Fabby Abu Dhabi!
Abu Dhabi is one of the most remarkable and wealthiest places in the world.
You’ll soon get fed up hearing your guide say: ‘This is the biggest…’, ‘This is the most expensive…’, ‘This is the only…in the world’.
The only thing you won’t hear is: ‘This is the oldest’ because nothing’s old around here!
Just a few decades ago there was nothing bar desert and locals eking out a living from fishing and pearl diving. It’s amazing what oil can do.
Their Sheik is now one of the wealthiest men in the world with, according to Forbes Magazine, a cool £18 BILLION in his back pocket.
I went there two weeks ago for a refresher visit with a small group of other Scottish journalists.
We were invited so we can tell our readers more about this amazing destination.
And to let you know that from June 8 Etihad Airways commence a daily, non-stop service from Edinburgh to Abu Dhabi, allowing you to connect to onward services for a network of more than 100 destinations worldwide.
The flight times make for a perfect “short-long weekend” break, and a the ideal stopover for Australia.
Even if you’re going onwards, I’d recommend time in Abu Dhabi as it’s a truly fabulous destination.
With less ‘bling’ and lots more to see than Dubai, there are some unique things to enjoy.
In Abu Dhabi you’ll find the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet and the world’s largest chandelier, both located at the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Then there’s the world’s largest indoor theme park, the remarkable 200,000-square metre Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, which offers the world’s fastest roller-coaster, the Formula Rossa ride. It’s an absolute must for petrol-heads and adrenaline junkies of all ages.
There are lots of other rides and challenges, like how fast can you change a wheel on a racing car, and examples of the dream machines themselves.
Now meet “the world’s largest single concentration of cultural institutions” on Saadiyat Island.
When finished this will include the world’s largest Guggenheim Museum, the Zayed National Museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and no doubt much more besides.
In a city groaning with fabulous five-star hotels (including the OTT but stupendous Emirates Palace Hotel an amazing 1km-long and with its cheapest rooms at £4,000) it’s hard to know where to lay your head.
We stayed at the stunning St. Regis Abu Dhabi, with panoramic views of the Arabian Gulf, the city’s skyline and surrounding islands. This is sheer luxury.
A complimentary butler for every room, private beach club, and restaurants to dream of, such as the Villa Toscana as good as being in Italy itself.
Amazingly, rooms start from less than £110 and under-12s are free. It’s a superb property and would be my first choice.
So, my top things to do?
Spend 90 minutes aboard a traditional pearling dhow while an Emirati guide explains how his forefathers dedicated their lives to diving for oysters to find pearls.
You then try opening living oysters and receive a souvenir pearl (adpearljourney.com).
Next, Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (falconhospital.com).
Falconry has been an integral part of life in the UAE for centuries. Originally used for hunting to supplement the Bedouin diet, today it’s purely for sport.
The hospital is the most advanced of its kind in the world. I loved visiting the wards where the birds are kept.
Then there was the thrill of The Yellow Boats tours.
Our 60-minute speedboat tour took in the Corniche, Mina Fish Market, Lulu Island, the Presidential Palace and Emirates Palace. And we saw dolphins! Best £40 I’ve spent!
And for the best meal ever, hit Asia de Cuba (asiadecuba.com/abu_dhabi), at St Regis’ Beachfront.
It offers a mix of Cuban and Asian cuisine in a fabulous setting, and it works superbly.
See visitabudhabi.ae. Economy flights, Edinburgh to Abu Dhabi from only £373 return if you book by May 5 (valid for travel until December 12). Call 0345 6081225 or see etihad.com
Or a three-night break in Abu Dhabi with the last night spent on return flight (but late check out from hotel) from £789 with Etihad Holidays. This includes return economy flights from Edinburgh, three nights B&B at
St Regis Abu Dhabi, return transfers and complimentary Yas Passes. Includes all taxes. Based on two sharing and travelling in June. Call Etihad Holidays on 0844 557 0646 or see etihadholidays.co.uk.