwater.

But for those fortunate enough, one look at the Neptune suite at the Atlantis the Palm hotel dispels any thoughts of sodden towels and soggy carpets.

"The Neptune suite is unlike any at the Atlantis in the Bahamas, unlike any suite in the Gulf and possibly unlike any in the world, says Ian Connolly, who has worked on the Atlantis project since the beginning.

"The bedroom and bathroom are underwater. You look out and you see all kinds of aquatic life swimming by."

In 2005, Mr Connolly and others involved in the construction had to get to the site by boat as there was nothing but sand where the hotel, a sister to the Atlantis property in the Bahamas, stands today.

He remains at the Atlantis as senior vice president of facilities and is the one most familiar with the story behind the landmark hotel on the Palm Jumeirah.

"Sol Kerzner was approached in late 2003 by representatives of Sheikh Mohammed [bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai] to put a finishing touch on The Palm, a centrepiece," Mr Connolly says.

"They said they wanted an Atlantis hotel built. Architects from Kerzner went to work on the design to give it a more Arabian feel.

"The overall shape is based on the Bahamas design where there is the central arch with a bridge suite above it. But for the Gulf we decided to have a more Moorish design on the exterior.

"You can see this in the Moorish arch as compared with the square one in the Bahamas, and you can also see this in some of the turrets."

Mr Kerzner, the South African chairman and chief executive of Kerzner International Resorts, says: "I challenged the designers to come up with something that captured the essence of Atlantis - the wonder, the water, the sense of discovery - yet with distinct Arabian elements." Holding true to the story of the mythical Lost City of Atlantis and its lost chambers, designers aimed to create an aquatic theme throughout.

"You can see that in the marlins, the dolphins, the conch shells throughout the property, mainly in the public places," Mr Connolly says. "If you walk through the public areas and look at the details you will see various aquatic life.

"If you take time to notice the detail on the Dale Chihuly centrepiece in the lobby, you will see jellyfish. That was all hand-blown. Again and again you will see aquatic life."

The story of Atlantis, the mythical island that was swallowed by the ocean, is depicted in eight murals 19 metres above the lobby floor.

They were painted by Albino Gonzalez, one of the world's foremost interpreters of ancient mythology, in his studio in Leon, Spain.

In them Gonzalez depicts the development of the solar calender, highlighting various constellations and planets, and the story of Atlantis.

The murals represent the seasons of the year and the four elements of earth, air, wind and fire.

The aquatic theme is continued in the furniture, the carpets, the lamp fixtures and everywhere guests might look if they study the details.

It is also on show in each of the hotel's 1,539 rooms and suites.

ealghalib@thenational.ae