At roughly $3 billion, the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, which just opened to the public, is said to be the most expensive hotel ever built. A billion won't buy what it used to, of course, but three seems to do just fine.

Although it has fewer than 400 rooms, the hotel features 128 kitchens and pantries, 1,002 custom-made Swarovski crystal chandeliers (requiring a full-time staff of 10 just to keep them clean) and what Willy Optekamp, the hotel's general manager, says is the world's largest dome over the lobby.

"Think about coffee," he says, and obviously he has. "We serve coffee on a silver tray with rose petals, crystallized sugar, a linen napkin, marzipan croissants, a bottle of imported water and the coffee. The ladies get a rose."

The hotel has nearly 150,000 cubic yards of imported marble, plans for 20 restaurants and a layout so sprawling - 60 acres of interior space - that the staff will soon be equipped with golf carts to navigate the corridors. "Some of them are over a kilometer long," Mr. Optekamp says. "If a maid goes to lunch, she may never make it back."

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