A two-day trip to the UAE’s capital unravels a captivating world of antiquity, modernity, and a wealth of experiences for the whole family.
By ANANYA BAHL
It would be cliché to say that Abu Dhabi is a magical place. But then, clichés are often true! While surreal sightings of the wild Arabian sand gazelle have been encountered by the fortunate in its desert scape, not too far away is a glossy, urban mise en scène unfolding rapidly— both worlds thriving together on a collection of islands. Give the Emirate two days and let it serenade you with its enchanting tricks
What better way to begin a vacation than with an awe-inspiring vision? The sprawling Sheikh Zayed Mosque is not only a sacred space but also a marvel of several Islamic architectural styles. Located at the intersection of the three main bridges connecting Abu Dhabi city to the mainland, it’s a great starting point for the day. An official, 45-minute guided tour takes you through the stunning structure featuring jaw-dropping elements, including gold-plated Swarovski chandeliers, gold-leaf calligraphy, amethyst-studded columns, marble domes, the largest, Guinness World Record-certified hand-woven carpet in the world, and… You get the drift! Its magnificent courtyard, flaunting marble mosaic artwork (among the largest in the world), is a worthy contender for an Instagram post that’s sure to attract lots of attention.
Next, make your way to Qasr Al Hosn fort, whose quiet elegance offers a sharp contrast to the mosque’s resplendence. A 20-minute drive through the affluent neighbourhood of Al Bateen brings you to its ramparts that hold within them the quaint Inner Fort and Outer Palace, which make for a refreshing walk. A section of the fort is now
a museum showcasing artefacts dating as far back as 6000 BC, along with archives on Abu Dhabi’s status as a fishing centre in the 18th century. Cultural feast done, it’s probably time for lunch now. Head to Saadiyat Island, the Emirate’s premier cultural hub, a short drive from the fort. Here enjoy a lunch of exquisite Provençal fare at La Salle while taking in Saadiyat Beach’s shimmering swells. Savouring French fare in a Middle Eastern land that balances the desert and seas is a true representation of this diverse metropolis!
The island is also home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Be sure to visit it post lunch to witness its many exhibits, enriched by loans from the Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Centre Pompidou. And don’t forget to look up when there! Seemingly floating above the complex,
a gigantic, silvery dome, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, is the pièce de résistance here! Other artistic highlights include an amphora showcasing Heracles battling the Nemean Lion and Kano Tan’yu’s depiction of Bodhidharma, a Zen patriarch.
Make a pit stop at the Museum Café for refreshments in between all the art appreciation. A charming children’s museum will keep kids enthusiastically engaged. The day’s excursions done, make your way to Mezlai at the opulent Emirates Palace hotel for a dinner of Middle Eastern specialities, with delicious classics like falafel and hummus. End your first day at the hotel’s Le Café with the famed 24-karat golden cappuccino!
Today is all about Yas Island—25 square kilometres of ultimate leisure and luxury. A 45-minute drive from the city centre, it is also a mere 15 minutes away from Abu Dhabi airport (making it apt for your last night in the city). This day will be filled with all the quality family time you’ve been craving. Fuel up for the day with a hearty, traditional Arabic breakfast at Al Fanar restaurant within Yas Mall. Packed with countless global brands, the mall is an out-and-out shopper’s mecca.
But if you’re craving adventure, the island’s ginormous theme parks will get your adrenaline flowing! Warner Bros. World™ Abu Dhabi will take you back to your childhood. And the kids will love it! More than 25 rides and six shows based on characters like Batman, Superman, and The Flintstones will enamour you and the little ones. Don’t miss The Riddler Revolution, a dizzying roller coaster; or maybe the sweet Tom & Jerry’s Swiss Cheese Spin will catch your fancy! Buy The Tasty Ticket for a lunch meal plan for the entire family at any of its 22 thematic restaurants.
There probably won’t be much time to explore all of Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, located next door, but do reserve an hour to embark on Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster! Experience the thrill of zooming from 0-100 kilometres/hour, more than 50 metres above the ground, in under two seconds! This is one heady trip you’re never going to forget. After all that action, you deserve a quiet, relaxingly intimate dinner. Choose Amici at the iconic W Abu Dhabi Yas Island for a comforting Italian meal. It’s the perfect location to watch the island’s attractions twinkle in the distance and reminisce about all the wonderful memories created in just 48 hours.
Vistara offers daily direct flights between Abu Dhabi and Mumbai.