Abu Dhabi: The One to Watch
With desert-scapes, oases, fabulous beaches, heritage sites and the much anticipated Louvre Abu Dhabi, it’s no wonder Abu Dhabi is always on the ‘Destinations to Watch’ list by key travel publications around the world.
Abu Dhabi is a destination of diversity, not only of terrain, but of people, traditions and heritage. From Bedouin beginnings to a rich and luxurious present, Abu Dhabi can offer the experience of ‘Authentic Arabia’ with all the five star luxuries you want.
As a stop-over, Abu Dhabi is unbeatable. Some of the Emirate’s best hotels are within fifteen or so minutes from the airport, so there’s no tedious transfer after a long flight. You can literally go from the baggage hall to the swimming pool in twenty minutes.
Once you check in, you’ll see that the price to luxury ratio is generously out of kilter in Abu Dhabi. It is affordable luxury at its best.
And it’s not just the beauty of hotels and resorts that makes them so special, it’s also the overwhelming Emirati hospitality that shines through in every interaction you have with the staff.
Then of course is the food, you can’t talk about a hotel in Abu Dhabi without raving about the diversity of dining options. It. Is. Incredible! Arabic food is heavenly; the hummus is so good you’ll wish you could somehow package it up and send it home, the UAE favourite Al Machboos is a must and the mouth-watering pastries drenched in honey and rose water are impossible to stop eating.
When you’ve exhausted the local options, fear not as Abu Dhabi is such an international city, it has influences from everywhere. You will find every type of food and cuisine and alcohol is widely available in hotels.
So once you’ve rested, restored and recovered from the flight, it’s time to have a look around.
Yas Island, Abu Dhabi’s entertainment precinct, is home to an array of mind blowing visitor experiences to fill your need to thrill.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi has the world’s fastest roller-coaster, The Formula Rossa with speeds going from 0 to 240 k/h in 4.5 seconds, or the world’s largest loop roller coaster Flying Aces if being upside down is more your thing!
Taking you even closer to the real thing is Yas Marina Circuit –home of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Circuit offers the closest thing to personally driving a Formula One vehicle - a seat behind the wheel of the Formula Yas 3000. Watch out for the on-board cameras though, they will capture every scream you make!
Perhaps walking off jet lag with a spot of shopping is more your thing, the ultra-modern and luxurious Yas Mall, the second largest Mall in the UAE, Marina Mall or the high end Galleria has something for everyone - or rather everything for everyone.
Abu Dhabi is fast becoming a world class cultural hub and its commitment to culture is epitomised in the Saadiyat Island Cultural District. The District will be the world’s largest single concentration of premier culture assets with the Louvre Abu Dhabi opening this year and Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi are expected to follow in the coming years.
The magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest and most dramatic Mosque in the UAE, is a must. The project was founded by the late Sheikh Zayed and Father of the Nation, who believed that nothing is impossible and that the most gracious achievements start from the heart.
Any visit to Abu Dhabi should include a walk or cycle along the famed Corniche. The Corniche spreads across an impressive eight kilometres of manicured waterfront that includes children’s play areas, separate cycle and pedestrian pathways, cafés and restaurants, and the Corniche Beach - a lifeguarded beach park.
The beaches in Abu Dhabi are quite remarkable, 700 kilometres of beautiful coastline with 200 natural islands surrounded by warm, clean waters inhabited by a vast array of fish and marine life. This is the territory where the fascinating Hawksbill Turtles come to nest; so if you are visiting between April and August, you might be lucky enough to see a baby turtle making its way to the ocean for the very first time.
With only two hours from the beach to the desert, you’ll feel like you’re on a totally different holiday. The desert-scapes are so dramatic in Abu Dhabi; George Lucas decided to film his latest Star Wars film: The Force Awakens, there. So make like a Jedi and head to Qasr Al Sarab by Anantara, the hotel where the cast and crew stayed whilst filming Star Wars.
Qasr Al Sarab’s fame isn’t only due to Jakku though, it is largely because Liwa is home to the famous Camel Beauty Pageant (yes, you read correctly), where camels are judged by such criteria as straightness of their ears, floppiness of their lips, and length from foreleg to hind leg.
There’s plenty more to do in the desert than look at pretty camels though, try your hand at some of the adventure activities on offer. Jump in a 4WD and go on a seriously fun sand dune safari or try the next big thing, sand skiing. If that is all just a bit too much, simply laze by some of the beautiful pools and spas within the stunning hotels like Qasr al Sarab, or venture to the luxurious accommodation on Sir Bani Yas Island – where a nature conservation haven seamlessly blends with the allure of a desert island.
As you can see, Abu Dhabi really an amazing destination – so make sure you put it on your list as it’s definitely ’One to Watch’!
Words by Suzanne Tobin