24 hours in Abu Dhabi


24 hours in Abu Dhabi

If you’re flying to Europe, there’s no need to punish yourself with one long trip that takes a week to recover from. There’s now plenty of options on how to get to the other side of the world. If you’re flying Etihad Airways, you’ll need to pass through Abu Dhabi. And if you haven’t stopped over in the Middle East before, you really should. Don’t expect scenes out of the second Sex and City movie though – that was filmed in Morocco masquerading as Abu Dhabi. The hotels are just as opulent but make sure is a little more realistic. It’s not the done thing to have even your shoulders exposed let alone what Samantha got up to. That doesn’t mean a visit to Abu Dhabi won’t be an eye opener – you’ll be amazed by the culture, industry and activities you can get up to in 24 hours.

Yas Island

Expedia travellers with families head straight Yas Island for the incredible Yas Waterworld (essential on a winter day, a life saver in Summer) with its 43 rides, diving shows and even underwater dancing displays. Then there’s the even more mind blowing Ferrari World, a theme park built by Ferrari with 20 rides for wannabe petrol heads of all ages. It includes the fastest roller coaster in the world. If you’re a serious Formula 1 fan, you’ll already know Yas Island is home to a F1 track – which actually runs straight through the Yas Viceroy hotel. Book early to get a window room and you won’t even need to go outside to watch. For the thrill of the engines roaring, a tipple on the pool deck would be perfect too. But wait, that’s not all. Culture vultures will also flock to the area, especially in a few years, when it becomes home to world class art. Neighbouring Saadiyat Island is in the throes of becoming home to outposts of the Louvre and Guggenheim, showcasing art and artefacts that are usually rotated into storage at their namesake locations. Latest reports have scheduled the opening dates in 2015.

The Corniche

If the need for speed or serious art isn’t as strong as the lure of shopping, stay on the Corniche. This suburb is home to the grandest mosque in the world, plenty of shopping malls and the famed Emirates Palace Hotel. The full afternoon tea, or at least tea and cake, at this decadent residence is a must, just to partake in the ambience of royalty. Walking distance from the Emirates Palace Hotel is the Hilton, which has its own beach across the road with a bar and restaurant. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the most magnificent buildings in the world, and with a $1 billion construction cost, it ought to be. Take note of the marble floors inlaid with intricate floral designs, the Persian rug woven by 1200 Iranian women over tow years and the seven Swarovski crystal chandeliers that will fill your memory cards. Shoulders to ankles must be covered and head scarves worn for women, and long pants and sleeves for men. Abayas are available to put over your shorts and T-shirts at no charge. For shopaholics, there are two good shopping centres worth cabbing to (cabs are cheap in Abu Dhabi). You’ll need to allow a few hours for Al Wahda mall which is filled with high end and high street western shops as well as local brands. If you’re near the Emirates Palace, try Marina Mall. The shopping centres provide great air-conditioned respites too! But wherever you stay, don’t leave Abu Dhabi without doing a desert safari experience. Head into the sand dunes in a 4WD for half an hour of dune bashing followed by a traditional dinner of kebabs, lamb, chicken, humus and salads in a replica Bedouin camp with a belly dancer, camel rides and henna tattoos. Whether you’re an adventure tourist, a foodie or interested in culture, this is a fun-filled few hours.

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Megan Singleton

About the Author Megan Singleton

Megan Singleton is an award-winning travel writer with 14 years experience travelling the world – and calling it work. She is editor and founder of  Blogger at Large, one of New Zealand’s biggest travel blogs, where she shares inside tips on places to go – and not to go – and uploads plenty of pictures because she’s also a wannabe National Geographic photographer. Her suitcase is only ever ten minutes away from being ready. But when she’s not gallivanting around the world, Megan is in Auckland with her husband pretending to be Master Chef and planning her next trip.   3  travel must haves? iPhone, a good camera, and my laptop so I’m always connected.   What’s on your travel Bucket List? Staring at the phenomenon that is the Northern Lights, Christmas markets in Germany – preferably by river cruise