At the furthest end of the Palm, sitting in solitary splendour on the oceanfront Crescent, the vast Atlantis resort is the island’s major landmark and a focal point for the entire development. It’s a near carbon copy of its sister establishment, the Atlantis Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas: a blowsy pink colossus, undeniably huge, vaguely outlandish, and just a little bit camp (“like the tomb of Liberace,” as the UK’s Sun newspaper aptly put it). In fact it’s probably the only one of Dubai’s recent extravagance and shameless bling – slightly ironic, given that it actually had nothing to do with the Dubai government, being the brainchild of Jewish South African billionaire Sol Kerzner. Like many of Dubai’s newer landmarks it’s best from a distance, especially after dark and from the mainland, when its vast illuminated outline looks like some kind of weird triumphal archway twinkling far out to sea.
Inside, the hotel itself is as satisfyingly over-the-top as one would hope, featuring all manner of gold columns, crystal chandeliers and random twinkly bits, not to mention Dale Chihuly’s extraordinary sculptural installation in the lobby – a 10m-high blown-glass creation resembling a waterfall of deep-frozen spaghetti – and the spectacular viewing window into the vast Ambassador Lagoon (see below).