I visited the UAE a few years ago and consumed 24k gold cappuccino at the Emirates Palace hotel, which itself is laced with gold and contains within its ornate walls a gold ATM. I am not proud of this excess, but I clearly didn’t think enough of it to stop myself from indulging. In fact, I relished the indulgence as I anticipated the experience. I made a point to go to the hotel just to have this drink. All things considered, it was a modest expense ($13), a price worth the taste of luxury and exclusivity.
The drink itself, by cappuccino standards, was not exceptionally notable. This is either a fault of my undiscerning palate or the possible truth that there is marginal difference among cappuccino options in the world. I liken this possibility to steak. I’ve had relatively “finer” steaks, and I’ve also had steak at Outback Steakhouse, various dining halls on school campuses, and at home. The best of the best left no impressionable mark on my memory, except the knowledge that they should be perceived as superior; instead, the only superiority I felt was my own for having eaten them. The normative aesthetic translated into gross pride. Similarly, I didn’t really care about the cappuccino, but I must’ve cared about its capacity to elevate me above…the rest. Those inglorious Others who could never, indeed would never step foot in or near the Emirates Palace. Such a place is not for them. It is for the likes of me.
I want to believe that I’ve discarded this entitled, worthlessly conscious “me,” a version of my self who knows that such experience is trivial and insulting but doesn’t use this awareness to inspire greater action. Yet when I see this hotel opening up in Mecca, I am in awe. I ponder my place there, and I remember those gold flakes dissolving on my tarnished tongue as I drank away the world and put myself at the center of the universe.
Was this a confession, or a celebration?