Peek Inside the New Dubai Hotel Controversially Christened by Beyoncé
The superstar recently made headlines for her not-so-secret performance at the most outrageous new resort to grace the island of Palm Jumeirah with 90 swimming pools, 17 restaurants, an onsite Valentino boutique, and a bold claim to housing the "world's largest jellyfish tank."
A media blitz recently coalesced around Beyoncé’s private concert at Atlantis the Royal, Dubai’s latest ultra-swanky hotel. The superstar enjoyed over-the-top accommodations and a reported $24 million windfall for introducing the soon-to-open property to the world, which attracted its fair share of raised eyebrows.
Dubai does not suffer from a lack of starchitect commissions, man-made islands, or opulent destinations, but Atlantis the Royal’s 795 guest rooms, 90 swimming pools, and 17 restaurants—eight of which are helmed by celebrity chefs—puts the property in an outrageous category all its own.
The five-star resort presides over the Persian Gulf on Palm Jumeirah, an artificial island shaped like a palm tree. With its gravity-defying Jenga-like architecture by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF)—the global firm leaving its mark on the region with a new Abu Dhabi International Airport terminal as well as towers in Tel Aviv and Doha—the building is slated to become one of the city’s most high-profile destinations. That’s aided in part by its star-studded list of collaborators, including Michelin Star chefs José Andrés and Heston Blumenthal, and swanky amenities like 20-foot-tall Lasvit crystal lava trees, gold toothbrushes in each guest room’s vanity kit, and an on-site Valentino boutique.
Beyoncé herself seems to have enjoyed the premier Atlantis the Royal experience, having stayed in the $100,000-per-night, 12,000-square-foot Royal Mansion duplex penthouse with her family. Its accouterments, including century-old olive trees, his-and-hers steam rooms, dedicated butler service, and private rooftop infinity pool, likely provided a tranquil charging pad for the superstar’s first concert since releasing her acclaimed album Renaissance, a sweaty dancefloor tour de force that pays tribute to Black queer culture and topped many critics’ end-of-year lists.
As is the case with pretty much all Beyoncé performances, her exclusive outing in Dubai was meticulously choreographed. More than 1,000 journalists, celebrities, and influencers were invited to enjoy the “once-in-a-lifetime” occasion, which spanned three sets, 17 songs, and four costume changes.
Cameras and phones were strictly forbidden during the performance, but that didn’t stop footage leaking of her on-stage theatrics and lavish outfits, which were reportedly decked out in $7.5 million worth of diamonds to complement her various outfit changes. She began the night in a Dolce & Gabbana red carpet ensemble and additional looks came courtesy of Dubai-based designer Rayan Al Sulaimani, Lebanese designer and repeat collaborator Nicolas Jebran, and a finale fit by Ukrainian designer Ivan Frolov.
Though her set tantalized viewers with dramatic costume changes, pyrotechnics, a 48-woman orchestra, and an appearance by Blue Ivy, it conspicuously lacked songs from Renaissance. Criticism surged around her decision to accept money from and perform in the United Arab Emirates, a country where homosexuality and gender reassignment are criminalized. (It recalls the widespread backlash to fellow Emirate Qatar hosting the FIFA World Cup despite its anti-LGBTQ+ laws and thousands of migrant worker deaths). Migrant workers make up a staggering 88 percent of the UAE’s total population, who allege they’re building Dubai’s ultra-luxury playground under poor conditions tantamount to indentured servitude.
While the singer has yet to comment on her decision to perform in Dubai, a quiet, under-the-radar debut doesn’t seem to align with the resort’s DNA. “There was almost a performance goal to our brief; an expectation ‘to blow the client out of the water’ and create a showstopper of a building that would deliver a unique set of experiences,” KPF president James von Klemperer said in a statement. “[The building] is not just a quiet place to relax and eat fine food—it’s about experiencing something you never imagined could be. The architecture sets this up strongly with its vertical piling up of outdoor experiences in the outside spaces.”