Sometimes we are not surprised by things that should surprise us. Sometimes we are surprised by things that should not surprise us, which is the position I am at the moment. Roland came into our office the other day saying, “Guess where the most expensive Christmas tree in the world is?” It was a rhetorical question, of course, since it could only be in the UAE. Specifically, this unbelievable tree is in the rotunda of the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, which bills itself as a 7 star hotel.
After all the years I lived in AD, and with the annual attempts to break as many Guinness world records as possible at once, there is no reason I should have been surprised to hear about this $11 million tree covered in almost 200 diamonds, rubies, pearls, sapphires and other precious stones. Yet there I was, surprised nonetheless and dismayed as well. The hotel manager, Hans Olbertz, claims that the tree is about sharing the traditions of people of other faiths and about being liberal and unique. In my opinion, that is a lump of Christmas coal. This tree is not about sharing; it’s about showing off. It’s not about being liberal; it’s about being the center of attention. It’s not about being unique; it’s about being bigger and better just because you can afford it.
I don’t know if any Emiratis are offended by this massive, expensive Christmas tree so prominently displayed in the hotel in their Muslim country. I doubt many are because Christmas trees, lights, decorations, music and even craft fairs are normal in the UAE at that time of year and have been for a few years now. I, however, as a Westerner who believes in Christmas and what it should be about (peace, love, charity, family, hope), am offended by the ridiculous showiness of this tree, and the waste of funds that could be so much better spent elsewhere when so many people in the world are suffering. Yes, I know that the hotel claims the jewels belong to a merchant in the hotel and that they are all going back there when the tree comes down, but that does not include the $10,000 cost of the tree and all the other decorations that are not jewels from the merchant, such as the real gold and silver balls. The hotel says that it does not regret putting up the tree and decorating it so ostentatiously. Personally, I think it should regret it-and donate a hefty sum to charity to make amends.