There’s a reason the Middle East is one of the most popular tourist destinations. An exotic escape, Abu Dhabi is more than just deserts and sand dunes. The city is a representation of rich culture and heritage with a dash of luxury.
My journey to Abu Dhabi began with a comfortable and luxurious ride in Etihad’s latest A350-1000 aircraft. The new aircraft promises efficiency and sustainability, with thoughtful design details that focus on enhanced comfort and privacy. Etihad’s flight can also be a big draw for those who are looking for a more sustainable air travel experience. Etihad has a ‘triple-daily schedule’ which gives travellers a choice of three flights a day, leaving from Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. The flight is a quick one that takes an average of 3 hours to reach, leaving from each of the mentioned cities.
Travelling by business class was very comfortable, with a seat by the window which was as spacious as a plane seat can get, comfortable reclining seats and ambient lighting that doesn’t blind you. Interestingly, the lighting design is said to be inspired by the palm trees in Abu Dhabi. The cabin lighting emulates natural ambient light that provides an optimum environment for sleeping and reduces the effects of jetlag.
After take-off, guests can choose their meal from the set meal card which boasts of an exceptional culinary experience prepared by Etihad’s award-winning cabin crew. Since it was an early morning flight, the menu had two options – spinach and mushroom frittata or masala dosa. I opted for the former, which came with a side of turkey sausage, Lyonnaise potato, a bowl of fresh fruit, yoghurt with granola, and muffins, along with a cup of cappuccino.
Post my meal, I got comfortable, reclining my seat all the way down into a flatbed. This along with the comfortable cushions and a blanket helped me have one of the best naps I’ve had on a flight.
Abu Dhabi can be a mix of culture and adventure, with a tour of the Louvre Abu Dhabi and rides on the Ferrari World.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a must-visit for all, regardless of whether you are an art lover or not. One of the city’s beloved landmarks, Louvre Abu Dhabi is the city’s first universal museum, located in the heart of the Saadiyat Cultural District on Saadiyat Island.
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The building by itself is a work of art, designed by Pritzker-prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel. Nicknamed the ‘museum city’, the Louvre features a contrasting series of white buildings said to be inspired by the medina.
One of the most notable features of the design is the tremendous double dome. Stretching 180 metres in diameter, the dome consists of eight different layers – four outer layers clad in stainless steel and four inner layers made with aluminium. These are separated by a steel frame made of 10,000 structural components pre-assembled into 85 super-sized elements, each weighing up to 50 tonnes. A geometric masterpiece, the dome is designed to resemble a woven structure with sunlight seeping through during the day, and a starry sky gleaming at night. If you want a great picture, here is where you get it!
On the inside, the museum is an expansive space, spread across 9,200 square metres. It is made up of 55 individual buildings which include 23 galleries. An art-lovers’ dream, the museum features more than 600 works of art, most of which have been loaned by notable French museums like the Musee du Louvre, Musee d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou among others. The vast collection, categorised according to historical chronology, consists of artefacts, ancient pottery, photography, sculptures, gems and metal works, figurines, paper collages, and so much more.
Apart from being the Middle East’s first universal museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi is also a powerful symbol of the United Arab Emirates’ ambition and achievement, standing as one of the modern urban wonders of the world.
Thrill, adventure and excitement
There is no shortage of exciting theme parks in Abu Dhabi. However, Ferrari World is a must for all adventure seekers. Apart from being the world’s first Ferrari branded theme park, Ferrari World is a family-friendly spot boasting over 40 adventure rides and attractions for kids and adults alike.
Love the adrenaline rush? Then hop on the Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster which races from 0 to 240km/h in 4.9 seconds, at a soaring height of 52 metres. While adults enjoy the thrills of this speedy rollercoaster, kids can enjoy a miniature version reaching a speed of up to 45 km/h. Another hot highlight is the Flying Aces, which comes with the world’s highest roller-coaster loop. A 63m climb inclined at 51 degrees, the ride instantly hits 120 km/h giving you the thrill to remember.
If heights aren’t your thing, don’t worry, there’s still plenty to do. Head to the Tyre Change Experience to test your pace against that of F1™ pit crews or sharpen your racing skills on a 290-metre-long track at the Karting Academy. If a relaxed experience is what you’re looking for, then the Bell ‘Italia ride is a great pick. Explore a mini-Italy in a Ferrari 250 California, circa 1958. The ride displays Italian landmarks such as the Amalfi Coast, Monza Racetrack, the Colosseum di Roma, Venezia and Maranello, the home of Ferrari.
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Aside from the thrilling rides, the theme park also hosts a Family Zone, family-friendly attractions, state-of-the-art simulators, electric-powered go-karts, live shows, and an inspiring collection of racing memorabilia. One could spend the entire day here, indulging in every last experience.
After an exciting first day, my itinerary in Abu Dhabi took me to one of the most bespoke places in the city – the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. A statement of beauty in Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the world’s largest mosques and the only one in Abu Dhabi with an open-door policy encouraging visitors from around the world. This allows both worshippers and cultural explorers to witness the beauty of architecture and design, as well as get a deeper understanding of the emirate’s cultural beliefs in a space that encourages open dialogue.
While Abu Dhabi is a relaxed city when it comes to dress codes, it is imperative that all visitors dress modestly while visiting the mosque. Women visiting the mosque are required to wear abayas –which are available for free at the mosque – along with a headscarf.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was built by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan – the Founding Father of the UAE. An architectural work of art, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has 82 white marble domes, over a thousand columns embedded with amethyst and jasper gemstones, and minarets capturing the Mameluke, Ottoman and Fatimid. Civic marble from Macedonia covers the exterior walls while Italian marble has been used on the interiors.
The mosque holds a Guinness World Record for the largest hand-woven carpet. The carpet, located inside the main prayer hall, is a massive 5,700 square meters long and was hand-crafted by approximately 1,200 artisans. It took a total of two years to complete the carpet, which includes eight months for the design and 12 months for the knotting.
Aside from the carpet, the main prayer hall also features seven striking Swarovski chandeliers, one of which holds a record for the second largest chandelier inside a mosque and the third largest in the world. It measures 10m wide, 15 metres tall and weighs 12 tonnes. Smaller versions of this striking chandelier weighing 8 tonnes each, sit on either side of the large chandelier. Aside from these, four blue-coloured chandeliers bearing a similar design are located in the foyer entrance surrounding the mosque.
The courtyard in the mosque is another stunning location in the mosque, designed with reflective pools and one of the largest marble mosaic artworks in the world. While the mosque is open to visitors all day, the evenings are the best time to visit. With sunset closing in, the entire mosque turns into a beautiful sight with the domes, arches, and reflective pools – which act as water mirrors – perfectly designed to capture the light, creating a breathtaking and humbling experience.
Following my visit to the mosque, was a trip to the renowned Emirates Palace. If you’re looking to experience luxury in its truest forms, then a visit to the Emirates Palace is a must. From the moment I stepped in through the doors, I could feel myself surrounded by the best of luxury – architecture, food and experiences.
Located in the heart of Abu Dhabi, the Emirates Palace is very Arabesque in its style, with grand domes, marble interiors and opulent decor. The design of this luxury hotel is its main attraction. It features a total of 114 domes crafted using gold, mother of pearl and crystals.
If you love the sea, then you’re going the love the view outside the Emirates Palace. It has a private beach stretching 1.3kms, landscaped pools and a private marina overlooking the natural bay. The main building of the hotel is surrounded by expansive gardens spread across 100 hectares.
While it is the perfect spot with ample of offerings for its guests, the Emirates Palace has plenty of offerings for non-residents of the hotel as well, right from the hotel’s luxe spa offering indulgent treatments to some of the world’s best restaurants. The hotel’s Le Cafe is world famous for its signature 23K gold-flaked Palace Cappuccino, Camel Burger and a one-of-its-kind Camelccino, all of which are a must-try for all visitors.
Visiting The National Aquarium is the best way to spend your last day in Abu Dhabi. Said to be the largest aquarium in the Middle East, The National Aquarium in Al Qana celebrates biodiversity housing over 46,000 animals from more than 300 unique species.
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