Layali El Hilmiya tent ‘an ethereal space to enjoy Ramadan’

Tables for up to 1,000 guests are dotted around the space, and not a single surface - neither wall nor ceiling - has been left bare.
The swimming pool feature, meant to resemble a fountain in the middle of the tent, is formed from the hotel’s swimming pool. Christopher Pike / The National
The swimming pool feature, meant to resemble a fountain in the middle of the tent, is formed from the hotel’s swimming pool. Christopher Pike / The National

Listen carefully when you step on the lush carpeting surrounding the swimming pool in the centre of the Layali El Hilmiya tent in Le Royal Méridien’s courtyard and you might just hear the hollowness in each step.

That’s because the swimming pool feature, meant to resemble a fountain in the middle of the tent, is actually formed from the hotel’s swimming pool.

“Half of the pool is covered; we created a whole floor above it,” says Tarik Achab Zekri, marketing director. People will be dining over the water and not even know it.”

That’s just one of the many small details that have transformed the tent into an ethereal space to enjoy the social aspect of Ramadan. Tables for up to 1,000 guests are dotted around the space, and not a single surface - neither wall nor ceiling - has been left bare. Satin and tulle cascade from every corner, beginning from the winding alley leading into the tent, dotted with coloured lanterns all the way into the cavernous space. The scene is punctuated with seven rows of three glittering chandeliers each, shining from the high ceiling.

Two years ago, Layali El Hilmiya was a vibrant red, and last year, it sported a chic blue and white theme. This year, however, designers chose gold and shades of white for the tent’s interior, in an attempt to recreate the feel of a royal space or palace.

“We’ve adopted this golden theme because we want people to feel very regal throughout the month,” explains the hotel’s food and beverage director Justin Galea. The slight splashes of gold and trim of gold on the interior of the tent, he says, complement the entertainment.

“What we did last year was very well received - we had pipe instruments with the oud. Still, we wanted to do something new, so our band this year will feature three instruments: the oud, the tabla and the violin.”

The traditional tanoura folk dancer, who proved to be popular with guests last year, will return again this Ramadan.

“The impact that dancer had on the tent was phenomenal,” says Galea. “Everyone had their phones out, videoing and taking photos. The interaction he had with guests was brilliant, so we’ve hired the same guy this year.”

Star FM, Abu Dhabi’s local Arabic radio station, will be on hand to air an interactive, live show daily from the tent, from midnight onwards.

“It gives the tent such a lovely, festive feeling to have such a modern, fun element like the live radio show. It’s our way of attracting all demographics and make sure people are having a good time,” says Achab Zekri. He is especially excited about the large projector that will be set up in the middle of the tent. “It will constantly showcase live updates on social media tagging Layali El Hilmiya and Le Royal Méridien. So if you are in the tent and posting anything on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, you will see your post right there on the screen in real time.”

Achab Zekri invited the Art Hub to bring 44 pieces of art by 30 artists from 15 countries to a Ramadan-themed exhibition at the hotel. “We are anticipating everything from oil paints to sketches to sculptures, all surrounding the theme of Ramadan,” he says.

Decks of cards, backgammon sets and other games are on hand, while hundreds of shishas have been spray-painted either gold or silver, and are just waiting to be put to daily use.

The food is another story, with months spent designing the buffet and menu. Among the issues staff deliberated over? The spice blend recipe for the shawerma and how guests might react to finding sushi on the suhoor menu. The dessert alone requires weeks of tastings.

“It’s a production that we’re orchestrating, and it’s the highlight of our year,” says Galea. “No detail is too small.”

newsdesk@thenational.ae

Published: June 6, 2016 04:00 AM

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