With Kenya Airways’ new flights to Abu Dhabi starting this month, we present our 10 must-see attractions in one of Arabia’s most stylish and modern cities.
1 Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
No less than 82 domes and 1000 marble columns – all inlaid with semi-precious stones – adorn this spectacular building. Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful mosques in the world, the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan can accommodate over 7000 worshippers. Its main prayer hall contains both the world’s largest chandelier (15m high and 10 m wide) and hand-knotted carpet. Guided tours are available daily at 10am, except Fridays.
2 Yas Island
World renowned as the home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (taking place this year on 3 November), Yas Island is the city’s ultra-modern entertainment hub. It boasts everything from international hotels, golf courses and marinas to restaurants, polo clubs and water parks. Yas Island is also home to Ferrari World (see no.8).
3 Emirates Palace Hotel
Beyond 5-star, the extraordinary Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi (www.kempinski.com) occupies a prime position near the city’s diplomatic and business areas and is only a five-minute walk from Marina Mall (see no.7). Facilities include a 1.3km stretch of pristine beach, two lavish pool areas and Anantara Spa. The Palace Grand Suite will set you back over US$11,000 per night, but there are another 302 rooms and 92 suites to choose from.
4 The Corniche
Extending 6km along Abu Dhabi’s waterfront, the Corniche is an elegant blend of landscaped gardens, sandy beaches and leisure facilities – the perfect spot for a morning jog, a picnic or somewhere to take the kids for a play.
5 Central Market
When Abu Dhabi’s original outdoor souk burned down in 2004, the new Central Market rose from the ashes to form a vibrant shopping space that fuses Arabian heritage with modern fashion. Head to the Souk at Central Market for perfumes, herbs and spices, jewellery, local clothes and electronics, or the Emporium for chic boutiques and a great range of cafes and restaurants.
6 Saadiyat Island
An island for business and pleasure, Saadiyat (www.saadiyat.ae) is just 500m off the coast from Abu Dhabi and is being developed into a diverse, architecturally-rich destination that offers everything from smart waterfront homes to sporting venues and business centres.
7 Marina Mall
You’ll find 122,000m2 of retail space (that’s equivalent to 17 football pitches) at this iconic mall. As well as 400 shops, Marina Mall (www.marinamall.ae) has a multi-screen cinema, bowling alley, ice rink, Mercedes Benz showroom and a revolving restaurant atop a 30-storey observation tower. Prime brands include Burberry, Hugo Boss, Tod’s, Chanel, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.
8 Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Rev up your engines for a day of sleek supercars and non-stop action at the world’s first Ferrari theme park. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi (www.ferrariworldabudhabi.com) has over 20 rides, including G-Force, where you can experience the acceleration of a Formula 1 car, and Speed of Magic – a 4D simulator that kids will love. Tour the Ferrari factory, take pole position in the Junior Grand Prix and ogle a fabulous collection of sports cars dating from 1947.
9 Abu Dhabi Mall
Connected to the 5-star, Beach Rotana Hotel, Abu Dhabi Mall (www.abudhabi-mall.com) is another of the city’s major shopping hotspots. Exercise your feet and your wallet around the mall’s 200 stores (big names include Areej, Faces, Jashanmal and Paris Gallery), take in a movie at the cineplex and then grab a bite to eat at one of the 40-plus food outlets.
10 Heritage Village
Overlooking the Corniche, the Heritage Village provides a fascinating insight into Abu Dhabi’s history, using reconstructions of traditional Bedouin camps, old souks and mud-brick houses to showcase life prior to the discovery of oil.