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abu dhabi 101 the very best of the uae capital

hotels culture shops sights activities restaurants

kanoo world traveller 2013/14

Live the ultimate water adventure The UAE’s first mega waterpark brings you 43 exhilarating rides, slides and attractions including 5 world-exclusives. Experience the planet’s only rattling water slide with special effects, float down the lazy river, or shop in the souk. Bring the whole family for a day of mega thrills, entertainment and fun. +971 2 414 2000

Think Big Abu Dhabi is on a roll: big name restaurants, sparkling hotels, worldclass sporting facilities and one-of-a-kind entertainments have secured the capital a slot as a must-see destination. And yet it shows no sign of stopping: 2013 brings new hotspots for visitors, with the opening of the world’s biggest waterpark, Yas Waterworld, coming ahead of the hotly-anticipated Yas Mall. What’s more, world-class events like the annual Etihad Airways Formula 1 weekend (backed by performances from some of music’s biggest names) keep tourists coming back year after year. Come see for yourself... About this guide We’ve combed the UAE’s capital to bring you the 101 best things to see and do, and placed them in easy-to-reference sections. In fact, it’s never been simpler to plan your perfect city break. All of our recommendations cater to an array of tastes and budgets too, so you can be sure to find a well-rounded view of the city and its offerings. So, what are you waiting for?



The Hotels – take your pick from a sublime line up of boltholes


The Shopping – check out the capital’s first all-luxury mall


The Restaurants – prepare your palate for standout meals

Abu Dhabi


The Culture & Sights– the capital’s must-sees


The Activities – get in gear for an entertainment overdrive

Production in whole or in part without written permission from HOT Media Publishing is strictly prohibited. HOT Media Publishing does not accept liability for omissions or errors in this publication.

Produced by HOT Media Publishing FZ LLC

Abu Dhabi 101


Welcome to Abu Dhabi Your ultimate guide to getting to and around the UAE capital

Getting There

taxis, easy to spot from the yellow

There is a large array of airlines

signs on their roofs. While most

across the GCC offering flights to

taxi drivers will know the capital’s

Abu Dhabi. For more information

major landmarks, venues that are

restaurants to be found in the capital –

on routes and ticket prices, visit

brand new (and there are lots of

so reserve a table at Mezlai at Emirates

your nearest Kanoo Travel or

them) or off the beaten track may

American Express Travel Outlet.

be trickier to find. To help with this, simply ask your concierge to speak


to the driver or write down detailed

Like New York’s Manhattan,

directions to help you on your way

Abu Dhabi operates on a grid

– just remember to include a well-

system, which makes its roads

known landmark as it can help in the

easy to navigate. If you want to

absence of street names.

1 The number of authentic Emirati

Palace for a taste of the region

74 Is the level on Tower 2 of Etihad Towers where you can step onto Observation Deck at 300 – the capital’s highest vantage point. Well worth a look…

drive yourself, you’ll be met by a multitude of car rental companies


on touching down at the airport

The official currency of the UAE

– though, be warned, the roads

is the UAE dirham. You’ll find

The number of rides causing a splash

are busy and best avoided at peak

banknotes available in 5, 10, 20,

at the world’s largest water park – the

time. As you’re on holiday, why

50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 notes.

not let someone else take the

Conveniently, ATMs are plentiful

strain of driving? It’s easy to use

across the city for those wishing to

taxis in the capital, and they’re

withdraw cash. For your reference,


also reasonably priced (expect to

there is currently 1 Saudi Riyal to 1

Square-footage of the Frank Gehry-

pay around $20 for a taxi from the

UAE dirham, 1 Qatar Riyal to 1 UAE

designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi,

airport to the city centre). Look

dirham, and 10 Bahrain Dinars to 1

scheduled to open on Saadiyat Island

out for the commonplace silver

UAE dirham.


Abu Dhabi 101

43 newly-opened Yas Waterworld

by 2017


Events to make your city break... March




Pop king Sting shows us how it’s done this month, when he takes to the stage at Yas Island’s du Arena on March 14

Book worms should make for the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2013 and delve into all things literary (ADNEC Halls, April 8-11)

Have a girls’ day out at ADNEC’s Beauty Secrets Show 2013 – with shows and samples galore, you’re bound to leave looking beautiful…

Artistic families can make the most of the city’s growing art scene by signing up for one of Saadiyat Cultural District’s Family Art Workshops





Summer in Abu Dhabi at ADNEC is jam-packed with exciting indoor activities for kids, from fun fair rides to a Clown Stunt Academy and so much more besides

If you’re in town over Ramadan, be sure to experience one of the city’s iftars. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque offers it free, daily

Get to grips with the UAE’s equine history at the annual Abu Dhabi International Hunting & Equestrian Exhibition (ADNEC), the only event of its kind

Fashionistas should take a seat by the catwalk of Chic Lady 2013, where models will flaunt new designs by both international and Arab designers





Without doubt the capital’s event of the year, the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a must-see sporting spectacle

The Mubadala World Tennis Championship sees the world’s six best male players compete for some serious prize money

Get into the swing of things at the annual Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. A great day out for all the family to enjoy

The world’s super chefs team up from February 5-20 to create culinary magic at Gourmet Abu Dhabi – a must-do festival for foodies

Abu Dhabi 101



AN EXHILARATING STAY Experience the exciting duo of Ferrari World Abu Dhabi or Yas Waterworld and Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island with packages starting at AED 885* per night. Package includes overnight stay, breakfast at Jing Asia for two people and two adult tickets to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi or Yas Waterworld. Or experience the trio of Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, and Yas Waterworld starting at AED 1,030* per night. *Inclusive of 10% service charge & 6% tourism fee. Terms and conditions apply.

For more information call +971 (0)2 656 3030 or email: Visit

The Hotels Glitz and glamour is second nature to the UAE capital – we cast our net city-wide to catch the finest spots in which to stay… Few hotels afford a truly unique experience, but the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi Hotel ( is the exception. Whatever the time of day, you’ll be hard pushed not to spot its armadillo-like façade – which changes colour as night falls. Get past that eye-catching exterior and you’ll be in the city’s most distinctive setting. Suites here place you, quite literally, on the edge of the action – in this case, overlooking the Yas Marina circuit, home to the city’s annual F1 race. Go all out with a stay in one of its two-storey Presidential Suites, memorable for their standout features – notably an indoor lap pool, revealed from behind a partition at the click of a button. Another hotel that’s long made headlines in Abu Dhabi (and beyond) is the extravagant Emirates Palace ( – one of the world’s most expensively built hotels. Set on West Corniche Road, to call it ‘palatial’ would be an understatement. Inside, it’s the epitome of excess, from its gold leaf rooms to its Palace Suites, where Swarovski chandeliers tinkle overhead. Outside, a cotton-white beach, lavish pools and facilities galore are enough to keep you occupied for days – but don’t check out without savouring an authentic taste of the region at Mezlai, the only Emirati restaurant of its kind city-wide. Abu Dhabi 101


ESCAPE TO A HIDDEN GEM ON THE SHORES OF THE ARABIAN GULF Rejuvenate mind, body and soul as you unwind in the tranquil surroundings of this enchanting retreat. Located in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi Emirate, Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort offers a host of recreational, dining and entertainment choices, and is perfect for an unforgettable weekend getaway, a romantic break or a fun-filled family holiday. Each of the exquisitely appointed, spacious rooms in this enchanting beachside paradise enjoys stunning views over the pristine white sands of our 800 metre private beach to the crystal clear sea beyond. Experience the warmth of true Arabian hospitality and treat yourself to a well-deserved break in one of the UAE’s best kept secrets. For more information, call +971 2 801 2222 or visit

Managed by Danat Hotels & Resorts, a Division of National Corporation for Tourism & Hotels PO Box 12333, Abu Dhabi, UAE | T. +971 2 801 2222 | F. +971 2 801 2333 | E. |

‘Jumeirah at Etihad Towers erupts from the ground in a vision of glass, with equally impressive interiors’

Appearing by the waterside like an Italian palace, the crescent-shaped newcomer has all the trimmings needed to keep you in the lap of

Just across the road, visitors can

Scott’s, to the 63rd floor at pan-Asian

luxury, including 85 beautiful villas

now stay in the fabulous Jumeirah

hotspot Quest.

and a huge spa, while gourmands will

at Etihad Towers (

Another vision in glass is the

be tickled pink by no fewer than nine

Occupying one of five spectacular

Rocco Forte Hotel Abu Dhabi

glass towers on site, the hotel


erupts from the ground in a vision

which from the outside appears like

draw for you, look to the Fairmont

of glass – and its interiors are just

a cleverly-crafted blue wave (not a

Bab Al Bahr too (

as impressive. One length of the

single straight line in sight). Behind

– home to Marco Pierre White’s

huge lobby is made up of soaring

its aqua-hued panels is the Blue Bar,

Steakhouse & Grill, which serves up

panoramic windows, providing a

the best place from which to admire

the city’s finest cuts of beef (see The

sight of the sea, while above you

the hotel’s unusual design – six

Restaurants, page 22). Appetites

oversized glitter balls never fail

floors up, the cool lounge appears

satisfied, be sure to make the most of

to dazzle guests. Shopaholics will

suspended in the air.

the hotel’s idyllic beachfront setting,

love the label-loaded boutiques at

The trademark elegance of the

restaurants. In fact, if restaurants are a main

which looks out to the stunning

Avenue (see The Shopping, page 18),

Ritz-Carlton can now be enjoyed

while foodies will struggle to choose

in Abu Dhabi, thanks to the arrival

between the hotel’s 12 eclectic

of the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi,

Regis hotel brand (renowned in part

eateries and lounges, taking you

Grand Canal ( – the

for its brilliant butler service), should

from the beach at seafood favourite

group’s first property in the capital.

head to the St. Regis Saadiyat Island

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Those accustomed to the iconic St.

Abu Dhabi 101


Opening page: Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. Previous page: Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri. This page: InterContinental Abu Dhabi. Next page, from top: Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island; Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort; Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche.

( Here,

Also to be found on the Corniche

a wealth of entertainments await

is the Hotel Sofitel Abu Dhabi

beyond the five-star property’s

Corniche ( Here, French

doorstep – 9km of white sands

and Arabic styles are celebrated

beckon sun-seekers, while Saadiyat

in equal measure – so you can

Beach Golf Course is a choice pick for

spend your time doing anything

sportier types. What’s more, you can

from sipping delicious beverages

drink in your preferred view (golden

in the hotel’s jazz bar to smoking

beach or manicured golf course?)

flavoursome shisha by the pool.

from the Mediterranean-style hotel’s

Whichever you plump for, you can

stylish rooms. Tourists travelling

be sure to retreat to seriously chic

here from April 2013 onwards should

interiors afterwards – rooms harbour

also keep an eye out for the hotel’s

monochrome décor with indigo

sister property St. Regis Abu Dhabi

accents and inky-blue sea views.

( Set on the

If a frequent traveller throughout

Corniche, it promises standout

the GCC, you’ll be familiar with the

features all of her own, highlights

hotel brand Rotana. Here, it operates

of which include a spectacular suite

numerous properties city-wide:

that will span the hotel’s connecting

but which to choose? The Beach

bridge, offering its lucky guests

Rotana Abu Dhabi (

enchanting panoramas of the

will, as its name suggests, place

glistening ocean.

you by the beach, a sight that can also be admired from one of its 450 classically-decorated rooms and suites. Those fond of shopping, meanwhile, will be happy to hear that the property is adjoined to the popular Abu Dhabi Mall – just the place to splash some holiday cash. Of a similar ilk, is the Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana Abu Dhabi (, where you’ll find all the essential ingredients needed for a family holiday – parents will love retiring to the tomato-red sunloungers and parasols that line its dreamy aqua pool, while little monkeys will make a dash straight for the fun-packed Mini-Me Kids’ Club. Alternatively, at the Park Rotana Abu Dhabi (, set on the city’s Eastern Ring Road, you can expect all the leisure-heavy features of its sister hotels, plus five great spots in which to dine – our pick is Teatro which offers Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Indian and Italian cuisines to always

8 Abu Dhabi 101

high standards. Sure to satisfy even the fussiest of eaters. If Asian hotel brand Dusit Thani is a favourite of yours, you’ll be pleased to learn that the Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi ( is opening soon. Make a reservation and you’ll soon be slipping into its pool’s cool waters (set 23 floors up, you’ll be able to soak up city vistas as you swim), experiencing authentic treatments in its Namm Spa and feasting on quality Thai bites in its signature restaurant, Benjarong. Watch this space. If you’re the kind of person – or family – who needs to be constantly amused, it’s a good idea to reserve a stay on Yas Island, the capital’s entertainment hub. Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island (, for example, will place you right next door to the famous Yas Links golf course and minutes away from all the action at Yas Marina Circuit, the thrills and spills of Yas Waterworld and the white-knuckle rides of Ferrari World. In fact, even the hotel is sure to put you in an upbeat mood thanks to its colourful décor – venture past its peacock blue and gold lobby, though, and you’ll find no problem winding down in one of its ultracomfortable and spacious suites. Also on Yas Island is the Park Inn by Radisson ( and the Radisson Blu Hotel, Abu Dhabi Yas Island ( Both place you right in the thick of things, but if you don’t fancy straying too far, the first of the two also presents a pool, tennis courts and kids’ play area onsite – and who could resist swimming up to its Sands Pool Bar for sun-kissed bites and beverages? 10 Abu Dhabi 101

‘Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island places you at the doorstep of Yas Island’s multiple entertainments, including Yas Waterworld’


From casual visitors to heads of government, InterContinental Abu Dhabi has welcomed guests from all over the world. So, we understand that people want much more than room and board. They want experiences that enrich and reward. That’s why we offer a range of insider packages designed to connect our guests to the real Abu Dhabi and create lasting memories.

For further information or to make a reservation please call +971 2 666 6888 Terms and conditions apply. ©2013 InterContinental Hotels Group. All Rights Reserved. Most hotels independently owned and/or operated.

In over 170 locations across the globe including HONG KONG • LONDON • NEW YORK • PARIS

The Radisson Blu, meanwhile, has a

If a sporting holiday floats your

bike riding. And when you’re not

handful of quality eateries to make

boat, The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf

busy working your way through

you stay put – try Filini and devour

Resort and Spa (starwoodhotels.

the resort’s ample activities, you

fresh Italian fare on a stylish patio.

com) will be the prime pick for

can bask in its Arabian-style rooms.

golfers - its championship course

Book a Pool Villa and you’ll be privy

wishlist, the Grand Millennium Al

plays host to the Abu Dhabi Golf

to your own private pool, splendid

Wahda ( is well

Championship. Happily, golf widows

tropical gardens and an outdoor

worth seeking out for its Zayna Spa.

can make the most of the hotel’s

shower. Further sanctuary can be

Here you can be scrubbed, wrapped

Heavenly Spa – so-called for its out-

sought behind the palm-flanked

and massaged to perfection, with

of-this-world treatments that span

walls of the Anantara Eastern

the deliciously-named Tropical

anything from manicures to facials.

Mangroves Hotel & Spa (abu-dhabi.

If a first-rate spa is on your holiday

Salt Mousse Glow being our

For those whose chief aim is to

recommendation for flawless holiday

get away from it all, Anantara’s

Built among protected mangroves,

skin. Body buffs, meanwhile, can

two standout resorts in the city

it looks every inch the royal residence

make the most of Yoga and Pilates

each provide a rare oasis of calm.

and its serene atmosphere makes

classes at the hotel’s Al Wahda

Anantara Desert Island Resort

it a fairytale spot in which to relax

Health and Fitness Club or simply

( is

– best undertaken with a spell in its

take a sun-drenched dip up in the

one of the few places you can get

acclaimed Anantara Spa (we’re told

rooftop pool. We feel rejuvenated

to grips with local nature. Head out

its Turkish Hammam is the recipe for


on a kayak, or even go mountain

soft-as-silk skin).

12 Abu Dhabi 101

BEYOND EXPECTATION The legacy continues with The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort.

Set along a pristine white beach, overlooking azure blue waters and accompanied by the prestigious Saadiyat Beach Golf Course, the century-old heritage of St. Regis is redefined with Arabian flair. Mediterranean living with world-class golf against an azure sea, one of the many reasons why.

S A A D I Y AT I S LA ND , A B U D HA B I +971.2.498.8888







Š2011 Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Preferred Guest, SPG, St. Regis and their respective logos are the trademarks of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., or its affiliates.



Previous page, Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri. This page: Vision Hotel Apartments

A similar sense of calm awaits you at the Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri (, which manages to merge a central location with lush, exotic gardens. Meander past its Arabic archways and you’ll find an other-worldly expanse of waterways where you can hop on an abra before gliding your way to the hotel’s souk (see The Shopping, page 17). Similarly, at Le Méridien Abu Dhabi (lemeridienabudhabi. com), a wander through the hotel’s storybook gardens will lead you to a hidden gem – Le Méridien Village. An old favourite in the city and home to 14 enticing eateries: Talay for fresh seafood, Le Bistrot for a taste of France, and Captain’s Arms for good British grub. stretching before your eyes, but the

And after a day spent soaking up the

Abu Dhabi does surprisingly well

hotel’s very own marina too. If you

rays, Zitoun restaurant will whet your

is beach breaks. If having the sand

want an even better taste of the

appetite with a fantastic menu of

beneath your feet is a priority, Al

sea, the hotel’s famous Fishmarket

fine-dining Italian dishes.

Raha Beach Hotel (danathotels.

restaurant is renowned for its just-

com) is sure to appeal. The modern

caught fish, served Thai style and

your favourite hotel, perhaps it’s

property peers over the Gulf’s

eaten right there on the beach.

a home-from-home you’re pining

For a bustling capital, one thing

shoreline and you can drink in the

Alternatively, the Danat Jebel

If you still haven’t cherry-picked

for. If so, Vision Hotel Apartments

glistening views from a poolside seat,

Dhanna Resort (,

( has all the

beneath swaying palms, or from your

far away (200km plus) from the city’s

elements you’d expect to find in

spice-hued room where you can

main hub on the emirate’s western

a five-star hotel (swimming pool,

wake up to the sight of the sea. What

coast, is another choice pick for

restaurants, fitness centre) but with

a way to start the day…

beach bods. It’s home to 800 metres

apartment-style abodes that ensure

One hotel with a prime beachfront

of private beach, and you can even

space, plus all those must-have

location is the InterContinental Abu

request an on-the-beach massage.

items from home – LCD TVs, fitted

Dhabi (, where

For livelier types, make the most of

kitchenettes and plush sofas among

not only will you find white sands

water sports and beach volleyball.

them. What more could you need? Abu Dhabi 101


Dubai Mall | Dubai Marina Mall | Mall of the Emirates | Wafi | Gold Souk

The Shopping Those chomping at the bit for a spectacular shopping experience will be pleased to hear that they needn’t make the drive to neighbouring Dubai: you can flex some serious plastic right here in the UAE capital

The biggest news for visitors keen to embark on a spot of retail therapy relates to the opening, at the end of last year, of Avenue at Etihad Towers – a luxuryfocused mall (the city’s first) good enough to make even the most seasoned label lover jump for joy. Step inside and you’ll find two pristine, marble-clad podiums where designer fashion boutiques (Manolo Blahnik, Hermès, Chloé, Givenchy…) stand cheek by jowl 18 Abu Dhabi 101

with the very best high-end jewellers. The likes of Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Bulgari all show their latest wares here. And when you’re done perusing you can take the chicest of coffee breaks at Avenue’s splendid Fauchon Le Café, where a backdrop of jet black and fuchsia pink will have you thinking you’re in Paris. Another relative newcomer to Abu Dhabi’s line up of malls is also its biggest, Dalma Mall (at

least until the opening of the Yas Mall, scheduled for later this year). Housed here, on the outskirts of the city centre, are some 480 stores that are more high street than high-end and aimed mostly at the nearby communities, hence the presence of a large supermarket. But in the form of Fun City they also have a fantastic attraction for children that really comes into its own during the hot summer months.

‘Abu Dhabi Mall delivers hundreds of shops, including specialist boutiques’ Before these two malls were unveiled, shoppers in Abu Dhabi would usually divide their time between Abu Dhabi Mall and Marina Mall. The former remains very popular, delivering hundreds of shops – from department stores through to specialist boutiques (the likes of Paspaley for pearls and Mont Blanc for luxury accessories) – and a bowling alley by way of post-shopping entertainment. Marina Mall meanwhile is a winning mix of both high street and high-end stores. Here you can trawl the latest collections from the likes of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Fendi and Dior, or if your budget is a little more modest, the likes of Gap, Reiss and Ted Baker too. If this is your first time in the UAE, make a beeline for the eye-catching S*uce boutique. It’s definitely the place to bag a winning outfit by a local label. This is another mall that caters to kids: its outsized Fun City is laden with great arcade games and even has a rollercoaster.

Khalidiyah Mall is a good option if you’re looking specifically for a unique timepiece. The mall is home to Rolex, Rasool Khoory and Sons and a Rivoli Arcade, all of which are chock-full of myriad brands. Fashion-wise, you can take your pick from an array of international brands (Debenhams, Laura Ashley, BHS…) spread across three levels and congregating beneath a neckcraning atrium. Amusements here come in the form of Bowling City and a multi-screen cinema. Having opened back in 2007, Al Wahda Mall is now another established haunt, offering hundreds of stores for your shopping pleasure that see international and local names stand side by side. Alternatively, you can spend your time wistfully thumbing through all manner of tomes in its huge Magrudy’s bookstore, sniffing your way through lovely lotions and potions at all-natural beauty spot Solace Organics or sampling delicious tidbits at Galler – a must for

chocoholics. If you have little ones in tow, Al Wahda Mall also houses what’s probably the city’s best inmall entertainment zone, Wanasa Land, where you’ll find bowling, paintballing, rock climbing and, for younger tots, face painting. Once you’ve experienced the capital’s glossy shopping malls, you may wish to savour a more authentic shopping experience: cue Abu Dhabi’s souks. Of course, gone are the days when people haggle away in labyrinthine souks, but that’s not to say you can’t sample a taste of times gone by. Souk Qaryat Al Beri (find it beside the Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri) is a fine place to start: it projects the look and feel of an age-old souk yet, inside, you’ll find a smattering of tasteful jewellers and regional dressmakers. Not only that, but this shopping spot is flanked by waterways, which means (if you’re a hotel guest at least) you can head out for an afternoon’s shopping aboard an abra, one of the UAE’s oldest modes of transport. Our advice? Stop off at one of an array of waterside cafes and drink in the views pre- or post-shop. It’s as

Abu Dhabi 101


Opening page: Avenue at Etihad Towers. Previous page, top to bottom: Abu Dhabi Mall; Gold Souk; This page: Marina Mall.

idyllic as it sounds and makes for a splendid day out. More authentic flavours can be savoured at The SOUK at Central Market, a site that was originally the capital’s trading hub when it began to take shape in the early 1970s. Since, then, of course, the capital has come a long way but The SOUK still maintains an air of earlier times thanks to traditional wood detailing and coloured glass. Inside, it takes a big step forward 20 Abu Dhabi 101

into the 21st century: modern pillars are all around, blue mosaics under foot and an impressive slatted ceiling is overhead, allowing the amber Arabian sun to seep in. In fact, it’s so impressive that it’s well worth a trip for the design alone. Of course, once you’re there it will be impossible to resist the individual boutiques which serve up a refreshing change to the big name brands seen dominating the malls. Sweet

tooth? Seek out Al Sari Honey & Herbals or the Chocolate Factory for tempting treats. Another worthwhile experience to be had away from the city’s newer outlets is the Hamdan Centre. This characterful spot offers all manner of quirky trinkets that will make great gifts for expectant friends and family back home. Perhaps the ultimate souvenir, though, is gold. Stellar deals can be made at the Gold Souq in Madinat Zayed, where gleaming gold is flown in to from around the world, plus pearls from Japan and silver from Oman. But if you want a story to go with your gift, why not buy your chosen treasure from one of the gold vending machines inside the seriously extravagant Emirates Palace hotel? Lavish, to say the least. Just as shopping in Abu Dhabi should be…

The Restaurants From sublime steakhouses to ingenious Indian eateries, there’s something to suit every palate in the emirate’s ever growing culinary scene – manages to match its quirky setting with an array of competently prepared Mediterranean-themed dishes, from Lebanese to Turkish to Italian. And then there’s 55&5th, The Grill in St. Regis Saadiyat Island (+971 2 498 8001), which boasts a setting equal to any of Dubai’s glitzy restaurants and serves quality steaks. It’s a delicious irony that one of Abu Dhabi’s newest restaurants is in fact one of London’s oldest. Scott’s London has been open in the British capital for over 140 years and is to Abu Dhabi’s dining scene what the Guggenheim will be to its cultural landscape. Scott’s takes residence in the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers hotel (+971 2 811 5666) and specialises in seafood, courtesy of South African chef Carl Tichart. Much like the original restaurant in London, the menu is simple, with the added bonus of produce being sourced locally wherever possible. Expect to find five kinds of oysters, a variety of caviar, with mains focusing on fresh fish, as well offering a choice of meat and poultry.

For too long Abu Dhabi skulked

clamouring for recognition. This

in the shadow of the culinary

is exemplified by recent openings

powerhouse of Dubai. Yes, the city’s

such as the luxurious Park Bar & Grill

located on Corniche Road East, has

top restaurants were cheaper by

(+971 2 407 1138), with its range of

emerged as a focal point of fine

comparison, but in terms of variety

charcoal-grilled meats, seafood and

dining in Abu Dhabi. In addition to

and quality, they just didn’t make the

Asian-themed starters, served in

the winning juxtaposition of Scott’s

grade. Happily, times are changing.

the refined environs of Park Hyatt’s

Old World gravitas and New World

latest property on Saadiyat Island.

setting, the hotel also features the

transformation from administrational

Likewise, 18° – so called because it is

Pan-Asian destination Quest (+971

and bureaucratic hub to an epicentre

situated in the Adnec Capital Center,

2 811 5666), where slick service and

of entertainment and culture, the

which leans at an impressively

fresh ingredients are complemented

city’s restaurant scene is now

precarious 18° (+971 2 596 1401)

by incredible 360° views of Abu

In keeping with the capital’s

In fact, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers,

Abu Dhabi 101


Dhabi from the 63rd floor – not to

(+971 2 654 3333), which opened

mention truly inventive dishes (don’t

in 2009. The British master chef

miss the chocolate tree dessert, it’s

turned restaurateur has also dabbled

magical). To sate more local tastes,

in the casual dining scene, with

make for Li Beirut (+971 2 811 5666),

Frankie’s Italian Restaurant & Bar

which serves up what’s arguably the

(+971 2 654 3238), which he opened

best Lebanese food to be found in

in collaboration with his pint-sized

the city.

pal Frankie Dettori (though it’s

For all the promising new upstarts,

worth nothing that his website

Abu Dhabi boasts a choice selection

states that Marco has nothing to do

of stalwarts that have long wooed

with the day-to-day running of the

the capital’s most discerning diners.


Since opening in 2008, Bord Eau

Opening page: Quest This page, top to bottom: Quest; Scott’s.

Staying with Italian cuisine, Porto

in Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri

Bello (+971 2 443 9999) is perhaps

(+971 2 509 8888), has gone from

the best port of call for anyone after

strength to strength, wowing diners

top-notch cuisine from the boot-

with its fresh, innovative take on

shaped isle. The Grand Millennium Al

modern French cuisine. Marco Pierre

Wahda restaurant serves exemplary

White also made his indelible mark

incarnations of classic Italian dishes

on the city’s restaurant scene with

such as pizza, pasta and risotto, as

Marco Pierre White Steakhouse

well as more refined fare including

& Grill at Fairmont Bab Al Bahr

truffle-infused dishes.

‘Abu Dhabi boasts a choice selection of stalwarts that have long wooed the discerning diner’

The difficult-to-find Sardinia at Abu Dhabi Country Club (+971 2 657 7640), meanwhile, offers delectable Italian fare, which is often prepared with a playful twist – try the rhubarb ravioli for dessert – making it well worth the trip. While Abu Dhabi hasn’t quite fallen under the same spell as Dubai for its love of imported restaurant brands, the city was the first in the UAE to open a Hakkasan. Indeed, the venerable dim sum restaurant created by Alan Yau can now be found in metropolises around the world, and its arrival in the capital is largely due to Abu Dhabi company Tasameem’s acquisition of the brand. However, in spite of its global prevalence, the quality of the food, atmosphere and service at Hakkasan in Emirates Palace (+971 2 690 7999) has not been diluted – anyone visiting the restaurant should not be

22 Abu Dhabi 101

allowed to leave without ordering the Hakka steamed dim sum platter, featuring textbook examples of har gau, scallop shumai, and prawn and chive dumpling. Moving from China to Japan, Abu Dhabi offers a generous selection of Japanese restaurants to please super-svelte types who eat nothing but sushi (plus enough eateries for those of us who enjoy all the culinary offerings the Land of the Rising Sun can offer). Toki at Hilton Abu Dhabi (+971 2 678 7700) is worth visiting for its commendable selection of katsu curries and donburi, as well as its competently prepared maki rolls, while Yotto at Cipriani Yas Island (+971 2 657 5400) epitomises the chic and sleek vibe that many have come to expect from high-end Japanese restaurants in the UAE. Conversely, Taiki at Al Ain Palace Hotel (+971 2 679 4777) is one of the city’s oldest restaurants

‘The quality of the food, atmosphere and service at Hakkasan never fades’

and has won plaudits with its cosy, unpretentious atmosphere and evercompetent sushi. Considering Abu Dhabi’s sizeable Sub Continental community, it should come as little surprise that the city is awash with quality cuisine from across India’s states and territories. Angar at Yas Viceroy (+971 2 656 0600) makes healthy trade by means of its Tandoorcooked meat and fish, while alliteration aficionados (and fans of Indian food) can enjoy quality fare for startlingly low prices at Kababs & Kurries on Al Markaziyah (+971 2 628 2522). The best known, and indeed most popular is Ushna, which you’ll find in Souk Qaryat Al Beri (+971 2 558 1769). Not only does the restaurant serve a fragrant and colourful combination of multiple Abu Dhabi 101


Previous page, from top: Hakkasan; Pearls and Caviar. This page, from top: Angar; Bord Eau.

Indian dishes (from usmaa scallops

table, as well as a sumptuous dessert

family-friendly, laidback restaurants

to masala paneer and a great meen

station crowned with a towering

are abundant, and don’t compromise

moilee), but also offers a gut-

chocolate fountain.

on quality. Gourmet food stall

busting Friday brunch.

The ‘Bubbalicious’ brunch at

and café Jones the Grocer boasts

Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort (+971

five outlets across the capital (see

brunch in Abu Dhabi is something

2 616 9999) is another indulgent for locations),

of an institution. These Friday

affair, with three main food stations

all serving excellent lunchtime

feasts offer all-you-can-eat buffets

dishing out quality Asian, Arabic and

bites such as wagyu burgers,

overflowing with fare from across the

Mediterranean dishes. Alternatively,

salads, delectable cupcakes and

globe and have to be experienced at

La Deck on Saadiyat Island (+971 2

phenomenal coffee. It’s a great

least once.

656 3500) offers a classy alternative

place for families – as is US-themed

to the all-you-can eat bedlam found

burger joint Grand Central (+971 2

understated as Pearls and Caviar

at other brunches, with a three-

642 6499), a perfect pit stop to treat

(Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri;

course ‘Monte-Carlo’ tapas menu,

the kids.

(+971 2 509 8777), you can expect

which can be enjoyed against the

an indulgent spread of sumptuous

backdrop of splendid beach views.

In fact, as is the case in Dubai,

At a restaurant with a name as

cuisines, including meat griddles

But Abu Dhabi isn’t a city

The wealth and breadth of dining choices available in Abu Dhabi speak for themselves – indeed, the only

piled high with lamb, beef and

populated purely by high-end

difficulty, perhaps, is knowing where

chicken, delivered direct to your

restaurants and opulent buffets –

to start.

24 Abu Dhabi 101

The Sights and Culture With the opening of the Louvre and Guggenheim on the horizon, Abu Dhabi is gearing up for an artistic revolution. Here’s where to get caught up in the cultural buzz gripping the capital… As you’d expect from any

Heritage Club, and is effectively a

the gamely named FunRideSports

respectable capital city, Abu Dhabi

reconstruction of a traditional oasis


is abundant in sights and culture (in

community. Expect lots of goats,

spite of its relative youth). The first

open fires and traditionally dressed

but the best form of transport for

stop for any self-respecting tourist

cultural experts on hand to display

anyone wanting to get under the

is the breathtaking Sheikh Zayed

their Emirati know-how.

skin of the city is, of course, the

Grand Mosque ( which was

For a taste of contemporary Abu

Riding bikes is all well and good

camel. Obviously, Abu Dhabi isn’t

completed in 2007. The late Sheikh

Dhabi, there are few better ways

what it used to be 40 years ago,

Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan initiated

to start your day than by taking

and there are rather fewer of these

the project, though he never got to

a stroll down the Corniche. The

humped beasts than there used to be

see his vision come to pass since he

wide, pedestrian-friendly waterside

wandering around the place. As such,

died in 2004. The mosque itself is

boulevard stretches 6.4km. If you

it’s best to pop along to a designated

one of the world’s largest, featuring

don’t fancy navigating the stretch

camel-riding spot rather than trawl

82 domes and 1,000 columns, and

on foot, though, hire a bike from

the city looking for one (it may take

the main prayer hall is dominated by one of the world’s largest chandeliers – 10 metres in diameter, 15 metres in height and weighing 12 tonnes. The mosque can facilitate 41,000 worshippers (that’s the capacity of some Premier League football grounds), and is open to visitors every day expect Friday mornings. Free tours take place from Sunday to Thursday at 10am, 11am and 4.30pm. Friday at 5pm and 7.30pm or 8pm and Saturday at 10am, 11am, 2pm, 4.30pm and 7.30pm. Similarly fulfilling cultural sustenance can be found at Abu Dhabi Heritage Village (, which provides an insight into what life was like in Abu Dhabi before the discovery of black gold (oil, in case you were wondering). The openair museum is run by the Emirates Abu Dhabi 101


some time). Luckily, one such place

epicentre, Abu Dhabi is slowly

is Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by

forging its own identity as a place

Anantara (qasralsarab.anantara.

of artistic interest. The opening

com), a stunning resort that arranges

of Saadiyat Cultural District on

scenic camel treks for visitors.

Saddiyat Island ( has

Aside from riding camels, animal

been dubbed as ‘a defining moment’

lovers might also be interested in

in Abu Dhabi’s art scene. Cultural

a visit to the Abu Dhabi Falcon

venues include Gallery One, which

Hospital ( Since

has held exhibitions as varied as

falconry is such an important part of

The Arts of Islam: Treasures of the

Emirati culture, it makes sense that

Nasser D. Khalili Collection, Picasso

there is a hospital entirely dedicated

Abu Dhabi, and Emirati Expressions,

to these fascinating hunting birds.

while art space Manarat Al Saadiyat

Visitors are welcome to tour the

holds high-profile exhibitions such

hospital and meet the patients,

as 2012’s collaboration with the

everyday at 10am and 2pm.

British Museum ‘Treasures of the

Though neighbouring Dubai is perceived as the region’s art

World’s Cultures’. Saadiyat Island is set to become Abu Dhabi’s, if not the

‘Abu Dhabi is slowly forging its own identity as a place of artistic interest’

26 Abu Dhabi 101

Opening page: Falconry. Previous page: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This page, top to bottom: Abu Dhabi Film Festival; Al Ain.

UAE’s art epicentre since it is the site for the forthcoming Guggenheim Abu Dhabi ( and Louvre Abu Dhabi which are both tentatively set to open in 2015, as well as the Zayed National Museum ( scheduled to open in 2016. Plenty to look forward to, then. In the meantime, there’s live workspace to be enjoyed at Abu Dhabi Art Hub ( in Mussafah, which opened in late 2012 and is set to make a huge impact on the city’s art scene. As well as art, Abu Dhabi boasts a proud cinematic heritage – a number of Hollywood blockbusters such as Syriana and The Kingdom were filmed here – and the capital also boasts the region’s most recognised film festival. Though the exact dates for the 2013 Abu Dhabi Film Festival ( had yet to be announced at time of press, the event usually takes place in October and garners big-name Hollywood stars. Abu Dhabi is also well-positioned for daytrips, and it’s certainly worth visiting nearby Al Ain, which is part of the emirate. Al Ain is an oasis town, something that becomes immediately clear from the abundance of greenery. The laidback city also lays claim to having the UAE’s tallest mountain, Jebel Hafeet – the only place in the country that has experienced a dusting of snow. At 1,240m high, the mountain (more of a hill, really) offers great views of the garden city as well as distant Oman. At the base of the mountain you’ll encounter the Green Mubazzarah where you can wallow in the hot springs – perfect for anyone who has just trekked back down the mountain.

28 Abu Dhabi 101

The Activities From the world’s fastest rollercoaster to sedate spa treatments – in terms of entertainment, ever-expanding Abu Dhabi has it all… In the past few years, Abu Dhabi has made a concerted push to become the UAE’s number-one destination for all things fun. The trigger for the capital’s repositioning as an entertainment hotspot seemed to be the development on Yas Island, namely the Yas Marina Circuit, which plays host to the event of the year: the Formula 1 race. Since its debut in 2009 the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has cast new light on the city, broadening its appeal as a travel destination. Not only did the circuit itself, designed by architect Hermann Tilke, win plaudits for its design innovation, but the aftershow concerts – which, to date, have featured everyone from rock legends Prince and Paul McCartney to pop

the country’s biggest concerts – past

princess Britney Spears – have made

highlights include Madonna and

the Abu Dhabi event one of the

Kanye West.

Yas Island is also home to Abu Dhabi’s newest attraction, the massive Yas Waterworld (, which opened

highlights of the F1 schedule, as well

Staying on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi’s

as the global sporting calendar. The

Ferrari World (ferrariworldabudhabi.

this year. As is now expected from

2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend

com) is one of the city’s top

any large-scale project in the UAE,

will start on Friday November 1,

attractions. There are no prizes for

the Dhs900 million, 15-hectare

culminating with the main race on

guessing that this huge themepark

waterpark is one of the world’s

Sunday November 3, and is not to

takes its inspiration from the classic

biggest, and its 43 rides are

be missed. For tickets and further

Italian sports car brand – rides

predicted to attract a whopping

details, visit

include the Formula Rossa (the

700,000 to 800,000 visitors a year.

world’s fastest rollercoaster, which

At 238 metres long, The Dawwama

Circuit ( hosts

reaches speeds of 240km/h –

is the planet’s longest waterslide,

an array of other motor-related

goggles are needed) and the more

while the Bandit Bomber is the UAE’s

activities, from a three-seater drag

sedate Bell’Italia, which takes visitors

only suspended rollercoaster. Fun

car racing experience and drift

on a tour of Italy’s most famous

abounds for all ages and fear not –

driving lessons to karting or driving

sites in scale model classic Ferraris,

there are plenty of sunloungers for

a single-seater Formula 3,000 car.

without having to leave Abu Dhabi

parents to collapse on. For those

The Yas complex also holds some of

at all.

who want to be beside the water,

For the rest of the year, Yas Marina

Abu Dhabi 101


but at an altogether lazier pace, Yas Island’s beach (you’ll find it on the island’s southern end) stretches some 400 metres and is well worth seeking out for some serious sunbathing. Alternatively, take things up a notch (or several) with a day at Saadiyat Island’s exclusive Monte Carlo Beach Club, Saadiyat ( – the only private beach club of its kind in the capital. The height of luxury, here you can choose between lounging poolside upon immaculate white cabanas, or sinking beneath a perfect parasol on the club’s private stretch of beach. Not only that, but when the sun goes down you can spruce up for a bite at its signature restaurant Sea Lounge, or sip beverages in style at its al fresco hotspot, Bubbles Bar. From the evidence so far, you’d be forgiven for thinking that most of Abu Dhabi’s activities are limited to Yas Island. But while the island is overflowing with waterslides, rollercoasters and racetracks,

Other water-related activities in

and tourism. But if you’d rather not

there’s plenty to do elsewhere

Abu Dhabi include scuba diving

sail too far from the city, there’s

in the capital. Well, not quite in

with Al Mahara Diving Centre

always the option of booking a

the capital – kayaking and jet

( in Mussafah, which

place on a traditional dhow. Net

skiing are available around the

offers PADI Open Water courses

Group ( organise

Corniche. Adventure tour company

for groups and individuals, as well

dhow tours along the picturesque

Noukhada ( offers

as lessons, courses and excursions

Corniche – the perfect way to enjoy

90-minute kayak tours through

for the more experienced divers

sea breezes, views of Abu Dhabi’s

Abu Dhabi’s famous mangroves,

among you. If you’d rather catch fish

impressive skyline and a slap-up

which are suitable for beginner and

than swim with them (or indeed, try

meal to boot. Cruises usually depart

experienced paddlers alike. What’s

both), Arabian Divers & Sportfishing

at 9pm and last for three hours, so

more, the mangroves are one of the

Charters ( in

settle in and enjoy the ride.

few places in Abu Dhabi where you

Khor Al Bateen offers sports fishing

can catch a glimpse of indigenous

trips, as well as scuba courses

feet firmly on the ground when

wildlife, such as flamingos and black

that are sure to keep your sea legs

it comes to leisure activities, Abu

crabs. For a somewhat speedier (and,

busy. Alternatively, head to Jebel

Dhabi boasts a wealth of world-

arguably, less eco-friendly) tour of

Dhanna Port and catch one of the

class golf courses. Abu Dhabi Golf

the mangroves or the Corniche, why

six daily ferries to Delma Island –

Club ( features

not hop on a jet ski at the Hiltonia

once a bustling hub for the Gulf’s

27 holes, including the 18-hole

Beach Club, Hilton Abu Dhabi (+971 2

pearl trading industry, word is it’s

National Course, which is where

681 1900)?

all set for a surge in development

the annual Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf

30 Abu Dhabi 101

For those who like to have their

latter being a sacred pastime of the Emiratis). Abu Dhabi Desert Safari (, offers packages for all these heady activities, as well as an overnight package where guests sleep under the stars in a Bedouin-style campsite, enjoy dinner, Arabic coffee and even a spot of sandboarding. Look too, to Arabian Adventures (, another wellrespected tour company that offers an exhaustive range of desert safaris and trips. One way to really appreciate the vast magnificence of the desert is from above. Balloon Adventures Emirates ( offers early morning flights over the desert, starting from the Nahel Mosque meeting point, which is equidistant from Abu Dhabi and Dubai on the E33 highway. However, the company does provide pick-up and drop-off services. Otherwise, cruise the skies with Falcon Aviation (falconaviation.

‘At Yas Waterworld, The Dawwama is the planet’s longest waterslide, while the Bandit Bomber is the UAE’s only suspended rollercoaster’

ae), which operates out of Marina Mall heliport and offers luxury helicopter tours of the city. If you prefer to stay at ground level, land-based tours are also

Championship (a European PGA Tour

Club ( Here, golfing

available: Orient Tours (orienttours.

event) is played. Yas Links (yaslinks.

equipment can be hired, so you don’t

ae) offers sightseeing trips around

com), meanwhile, is the city’s only

even have to worry about hauling

Abu Dhabi and neighbouring Al Ain,

links course (set on the coast and

your clubs onto the flight.

as well as day trips to Liwa. Liwa

punctuated with natural sand dunes),

Since Abu Dhabi is surrounded by

Oasis is located southwest of Abu

and was designed by renowned golf

a massive expanse of desert, it’s no

Dhabi on the edge of the biggest

course designer Kyle Phillips. And

surprise that many of the activities

sand desert in the world, the Rub al

then there’s the region’s first ocean

the emirate has to offer take place

Khali (Empty Quarter) and makes

course at the Saadiyat Beach Golf

amongst the sand dunes. While there

for breathtaking photos. For city-

Club ( on Saddiyat

are a great many tour operators

based tours, though, you can’t beat

Island. Designed by Gary Player, the

offering everything from dune

Big Bus Tours (, a

course features three saltwater lakes

bashing (which is effectively being

hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour of

and 60 bunkers. Those wanting to

driven up and down massive sand

Abu Dhabi, taking in all of its famous

catch a few rounds en route to the

dunes in a 4x4 at breakneck speeds –


airport, meanwhile, should drop

careful what you have for breakfast)

into neighbouring Al Ghazal Golf

to camel rides and falconry (the

Another way in which to experience the sensation of flying, Abu Dhabi 101


Opening page: Ferrari World. Previous pages, clockwise from left: Yas Marina Circuit; Yas Waterworld. This page, from top: Observation Deck; Yas Links.

without actually taking to the skies in a hot-air balloon, is at Spacewalk Indoor Skydiving at Abu Dhabi Country Club (+971 2 657 7777). Both children and adults can throw themselves into a massive wind tunnel, which propels visitors into the air (thus simulating the sensation of skydiving). Fear not, qualified instructors are on hand to help you get the knack of it, and there are even packages for ‘frequent flyers’ – probably the only frequent flyer promotion around that doesn’t involve an aeroplane. Of course, not all Abu Dhabi-based activities need involve flying, fishing or racing around in a car. If you want something more sedate, take a trip to Jumeirah at Etihad Towers hotel and head up to its Observation Deck. It’s the highest vantage point in Abu Dhabi and grants you spectacular views over a city on the rise. Alternatively, Abu Dhabi is also strewn with luxury spas – the perfect places to be thoroughly pampered during a visit. The Anantara Spa ( at the Emirates Palace is as spectacular as

com/abudhabi), massages and

stretching, and hydrotherapy.

the resort in which it’s based. Much

treatments are based on Asian

Elsewhere, Zen the Spa at Beach

is made of the elaborate Moroccan-

natural healing methods, as well

Rotana (+971 2 697 9000) is

style hammam, with its traditional

as more local features such as the

apparently the first of its kind in Abu

domes and arches, heated marble

hammam; at Hiltonia Resort Club

Dhabi, with a concept that derives

beds, Jacuzzis, steam rooms and

and Spa at Hilton Abu Dhabi (+971

from ‘holistic Asian Philosophies

ice room. We recommend treating

2 681 1900) treatments range from

with an added contemporary twist’.

yourself to the signature caviar facial

modern western therapies to ancient

The spa comprises of ten treatment

– as indulgent as it sounds. At Chi,

traditional treatments of the Orient,

rooms, two ‘tranquility suites’ and

The Spa at Shangri-La (shangri-la.

including body massage, exercise,

relaxation areas. Heavenly.

32 Abu Dhabi 101

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