02 January 2018
Abu Dhabi is a modern marvel with bustling malls, gleaming skyscrapers, the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It is also a region with many glorious natural sites just waiting for you to explore, from long golden beaches to idyllic parks and lush oases.
Abu Dhabi is ideal for beach lovers. A must for your itinerary is Corniche Beach which holds blue flag status, where you can relax on golden sands under umbrellas, take a scenic bike ride, or stroll along a shaded walkway with Abu Dhabi’s skyline as your backdrop. Another popular shore is Saadiyat Island’s 9km of pristine sands and the luxurious Saadiyat Beach Club with its water-front restaurant. Water sports enthusiasts – Yas Beach on Yas Island is the location for you. Here you can indulge in relaxing activities like catamaran sailing and stand up paddle-boarding.
The emirate is surrounded by acres of desert where you can find memorable experiences. This region is home to Rub Al Khali desert, known as the ‘Empty Quarter’ which is the world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass. Trek across this vast stretch of sand with a traditional camel ride, or up the ante by taking a desert safari via 4 x 4 Toyota Landcruiser across the dunes – hold on tight for a spot of ‘dune bashing’. If you venture far enough you’ll reach the Arabian Nights Village where you can experience old Arabia with stays in Bedouin-style lodges.
Escape from the heat at one of Abu Dhabi’s lush oases. A popular place to visit is the Al Ain Oasis, which is a 90-minute drive from Abu Dhabi city, known for its many palm trees and shimmering waters. Here you can learn about the UAE’s traditional irrigation system as you’ll find working examples of ‘falaj’ channels which have been employed to tap into underground wells for centuries. The Al Ain Oasis is home to an Eco-Centre, where you can find immersive interactive exhibits which explain the site’s historic importance and the measures being undertaken to preserve this fragile eco-system. While in Al Ain, be sure to see a palace fortress – Qasr Al Muwaiji and Al Jahili Fort both have fascinating exhibits of Emirati history.
The much-anticipated Louvre Abu Dhabi opened on 11th November 2017 and is the Arab World's first universal museum. It is the first of three museums to open on Saadiyat Island's Cultural District - the Zayed National Museum and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will follow in years to come. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the region's most talked about attraction and represents a fundamental statement in Abu Dhabi's long-term cultural ambition. The museum is designed by international architect Jean Nouvel and has a remarkable latticed dome creating a "rain of light" through layers of geometric shapes. It will display artworks and objects of historic, cultural and sociological significance from different civilisations in an over-arching timeline. The museum has a permanent collection as well as works of art on loan from thirteen art institutions in Paris. The entrance fee is 60 AED (approx. R205) for adults.
Enter the animal kingdom on a trip to Abu Dhabi. On Sir Bani Yas Island, the Arabian Wildlife Park is home to more than 10,000 free roaming animals including gazelles, Arabian Oryx, giraffes and even cheetahs. A popular activity on Sir Bani Yas Island is horse riding - you’ll find state-of-the-art stabling for the majestic Arabian horses. In Al Ain, you can also try an African-style safari set against the backdrop of the Jebel Hafeet mountain or visit the impressive Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre. Head to the beach on Saadiyat Island for a chance to spot dolphins, hawksbill turtles and even bright flamingo flocks, or visit the Mangrove National Park, on the eastern shore of the city, where you can view over 60 bird species and try water sports like kayaking in its idyllic channels.
A host of exciting attractions, natural and man-made, await in Abu Dhabi. One standout site for your itinerary is the Yas Mall, which is home to 400 stores and eateries and is attached to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, with its excellent exhibition of all things “Ferrari” as well as some high-octane rides! The city also houses a range of elegant fine dining establishments, such as Marco Pierre White's Steakhouse at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, where you’ll discover delicious culinary experiences. Other places of interest include the Heritage Village on the breakwater in front of the Corniche and the old dhow port where you can see the fresh catch on an early morning exploration, so there are plenty of adventures for your holiday!