The £1 bn Hotel and the £13.5m Party

Sonia Verma in Dubai

There was no evidence of the global financial crisis as tycoons and celebrities streamed into Dubai last night for the world’s most expensive private party.

Having spent £1 billion, the owners of the Atlantis hotel, which they hope will become the new symbol of excess in a region already replete with towering statements of wealth, splashed out £13.5 million on its opening.

In the lobby of the Atlantis about 2,000 guests sipped Dom Pérignon. Outside, A-list celebrities from Robert De Niro to Lindsay Lohan walked the red carpet. After the pop singer Kylie Minogue performed on stage the sky lit up with the world’s largest fireworks display, seven times greater than this year’s Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing and extravagant enough to be seen from outer space.

The price tag for the party even embarrassed Sol Kerzner, the chairman and chief executive officer of Kerzner International, who built the resort on the man-made Palm Island in partnership with Nakheel, a state-owned developer.

“If I had to do it all over again, I might do it recognising the fact that we’re living through a bit of a tough economic environment,” Mr Kerzner, a South African billionaire, told The Times.

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The timing for Mr Kerzner’s imposing hotel is not ideal. The emirate is groaning under heavy debt and banks have tightened lending, delaying new developments. Gulf stock markets have sunk to historic lows and analysts are radically scaling back economic forecasts for the region.

Since it opened its doors to paying guests six weeks ago, the hotel has been nearly 80 per cent full, Mr Kerzner said. Nightly rates range in price from $800 (£550) for a basic suite to $35,000 per night for the hotel’s signature suite, which features floor to ceiling views of Dubai. The 1,539-room hotel has two towers set in 130-acre grounds that feature an aquarium with 65,000 sea creatures.

$35,000: cost of one night in the Bridge Suite

If money’s no object, you’ll want the Bridge Suite, which spans the archway between the two towers. A British family are the first bookers, paying £45,000 for three nights: for that, they get three bedrooms, four staff and a gold-leafed dining table seating 18. Not the food to go on it, though – that price is B&B.