Around Town in Abu Dhabi

9 Aug

With Mideast unrest at a feverish pitch as signaled by recent epic occurrences (uprisings and toppling of several notorious dictatorships in the area), one may not be immediately inclined to consider the region a suitable spot for the next vacation spot. Perhaps fair enough, though as of this writing at least, there are still swaths of states in the area that have largely, in one way or another, been left unscathed by all the volatility in the region. One such amalgam of Emirates in the Arabian Peninsula is the United Arab Emirates and I got to experience firsthand what all the hoopla over Dubai and less popular (but perhaps for not much longer) Emirate and capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi, is all about.
I’d been curious about Dubai for some time now but Abu Dhabi, more recently, piqued my interest the most, since I’d been reading a lot about recent high-profiled developments in the area and how it is beginning to come into its own as a destination in its own right. And thus, I decided to choose it as my base of exploration. As I got to find out, this up and comer is gradually emerging from the shadows of its trendier sibling, Dubai, with pretty aggressive plans to become the cultural hub for the UAE and indeed the region. It’s likely Abu Dhabi’s conceited to Dubai as the nation’s primary commercial center—boasting the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, amongst others (though as recently reported plans are underway in Saudi Arabia to build an even taller monstrosity)–but Abu Dhabi now has bragging rights as the first city to host an outpost for the world famed Louvre in Paris (currently under construction and scheduled to be completed in 2012) and, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi joining the global Guggenheim network (New York, Bilbao, Berlin, Venice) slated to be completed and opened by 2013. Both of these museums will be located in the Cultural District of Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi.
In terms of making ones way over from North America: Emirates and Delta both run direct routes to Dubai from the US; the former from NY-JFK (and depending on your itinerary, on their ultra-lux A380 jumbo jet), and the latter from Atlanta — with seamless connections to Abu Dhabi. Etihad on the other hand runs a direct route from NY-JFK to Abu Dhabi typically on the stretch version of the airbus A340 series, the -500/600 range. The trip’s roughly 14 hrs (from NY), but if being on an aircraft for that long isn’t particularly appealing to you, alternatively, seamless connections are also possible via major European hubs.
Arrival at Abu Dhabi is at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Transfers into town are fairly easy and because of the favorable exchange rate–at the time of this of this article (1 USD roughly translating to 4 Emirati Dirham – AED)–even hailing a taxi is into town is quite reasonable. Easy connections to Dubai via coach buses right outside the terminal are also possible. It’s roughly a 1.5 hr. journey.
Not surprisingly for a city its size and being the capital, there are numerous choices when it comes to accommodations – with many more constructions underway. My choice was W’s popular spinoff, ultramodern and hip aLoft Abu Dhabi located at the trendy ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center). See separate write-up: Quality
Services and Amenities at an Affordable Rate
. The amenities, such as the poolside lounge where the regions trend set get to chillax and, of course, showoff a little bit of skin, plus the property’s bar/nightclub on the top floor, Relax @ 12 — with panoramic views of the city below, alone are enough to get even the most finicky traveler intrigued. Other notables for accommodation in Abu Dhabi are the InterContinental, Shangri-La, Hilton, and not to mention, world famed Emirates Palace Hotel. If ponying up the cash isn’t quite in the cards, stop by for a visit, or afternoon tea, it is indeed a sight to see.
Becoming an increasingly multi-cultural hub (just roughly 16% of the overall nation’s populace is Emirati), cuisine choices run the gamut. What tends to dominate, being in the Middle East, are Lebanese specialties. Check out Lebanese Flower at either the Al Khalidiyah or Tourist Club locations. The food is pretty good and draws a crowd of mostly locals and visitors alike. Having a strong Southeast Asian draw, cuisines from that area are also plentiful with lots of options to choose from.
There are lots to see and do in this capital city. Shopping, for those seeking retail therapy, is a favorite pastime among visitors and locals alike. Boasting several complexes from high-end luxury brand outlets to merchants pedaling locally and regionally made goods, this town’s a shopper’s delight. Being that this area is commonly referred to as the ‘new’ Middle East, commercialism and some fear–the excess of–reigns supreme in Abu Dhabi. There’s also perhaps the unstated competition between commercial hub, Dubai, so there’s a building boom–with flashier and more dramatic structures (though thankfully not quite at the level of Dubai’s yet which is a little refreshing). One such mega-complex is the Ferrari World on Yas Island, something to certainly try and see on your visit.
Some other remarkable sights across town and experiences that ought not to be missed: architectural gem and house of worship, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the largest in the world, noted earlier in the write-up, Emirates Palace Hotel which hosted–amongst others–the controversially extravagant Christmas tree last holiday season, and, dune bashing or what might be referred to as ‘desert safari’ are absolute musts.

2 Responses to “Around Town in Abu Dhabi”

  1. laurahartson August 9, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    i recently posted on Abu, glad to see that someone else enjoyed it as much as me

    • yappingwithyomi March 4, 2012 at 10:40 am #

      Thank you for the note. I read your write-up as well. That’s fantastic. I have since been to Doha, Qatar, and will be posting an article about the city as well. Hope all is well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: