A-list flock to grand opening of Atlantis

The celebrations at the official opening of Atlantis, The Palm, were dubbed "the party of the decade".

Firework display over the Atlantis hotel on Palm Jumeirah, Dubai <a href="http://thenational.ae/article/20081121/ONLINESPECIAL/276288476/1001">Slideshow of A-listers</a>
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DUBAI // There was enough pomp and security for a royal wedding at the official opening of the multimillion-dollar Atlantis, The Palm tonight. Among the A-list arrivals at the hotel was the Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron, who walked the red carpet in a revealing white Grecian gown and sandals. "I just want to see the fireworks, baby," Theron said. "It's going to be a great night. I can't believe they're doing this in the middle of the sea." Organisers spent US$20 million (Dh73.5m) to put on the party for 2,000-plus guests, who had to pass through three security checkpoints in their vehicles and another on foot. A few of the biggest stars promised or rumoured did not show, including the chat show host Oprah Winfrey, who stayed in the US, and Ben Affleck, the actor, who flew to visit refugee camps in Congo. Once inside, guests sipped Dom Pérignon in a crowd that included Lindsay Lohan, the actress; Lily Allen and Natalie Imbruglia, the singers; Michael Jordan, the basketball star; Sarah Ferguson, the duchess of York; and Sir Richard Branson, the business magnate, who attended with his family. Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, the executive chairman of Nakheel, the hotel developer and operator, said: "I'm thrilled and proud. Five years ago where I am standing now was water." The event featured the world's largest fireworks show and a private concert from the Australian singer Kylie Minogue, who made her Middle East debut. Giant Arabic mosaics were projected onto the side of the hotel throughout the evening. The entire artificial palm-shaped island on which the facility lies was locked down several hours before the festivities began. Anyone without a ticket was refused entry; residents were forced to show a special pass or tenancy contract to access their homes. A special "exclusion zone" was established along the coastline, which banned boats from coming within two nautical miles of the shore. The midnight fireworks show, designed and executed by Grucci, an American firm, lit up a stretch of the shoreline extending 43km with a display that organisers claimed was visible from space. The guests were treated to a banquet prepared by several Michelin-rated chefs, among them Nobu Matsuhisa and Giorgio Locatelli. The evening was rounded off at the nearby Royal Afterglow bar where DJs, including Samantha Ronson, a friend of Lohan's, played live sets. The hotel was built as part of a joint venture between Nakheel, which is controlled by the Dubai government, and the hotel operator Kerzner International. Another Kerzner property, the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, recently reported that bookings are down and laid off about 800 employees. chamilton@thenational.ae