Abu Dhabi absolutely stole my heart!
If you’re a fan of adventure travel with a tad of luxury, then I highly recommend you spend some time in Abu Dhabi, the political and administrative capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
With its renowned flashy neighbour, Dubai, just 105 km to the north east, this vibrant emirate sits just off the mainland on an island in the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by UAE President, Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, also referred to as Sheikh Khalifa.
During my first visit to Abu Dhabi in 2004 I was not much phased by the city at all as the hype was all about Dubai back then with its endless working opportunities, tall skyscrapers and nightlife buzz. In 2008 it was pretty much the same vibe.
However, I recently returned for a travel incentive project with The Obvious Choice and it was a complete different story. Straight from the airport, Abu Dhabi had me and I swear I could almost hear her say, “Hello again, Missy. Just look at me now!”
Abu Dhabi has it all – from luxury hotels, conference facilities, endless shopping opportunities, buzzing night-life scenes and outdoor adventures – to the heart and soul of art and culture.
Here are some of my Abu Dhabi highlights and reasons why I’ll visit this destination again and again:
1. Emirates Palace:
In short, Emirates Palace is locally known as the Rulers of the UAE’s guesthouse. From the moment you enter through the gates of this exceptional 5 Star Kempinski Hotel, you know that what you’re about to experience is “next level.” On your way to check-in you are greeted by friendly staff dressed in gilded tailcoats and women are handed long-stemmed roses.
After check-in, brace yourself… bricks of gold are deposited at the ATM’s on your way to your room and the walls drip with gold – from floor-to-ceiling.
My one night at the palace was an experience I’ll never forget – the domes, the linen, the size of our room (elaborately furnished) and the marble in our bathroom; the exceptional dinner (seafood from heaven) and the exclusive Presidential Suite tour, hosted by the friendly hotel manager.
Honestly, Emirates Palace is a must-see, even if only for a quick lunch or a walk on the beach.
For an epic view over the palace, head on over to Jumeirah Etihad Tower’s Observation Deck. The view will leave you speechless while enjoying an afternoon high-tea or a camel-milk cappuccino.
2. Yas Hotel:
When it comes to booking your accommodation, friendly staff, assistance from concierge and world-class service, I can vouch for Yas Hotel located in Abu Dhabi’s most desirable destination, Yas Island.
This exclusive hotel with its extraordinary and modern architecture next to the marina is connected to the Yas Marina Circuit, renowned for its annual Formula 1 racing event, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. This event draws thousands of Formula 1 fans from across the globe each year.
From Standard Rooms to Presidential Suites, the hotel also offers a range of dining, spa, fitness, swimming pool and kids’ facilities.
The hand-written welcome card in our room from the hotel manager upon arrival was just one of those experiences I’ll never forget.
Hospitality is a very personal industry and Yas Hotel Abu Dhabi understands that very well.
3. Louvre Abu Dhabi:
Louvre Abu Dhabi, located in the Saadiyat Cultural District on Saadiyat Island, is a beacon for artistic experience, change and education.
After spending three hours of exploring the museum and art galleries, I still was not ready to leave. I completely lost myself on an artistic journey of world history, art works (ancient and modern) and architecture.
Louvre Abu Dhabi is a cultural hub of knowledge, wisdom and understanding.
Not only are the art works incredible, but the architecture of the building is simply out of this world. That alone is a “what-the-mute-the-volume” moment.
Let’s move outdoors…
4. Adventure awaits around every corner:
Abu Dhabi has a lot to offer when it comes to outdoor adventures – from dune-bashing to Mangrove Kayaking and Seaplane tours – to sightseeing on a dhow (boat) cruise at sunset.
Ferrari World, Yas Water World and Warner Bros. are extremely popular among tourists with kids.
The Seaplane Tour was and is still an adventure I’ll cherish forever. Many thanks to Zaritha van Wyngaardt for arranging that.
5. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque:
The mosque with its white marbled floors and biggest crystal chandelier in the world is a “must see” sight and site to add to your bucket list, especially just before sunset. This is probably one of the most beautiful places of worship I’ve ever seen.
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🤗 The Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi… An incredible "must see" sight to add to your bucket list, especially just before sunset. Visitors are advised to be dressed appropriately on arrival. In short, loose fitting clothing, long sleeves and long trousers – ankle length. A headscarf for ladies is essential and all shoes are to be removed before entering the mosque. 🤗
Visitors are advised to be dressed appropriately on arrival. In short, loose fitting clothing, long sleeves and long trousers – ankle length. A headscarf for ladies is essential and all shoes are to be removed before entering the mosque. Once inside, you experience nothing, but beauty, peace and tranquillity.
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Seriously one of the most beautiful buildings in the world! The Grand Mosque @ Abu Dhabi.🌟 The best time to visit the mosque is just before sunset. one simply does not leave the mosque without a picture. Been here so many times and every time is so special. Here's to one of the world's most beautiful spiritual destinations.
6. Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa:
Bab AL Shams Desert Resort & Spa (place of the sun) is an authentic little WONDERLAND nestled in the desert dunes about 45 minutes from both Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports.
I totally fell in love with this place with the perfect setup for luxury accommodation in the middle of the desert, sundowner drinks on the rooftop and a traditional show, entertainment and dinner at Al Hadheerah Restaurant.
Dinner at Al Hadheerah is a foodie paradise. You simply can’t stop eating. It’s just too good and the variety… endless.
Like I said, these are highlights based on my experience of Abu Dhabi and I am sure that there are many, many more reasons to, not only visit Abu Dhabi, but to return to Abu Dhabi again and again.
If you have had a similar experience or enjoyed reading this article, please let me know in the comments’ section below or share the link.
Thank you for participating in the art of possibility.
In the meantime,
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Written by Deidré Schoeman