Some destinations are so spectacular that they take your breath away, Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirate is one such city, every building, every street and every park has been planned to the last detail with no expense spared – this is after all one of the richest cities in the world; those that visit will find glittering skyscrapers, luxury hotels and shopping malls of such opulence and decadence that they barely seem real.
Abu Dhabi is made even more special by its location, the first glimpse that you have of the city is from the air and what a sight it is, little remains of the original fishing village, instead a huge metropolis rises up from the banks of the Persian Gulf and ebbs away into the lunar like landscape of the Arabian Desert; this is the newest destination to burst onto the scene, and what a destination it is.
There is no shortage of luxury hotels in Abu Dhabi, these cover a whole range of price points (although none are low); the Millennium Hotel is understated, has a great location and isn’t overpriced, the marble lobby sets the tone for the hotel, which has beautifully appointed rooms – the lower price may be due to the lack of beachside location but that is a very small price to pay for the chance to stay at such an excellent hotel.
Budget accommodation is a little harder to come by, but there are several options throughout the city that are perfectly acceptable; most hotels do have air conditioning, but for the Western traveller those without should probably be avoided.
The cuisine of Abu Dhabi is so global that it is difficult to pinpoint what is traditional and what isn’t, the nearest to tradition in the city is the vast array of Indian restaurants that have been around since the city was in its infancy, these do vary in quality but most do offer some excellent vegetarian options which are often the best choice.
Those that want fine dining are spoilt for choice in Abu Dhabi with many of the hotels competing to have the best chefs and the best menus, Hakkasan at the Emirates Palace on Corniche Road is particularly well known as one of the oldest of the high end restaurants, the set dinner menu offers excellent value although much more expensive dishes are available for those feel the need to splurge.
Watching a traditional camel race has to be high on the list of must do activities, the tracks are to be found in the east of the Emirate; most visitors find themselves not only having the chance to visit the camel stables but also rubbing shoulders with some of the oil worlds high fliers – the camel racing season runs throughout the winter months, which is generally the perfect time to visit Abu Dhabi.
Take a boat cruise along the city’s waterfront, the Corniche stretches from the busy shopping centres to the port, with much activity along the long walkway, but by far the best way to see it all is on one of the Dhows that sail at sunset – they serve a three course Arabic meal whilst you soak up the skyline of this fantastic city.
The year round sunshine and beautiful beaches make Abu Dhabi a perfect destination at any time of year, those that like the heat a little milder should visit between November and May when the beautiful clear skies offer a perfect tonic to the British winter – the heat after May can become relentless, but as most buildings are air conditioned this is not a major problem unless you specifically wish to spend time on the beaches.