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The word on the street is... fireworks - By Rebecca Wicks

Even in New York, people would stop me when I said I was from Dubai and ask “Are you going to see the massive firework display? They spent more money on them than on the ones in Beijing you know!” I didn’t know. 3 million dollars! That’s a whole lot of money, isn’t it.

Apparently it was all in aid of the official opening of Atlantis � a star-studded event my good friend ‘A’ got to attend, which was� well� another star-studded event in Dubai, really. She’s kind of lucky like that. She has a job like the one I used to have � where she gets invited to the opening of every envelope, bookshop and bar in town. Mostly these events are not that glamorous � you might get a cook-book and a glass of orange juice in the lobby of a hotel and have to spend 2 hours sucking up to a lady you don’t know, with halitosis, who wants the front page in every publication for doing nothing much at all, as your friend who blagged her way in for the champers and doesn’t even work for the media anyway, gets cornered by a pushy PR and made to talk about headlines, deadlines and schedules for a full length feature. They can be cringe-worthy affairs indeed.

Occasionally though, they’re rather noteworthy. I remember once I got to attend the launch of a new hotel which had a goldfish bowl of semi-naked men swishing around inside. Lithe young acrobats climbed the walls with roses in their mouths, and girls in skin tight suits swung from a trapeze high above us as we helped ourselves to free oysters, an all-you-could-eat carvery and more sushi than could ever be made from all the offerings in Dubai Mall’s new aquarium.

The party at Atlantis however, was above and beyond as far as VIPs were concerned. ‘A’ reports that aside from a scrambling by media on the red carpet (Dubai apparently couldn’t decipher who deserved to walk-the-walk and who should be standing on the sidelines � such are the egos in this town) it was really quite impressive. Kylie Minogue gyrated through 5 or 6 songs. Oprah bailed, but she sent her two friends instead, which was nice. Lindsay Lohan stumbled about to full expectancy. Richard Branson scoffed at a reporter from a well-known lifestyle publication who dared to suggest that she had “done everything you’ve done” and Charlize Theron appeared in a less than impressive dress, but was appropriately polite to everyone she spoke to. Mary Kate Olson was small. Michael Jordan “wasn’t really that tall”, the fireworks exploded to rounds of applause, a few “oooohs”, a few “aaaaaahs” and at 2.30am, the lights came on and everyone went to bed. Oh, but thanks to a leaked guest list, including celebrity room numbers, security probably had a helluva job keeping the normal citizens at bay from those lifts and staircases, hoping for a sight of the stars in sweet slumber.

Back to the fireworks. My friend who lives on The Palm had to have written permission to get back to his house after 2pm on the day of the party. Can you believe that? Some people with jobs who went out all day and didn’t go by the rules must have had a problem getting home, and I’m sure there was at least one forgetful soul, sitting calmly on the balcony, sipping a cup of tea as a gigantic Catherine Wheel started shooting red and yellow sparks across the sand at the end of her “garden” before launching a stream of rockets into the sky, absolutely terrifying her cat. They lit up the whole Palm, allegedly. Apparently it was quite a display. I wouldn’t know. I was in New York. I just had to watch it in small, grainy format on You Tube.

Grucci’s of New York, (the firework’s organiser), has confirmed that the launch party fireworks programme will take pride of place in the next Guinness Book of World Records. You’d certainly hope so, if you’d spent money and effort. According to the Gulf News, they planned “firing positions from 226 floating pontoons across 46 kilometres of water on the Palm fronds, 40 locations along the 5.5-kilometre monorail on the Palm’s trunk and positions on 400 balconies on the south facade and rooftop surfaces of Atlantis.”

Dubai certainly knows how to throw a party. You’d be surprised, the amount of eyes that light up when you speak of this place from afar. Last week I may have sounded a little homesick, writing from New York. Just when I was thinking no city could ever impress me as much � look which city’s gone and done just that. Even though I wasn’t invited (hmph).

Posted: 23 November 2008

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