Hush descends across the crowd of 1,500 impossibly well-dressed guests as the house lights go down and Beyoncé rises up through the floor of her specially built outdoor stage, silhouetted against the behemoth that is Atlantis The Royal, the latest awe-inspiring property to crop up on the Dubai skyline.
Resplendent in a canary yellow sequinned gown, honey blonde locks wafting in the breeze from her own personal wind machine, the pop star smiles as she surveys the enraptured audience, which includes Jay Z (of course), Kendall Jenner, actor Rebel Wilson, One Direction’s Liam Payne, Michelle Keegan and Mark Wright, and Marvin and Rochelle Humes.
“At laaaaaaaast…” croons the singer, flanked by dancers and an orchestra clad in ruby red, strings swelling as she begins a rendition of the Etta James classic. “My looooove has come along…”
Normally, this would be the point where everyone thrusts their mobile phones into the air, eager to capture footage proving they were there to witness the most in-demand artist on the planet taking to the stage for an extremely rare, private show.
Not tonight. At the request of Beyoncé (so we’re told) it’s no phones allowed, with branded zip-up pouches handed out to stow our devices and strict instructions issued that anyone caught filming will be ejected immediately (some sneaky clips do end up online, however).
The 17-song, three-costume concert culminates in Queen Bey sashaying down a runway and being raised 16 feet in the air, showing off her vocal acrobatics over the final strains of fan favourite Drunk In Love, before a colossal fireworks display explodes across the night sky (we’re allowed our phones out for this bit) and DJ trio Swedish House Mafia take over.
Only a global megastar like Beyoncé would do for a grand reveal of these proportions, according to the hotel’s managing director Tim Kelly.
“It’s really a night of icons,” he tells me a few hours before the internet-breaking gig, relaxing on the terrace of an $8,000 USD a night penthouse on the 17th floor (a bargain compared to the Royal Mansion where Beyoncé and family were stationed, reportedly the most expensive suite on earth at $100,000 USD a night).
“In all the years of the openings I’ve been a part of in Las Vegas, in Macau, and now here in Dubai, this has never been done before.”
Eight years in the making and billed as ‘the world’s most ultra-luxury resort’, The Royal is situated just a stone’s throw from celebrity stalwart Atlantis The Palm, on one of the ‘branches’ of the manmade Palm Islands. Why so close to its sister property?
“Atlantis The Palm has been a great success, and it will continue to be a great success, but we wanted to complement it,” Kelly explains. “So it was coming up with a design and a concept and that wouldn’t cannibalise or compete against The Palm.”
Hoping to attract a younger, tech-savvy crowd, the sleek, 795-room resort was curated around an ‘inside looking out’ theme, with magnificent vistas at every turn.
“Today, we have this digitally native generation that walks around, that documents moments, that shares those moments,” Kelly continues.
“You walk through the resort, you’re greeted by waterfalls, you’re greeted by flames infused in glass, you’re greeted by these beautiful sculptures… but it’s a different, modern and very sophisticated presentation. That’s why we’re special.”
When it comes to luxury, the devil is in the detail, and no expense has been spared kitting out the guest rooms (one of the most talked about elements among the first VIPs to spend the night was the golden bathroom amenities made by British jewellers Graff) and securing a stellar dining line-up.
A host of celebrity chefs – Heston Blumenthal, Nobu Matsuhisa and Jose Andres among them – have opened outposts in the hotel, which also boasts a spa, four aquariums, four bars, a night club, a helipad, two kilometres of white sand beach and access for all guests to Aquaventure, the world’s largest waterpark.
Central dining area Gastronomy operates like the all-day, all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet brunches typical of Dubai, with a vast array of breakfast delights served until midday and a rotating selection of the aforementioned chefs’ offerings come dinner time.
Blumenthal has also opened his inaugural cocktail bar, where signature drinks are paired with snack-sized portions of the British chef’s most famous culinary inventions, such as ‘meat fruit’, a serving of chicken liver parfait that looks like a satsuma.
Moet and Chandon was flowing freely on opening night, and the champagne brand has even installed a vending machine by the Royal’s main swimming pool, dolling out mini bottles of bubbly to sunbathers.
With even A-listers marvelling at the extravagance of the grand unveiling – ‘A weekend that’s going to be embedded in my mind forever’ wrote Michelle Keegan on Instagram – it’s safe to say the newest jewel in Dubai’s crown lives up to the hype.
Chances are you’ll be seeing a lot more of Atlantis The Royal on your social media feeds in future, as celebs and holidaymakers flock to experience the regal resort for themselves.