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DUBAI — Recession? What recession? The hard times weren’t felt Thursday night here when billionaire hotel mogul Sol Kerzner dropped $20 million on his launch party for Atlantis The Palm, his new marine-themed resort in the United Arab Emirates.

Celebrities including Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson, Mary-Kate Olsen, Charlize Theron, Quincy Jones, Robert DeNiro, Chris Tucker, the Duchess of York, Michael Jordan, Janet Jackson and Mischa Barton flew into Dubai for the three-day celebration of the opulent $1.2 billion property, set on the man-made Palm Jumeirah island.

“Without a doubt, this is the biggest party I’ve ever put together,” said event organizer Colin Cowie.

This story first appeared in the November 24, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The marine-themed resort was transformed into a fairy-tale setting with massive pink dragons and jellyfish snaking through the crowds, offering culinary delights from celebrity chefs Nobu Matsuhisa, Michel Rostang, Giorgio Locatelli and Santi Santamaria.

Perhaps the evening’s most extravagant part was the fireworks display. Actor Gerard Butler stood on his chair taking in the spectacular show, which lit up the entire 323-mile coastline of the palm-shaped island. “And I thought swimming with the dolphins this morning was neat,” he said.

Guests at the gala dinner were treated to a performance by Kylie Minogue, who had to alter the show for fear of offending anyone in the Muslim country. “There is definitely more fabric than I’ve ever worn onstage,” she said. “You have to respect the country that you’re in.” She didn’t skimp on glamour, though, wearing a gold and black sequined number. “I roped in my good friend Jean Paul Gaultier to do my outfits just for this event.”

“This place is unreal,” marveled Theron, wearing a white Roberto Cavalli gown. The actress was visiting the Middle Eastern kingdom for the first time with boyfriend Stuart Townsend. “We just flew in, so I haven’t seen much yet. But my first impression is awe. Cranes, construction and this red carpet. Pretty amazing.”

Some celebs who arrived early took the opportunity to soak in the local culture. Barton said she spent the afternoon before the big party riding camels on the beach, leaving her just an hour to get ready. Luckily, Matthew Williamson, who dressed her for the event, was prepared. “We brought a few dresses from my recent collection and this one just seemed to suit the occasion the best,” he said.

Ronson, as DJ, kept partygoers dancing into the wee hours, with a dutiful Lohan by her side. Hostess Heather Kerzner kicked off her shoes, smiling and mingling with the over 2,000 guests until 6 a.m.

Despite the late-night revelry, not everyone was planning to sleep in the next day. Jordan said he planned to indulge in retail therapy at some of Dubai’s megamalls. “I’m going to hit the indoor ski slope inside the mall and maybe do a little Christmas shopping. This is actually one of the few places in the world I can actually walk around the mall and not be bothered,” he said, laughing.

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