By Amena Bakr
DUBAI (Reuters) - It's the ultimate hole-in-the-wall -- a money machine that dispenses pure gold.
But installed beneath the gold-coated ceilings of Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace hotel, where royalty and billionaires come for cappuccinos topped with gold flakes, the machine almost seems part of the furniture.
"The reason we chose Emirates Palace is because it really fits with the surroundings here," said German entrepreneur Thomas Geissler, creator of the "Gold to Go" brand and chief executive of Ex Oriente Lux.
The exterior of the machine is coated with a thin layer of gold and offers customers 320 items to choose from, ranging from gold bars that can weigh up to 10 grams, to customized gold coins.
"All the gold is imported from Germany, and soon we will have a customized gold bar with a print of the Emirates Palace logo, which will be a nice souvenir for guests to take home," said Geissler.
Through a computer system, the ATM gold machine updates the gold price every 10 minutes to match international markets.
For now, it takes notes of the local dirham currency, but the option of using credit cards will soon be introduced.
The cash-for-gold machines were first tested in Germany in 2009, but Geissler chose Abu Dhabi for the official launch of his invention because of the region's high demand for gold.
"On the first night we had a lot of demand," he said. "One customer even bought one item of every product we have."
Geissler's timing is spot-on, as investors flock to gold as a safe haven from economic turbulence.
On Thursday, gold priced in sterling and euros reached record highs, while that priced in the more usual dollar denomination was quoted at $1,236 an ounce, with dealers expecting it to reach fresh highs over coming days.