The United Arab Emirates is a country bordering Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south, as well as sharing sea borders with Qatar and Iran. The UAE is a federation of seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. Abu Dhabi is the capital and second largest city in the UAE.
The city of Abu Dhabi is on an island less than 250m from the mainland and joined by the Mussafah Bridges. The other main islands that comprise Abu Dhabi are Yas Island, with its array of leisure activities and Saadiyat Island with its beautiful sandy beaches and emerging cultural district.
Having visited Dubai on many occasions, quite naïvely I presumed that Abu Dhabi would be a carbon copy of the city, but I was very pleasantly surprised to see that whilst you can drive between the two in 45 minutes, they are distinctly different.
Abu Dhabi is a thoroughly modern city, with gleaming sky scrappers (far less than Dubai) and beautifully landscaped gardens (over 2,000 of these), but behind this modern façade stands the traditions and rich heritage of its past.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an icon in the city, one of the UAE’s most important architectural landmarks and one of the most opulent in the world at over 107m tall and with over 82 domes. The third largest mosque in the world can accommodate 41,000 worshippers and houses the world’s largest carpet and one of the world’s largest Swarovski chandeliers. A trip to Abu Dhabi would not be complete without visiting this wondrous building.
Other places of interest include the Corniche, which runs for 6km along the shorelines and defines the border of Abu Dhabi. Manicured gardens, blue flag beaches and plenty of paved walkways, make it perfect for all travellers, especially families. The Heritage Village, Zayed Centre, Al Maqtaa Fort, Manarat Al Saadiyat, UAE Pavilion, Falcon Hospital and Saluki Centre all will give a further insight into the culture, traditions and heritage of this region and should not be missed.
On Saadiyat Island you can find the more traditional beach resorts, with The Park Hyatt and St Regis being amongst my favourites. Both boast numerous dining options and the facilities and activities you would expect at well-known hotel brands and on the most glorious stretch of white sand. As Saadiyat Island continues to develop as a cultural destination with the Guggenheim and Louvre Museums, these will only be a stones throw away, along with world championship golf-courses.
In the mid-town area and set on the waterfront and mangrove areas you have hotels including, Eastern Mangroves by Anantara, Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, The Ritz-Carlton and Shangri-La. They all provide a slightly more urban and contemporary feel, but are more centrally located for exploring the Emirate.
The Emirates Place is one of the world’s most opulent hotels. Set on 1.3km’s of pristine beach on the city’s Corniche, no expense has been spared to make this one of the most glitzy establishments you will ever enter. It is a distance of 1km to walk from one end of the hotel to another and with Swarovski crystals on every door handle, that’s a lot of bling!
Yas Island has a vast array of attractions including The Yas Marina Circuit, which has been home to the UAE F1 Grand Prix since 2009 and Yas Waterworld. This is a water park and amusement park rolled into one, located on the island with close proximity to Ferrai World, the world’s largest indoor amusement park with the world’s fastest roller-coaster – Formula Rosser. There is a complimentary bus service that operates regular circuits of the island and will drop you of at your chosen location – it is very punctual! This island is all about spectacular experiences so it is no wonder that the Yas Viceroy Hotel is a distinctive destination of its own. The hotel is not only unique in design, but also in location as it is the only hotel in the world to be located within a F1 circuit. With a beach club only a short hop away, this hotel provides something for everyone…and the spa treatments are amazing too!
Within an easy 2-hour drive from the center of the city, you can reach Liwa Desert, one of the largest uninterrupted sand deserts in the world. A small sign on the highway marks a track, where you will drive 5 miles into the desert until you reach the luxury oasis of Qasr Al Sarab. This desert resort has all the facilities you could wish for including spa, fitness center, kids club and a variety of dining options, but what is so unique is the location. For as far as the eye can see is sand. Camel rides, dune bashing, walking, biking, archery and 4×4 desert safari’s will fill your days, whilst sundowners under the stars will complete your day.
Abu Dhabi is a truly surprising destination, the perfect mix of culture, luxury, activities and exceptional service. With almost year round sunshine and a flying time from the UK of less than 7 hours, a short taster or a longer holiday adventure are all possible.
To find out more or to make an enquiry, please call 01428 658777.