Published December 19, 2010
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – An Abu Dhabi luxury hotel that boasted an $11 million Christmas tree decorated with gold and gems admitted Sunday it may have taken the holiday spirit a bit too far.
A statement from the Emirates Palace hotel said it regretted "attempts to overload" the Christmas tree tradition by adorning it with premium bling including gold, rubies, diamonds and other precious stones from a hotel jeweler.
The statement was a rare bit of reflection on the Gulf's ethos of excess. The tree was unveiled last week with full fanfare in a hotel that features its own gold bar vending machine and a one-week $1 million package that includes private jet jaunts around the Middle East.
But the hotel management apparently had second thoughts after questions arose about whether the opulent tree was innocent good cheer or unfortunate bad taste.
The hotel regrets "attempts to overload the tradition followed by most hotels in the country with meanings and connotations that do not fall in line with the (hotel's) professional standards," said a statement carried on the state-run news agency WAM.
The hotel even tried to distance itself from the 43-foot (13-meter) faux fir in one of its rotundas, saying a hotel-based jeweler was solely responsible for creating and decorating the tree.
"The hotel is just a venue for exhibiting the tree," the statement said.
The hotel also claimed the tree was not a stunt, but rather an effort to boost the holiday mood for its guests based on the United Arab Emirates' "values of openness and tolerance."
Although officially Muslim, the UAE features many signs of Christmas for its huge foreign population. Lights, carolers and Santas are fixtures in nearly every mall.