Although the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi has, for many years, been seen as the poor relation (in a metaphorical sense, not a monetary one), and has only recently started to rival its very fashionable sister, Dubai. Abu Dhabi is undergoing the same transformation that Dubai started a decade ago, investing millions into its tourism industry, to compete with its much smaller sister Emirate. So, officially, the race to be the coolest Emirate is now on.

With this said and done, what is alluring about Abu Dhabi right now? Well, Abu Dhabi ticks almost every box for the discerning traveller in search of sun, sea, and sand, but also for those who want to openly embrace a rich and diverse range of cultural offerings too.

The Culture

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the eighth largest mosque in the world, with space for 45,000 worshippers. Architecturally the mosque is a masterpiece, striking the perfect balance between modern design and harmonious originality. Traditional Arabic design, the white marble structure, and reflective shallow waters create a breathtaking, and mesmerising sight for everyone who visits. For female visitors, clothing must be ankle length, covering the full arm and should be loose fitting. As a sign of respect, the head must also be covered and footwear removed, which is welcome in the heat as the marble floor remains cool to touch.

The Seasons

The UAE affords good weather all year round, with very little rainfall. July and August are the hottest months where temperatures can reach north of fifty degrees, so most people avoid the Emirates during these months. March through to May are pleasant, with temperatures rising as you move into June. May/June is a period when Ramadan occurs, meaning the sale of food and drink are restricted in public areas at certain times. September through to December is peak season in Abu Dhabi as the weather is just right, so these times tend to be busier, and pricier.

The Beaches

The Emirates Palace Hotel and the St Regis Downtown Hotel are both located on the Corniche, which is a man-made stretch of coastline sweeping the edges of Abu Dhabi, perfect for bathing, building sandcastles, and trying out watersports. Notably, the stunning Emirates Palace Beach has unobstructed views of the Sheikh's fourth and newest Palace, giving a great outlook, whilst sunbathing. The St Regis Saadiyat Island provides guests with a natural and protected beach where only non-motorised sports are permitted due to the protected status. For those in search of an immersive, yet relaxing beach break, try Zaya Nurai, located on the once uninhabited natural island of Zurai.

The Wildlife

Towards the start of the year, when the waters a slightly cooler, dolphins can be seen swimming in the waters as well as Hawksbill Turtles nesting their eggs on Saadiyat Island.

The Journey

The flight time to Abu Dhabi from London is a mere six and a half hours. Etihad Airways operate daily flights from London Heathrow on the A380 Airbus, offering a superb economy, business, and first class experience, alongside The Residence which has a living room, private bedroom and shower room situated on the upper deck. Alternatively, Emirates and BA fly into Dubai airport, with an hour transfer to get to Abu Dhabi, by road.

Monday 17 July 2017

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