Fit for a king

In the GCC hospitality sector, Hilton is making its mark on the region with hotels opening in Doha, Qatar, a worldwide resort in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, and the Arabian Peninsula’s first Conrad hotel in Dubai. But the talk of the hotel group this month is the 46-suite Qasr al Sharq.

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By  Charlotte Butterfield Published  April 6, 2006

|~|QASR-body-2.jpg|~||~|In the GCC hospitality sector, Hilton is making its mark on the region with hotels opening in Doha, Qatar, a worldwide resort in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, and the Arabian Peninsula’s first Conrad hotel in Dubai. But the talk of the hotel group this month is the 46-suite Qasr al Sharq, or ‘Palace of the Orient’ in Jeddah, which is Hilton’s first palace property. “The design brief was to create an authentic Arabian palace of unparalleled luxury, representative of the opulence and hospitality associated with historical Arabia. Palace interior designers spent an extensive time researching arabesque design and working to blend colour and texture created specially for Qasr al Sharq. “We want our guests to be completely enveloped; this is not just about a nice hotel room, it is an entire sensory experience,” said Marc De Beer, hotel manager, Qasr al Sharq.

KCA International were chosen as the interior designers due to its impressive portfolio of prestigious projects including Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, and the Madinat Jumeirah hotels and souq complex, and more recently, concourses within the new Dubai International Airport. Chief designer, Khuan Chew, describes the history behind Qasr al Sharq: “The building was first designed as a residential royal holiday home. It was later adapted to a hotel of the highest quality in terms of furnishings and decoration of a traditional Arabian palace.”
Faced with the prospect of designing the interior of such a lavish building, Chew explains that the interior had to reflect its regal roots: “The overall style and atmosphere was meant to be in the grand old style, rich and luxurious and of course comfortable. The inspiration was borrowed from countries of the region ranging from Egypt, to Morocco. You would not be able to compare this with any other in the country, and it would most definitely appeal to the wealthy, the corporate world, and the higher governmental levels.”

||**|||~|Joe-Sassine-body.jpg|~||~|Walking though the hotel, the traditional regional hues of gold and red are used in abundance; combined with Moorish-inspired carvings, fretwork paint effects and fabric-domed ceilings, the effect is overwhelmingly Arabic. Chew says: “The Arabian Gulf region has many flavours, and served as our inspiration in designing the Palace. From the opulent Oriental décor of the restaurant, to the classical arches we utilise Arabian design traditions such as mashrabeyah traditional woodwork and specialised plaster and metalwork combined with rich upholstery fabrics from around the East and West.”

Affluent details adorn every corner of the hotel to create an aura of pure indulgence. Countless types and colours of marble were handpicked from around the world to create mosaic-inspired flooring. The majority of the internal marble and granite was from Cogemar Co. and Al Mulhem who supplied most of the mosaic and ceramic tiles in addition to some of the impressive marble flooring and surfaces. Orbit supplied other ceramic and glass tiles that were used throughout the hotel.

The list of suppliers and contractors is quite simply immense; Haif Construction was the main building contractors but KCA used over 500 additional sources and suppliers for the furniture and finishes from over 20 countries, as Chew explains: “Our sources are world wide. As a company, KCA has access to unusual sources but we are also mindful of the operational requirements of a hotel. Therefore our considerations for design concepts were quite difficult — on the one hand, we wanted the feel and end result to be quite special and grand like a royal palace – but on the other hand, we had to ensure that Hilton International was not being compromised as it of course has to ‘take over’ from our design and make the reality happen i.e. make our ‘dream’ come true. So, whatever we specified or designed, we had to ensure that it would also be practical and stand the test of time.”

||**|||~|Qasr-body3.jpg|~||~|Practicality didn’t extend to some of the finishes though as the Palace’s decorative ceilings boast 60kg of gold leaf, which took six months to apply. M.A. Daftardar Decoration did the majority of the paint, polished plaster and gold leaf. The upholstery is similarly painstakingly sourced from around the globe. First for Decoration was commissioned for the wall coverings, supply and installation of the carpets, the fabrics, trimmings, window treatments, soft furnishings, wall fabrics, curtains and the tented ceiling.
Of course, such a regal environment would not be complete without the inclusion of vast crystal chandeliers, which were sourced from an array of companies. The outside chandelier was from Lights and Crystal Chandelier, while Kurt Faustig KG contributed to the interior chandeliers along with Leds and DV Kelly. The other internal lighting solutions such as uplighters, lamps and spots were from a variety of sources including Inara Company and Arteclight.
The chosen accessories were equally decadent; 1,200 crystal vases designed in Italy in more than 25 different designs are accentuated throughout the Palace, and guests will be able to choose from five different types of chinaware including Raynaud, Rosenthal and Artichaut. In the suites, all beds are dressed with 600-thread count cotton linens custom-designed in Venice. The texture resembles satin, and more than one million stitched threads of fine gold embroidery runs through it to complement the extravagant décor. Bathroom amenities include leading international brands Hermes and Acqua de Parma.

The backing of an internationally renowned brand such as Hilton, and the rich cultural location of a Saudi palace meant that there were no limits to the luxury of the interior design. Chew adds: “I have worked on many palaces in my life. The inspiration was not difficult. I take great pleasure in creating spaces for the very wealthy (and famous) – and in this case, it was indeed great fun too as it is a high rise palace!” ||**||

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