As a result of the Arab Spring, the UAE has become more popular than ever, and its capital, Abu Dhabi, has gained a reputation for being a hub of culture, sport and entertainment. We asked Jennifer Fjeringen, a British expat who worked and lived in Abu Dhabi for her insider’s insight, “Abu Dhabi is not very large, but if you love fabulous hotels, brunches, shopping and sun, it will suit you. The only advise I could give is not to sunbathe on the public beaches – it’s worth paying 100-150AED a day per person to use different hotel’s beaches and facilities. The service is wonderful!”Here, she offers five reasons to holiday in Abu Dhabi…
Why holiday in Abu Dhabi?
For a slice of Arabic culture
If you want a bit of Arabic culture, the Bateen Shipyard is a pleasant viewing. Here craftsmen carve their trademark wooden dhows from huge planks of teak. The shipyard is one of the oldest part of Abu Dhabi and just like in the old days, boat builders continue their ancient crafts in a traditional atmosphere, without the use of new age materials or fussy modern technique. Catch them in action at Dhow Harbour.
Also of course, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the ideal spot to soak up some true Arabic culture. This architectural work of art is one of the world’s largest mosques, housing a capacity of 41,000 worshippers. It features and astonishing 82 domes, over a 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers (the one in the main prayer hall is one of the world’s largest) and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. Surrounded by reflective waters which mirror the striking white and gold of the building, the mosque transforms at night with a unique lightning system that reflects the phases of the moon. Try the 5pm ‘Sunset Tour’ for the perfect time to take photos.
For some amazing brunches
The Emirates Palace Hotel is amazing and does the most scrumptious brunch on Fridays. Le Vendôme in the EPH is an all-inclusive champagne brunch with a superb selection of culinary delights. You will need to book in advance and the cost is around 550AED per person. Or for something a little alternative, why not try brunch on a yacht? Shuja Yacht offers a genuinely memorable dining experience. It is possibly the laziest and most indulgent way to sightsee in Abu Dhabi; just take a seat on board, nod to the waiter when you want more bubbly and simply relax. The yacht sets off from the dock near Marina Mall, taking you up and down the Corniche on a two-hour trip, while you soak up the sun, views and all you can eat spread. Although small, the buffet, laid on by the Royal Meridien, is extremely high quality, including fishy delicacies, a line-up of Arabic mezze and hearty international mains, as well as some extraordinary desserts, which definitely take centre stage.
For an adrenaline rush
Ferrari World in Yas Island is an adrenaline rush to say the least. This exceptional experience for every family member offers a mix ofrides, attractions, themed stores and restaurants, inspired by the Ferrari brand and its Italian heritage. The F1™ cockpit is the fastest roller coaster on the planet, with accelerations of up to 240km/h. Also in Yas Island is the Yas Marina Circuit, which has the longest straight of any current Formula 1TM circuit, plus 21 twists and turns passing around the Yas Marina and under the Yas Viceroy Hotel.Then from Yas island carry on straight on the Sheikh Zayed Road into Dubai to party!
To be enlightened at the Saadiyat Cultural District
Saadiyat Island, billed as the destination for art and culture in the Middle East, is home to several prestigious museums and galleries, which in the next couple of years, will also include the world’s second Louvre and its third Guggenheim. Another project currently underway is a partially submerged Maritime Museum and the Zayed National Museum.Abu Dhabi is also home to the art exhibition centre, Manarat Al Saadiyat (‘The Place of Enlightenment’), which hosts temporary shows in its three galleries.
For shopping heaven at The Corniche
The Corniche is a beautiful sea-front walk that leads to the Marina mall, a fabulous building filled with shops and restaurants. Surrounding the mall are gardens, fountains and the Heritage village – a very small marketplace. Backing The Corniche are the tall, glitzy buildings of the new commercial district, which runs the length of Abu Dhabi beach. In the evenings, this is also a popular place to stroll or cycle, particularly as it contains some of the city’s best places to stay, eat and shop.
Image used under creative commons by @ AlexMWang