Manoj Kuriakose speaks to Xpress at the Emirates palace in Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates on Sunday April 14, 2013. PHOTO: Hadrian Hernandez/Xpress XNE_130414_MANOJ_AD_HH

Abu Dhabi: At first glance, there’s nothing grand about Manoj Kuriakose.

And there shouldn’t be any reason why the 38-year-old Indian with a job title of public area engineer that sounds like the most boring thing on earth should make you give him a second look.

But let him begin telling you what he does for a living and indifference will give way to awe in a matter of minutes as you realise Kuriakose is indeed a man with the Midas touch.

Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi’s seven-star tribute to opulence, owes all the glow and grandeur of its magnificent interiors to the humble-looking Kuriakose.

We are talking about 2,000 square metres of ornate ceiling covered in 22 carat gold and silver leaves, a staggering 114 domes, 302 deluxe luxury rooms including the luxurious Ruler’s suites and Royal suites heavily decorated in gold, hundreds of pillars coated with gold, 1,002 chandeliers made of Swarovski crystals, 12,000 pieces of signage, door keys that come as chunky gold coins and all other decorative pieces that glow in immaculate shades of yellow.

“I know every nook and corner of the hotel where the yellow metal is used. My eyes will scan even a tiny blemish on the edge of a wall or on the hidden corner of a stairwell,” said Kuriakose, a qualified electrical engineer who joined the hotel from its pre-inception time in 2005.

Taking XPRESS on an exclusive tour of the Kempinski-run luxury hotel including the magnificent Dh55,000-a-day Royal Suite on the 6th floor, Kuriakose says it’s a daily challenge to maintain glitter at the hotel that is the favourite haunt of the rich and the famous in the UAE and the region.

“It takes more than a year to finish maintaining the gold leaf application of the gilded part of the ceiling alone which is spread around 2,000 square metres. That means by the time we cover end to end that stretches a kilometre, we will have to start all over again from where we started. That way it is an ongoing and never-ending process,” said the ‘golden boy’ as he is lovingly referred to by his colleagues.

With a team of five gold leaf specialists working magic under him, Kurikose says they cover four to five rooms a day. And with 50 gold leaves required to cover just one square metre at an approximate cost of Dh385, there is a staggering 2,000 square metres of gold ceiling that requires regular grooming.

According to him, it is a highly skilled job and there is hardly anyone in the UAE who knows the Italian technique of gold leaf application. Explaining the painstaking efforts to maintain the hotel, he said after clearing and sanding the surface and applying a primer to prevent fungus, two coats of base paint are applied. Once dried, a coat of gold leaf glue is used on which the ultra-thin gold leaves are fixed. Using nails, designs are made on the leaves that form intricate patterns.

It may be painstaking work, but Kuriakose says it is as coveted a job as the yellow metal itself. “This place is out of the ordinary. The rich and famous from all over the world flock to Emirates Palace to soak in its beauty and opulence. It is a hotel made of gold and my team and I are proud that we are the guardians of gold here,” said Kuriakose.

And what’s his personal take on gold? “I have to admit that I love wearing gold,” he said.

Given the fact that he hails from Kerala, India which is known for its fixation with the yellow metal, that hardly comes as a surprise.

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