After what seemed liked a forever spell of long dreary nights and grey skies, a week somewhere hot and sunny was desperately needed. When thinking about winter sun, there are a few options that spring to mind, but one chilly March morning, myself and my partner James found ourselves en route to the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi!
We arrived fairly late in the evening but were greeted at the affectionately known ‘Grandad of Abu Dhabi’, the Hilton Hotel on the Corniche Road (it was the first luxury hotel to be built on the Corniche Road before anything else was there in the 1970’s) with a big smile and were shown to our room. We opted for the executive club floor, giving us access to the club lounge which served complimentary breakfast and snacks & drinks all day, with a great view of the beach and out to the marina. A highlight of my day was the two hours of bottomless prosecco with a window seat as the sun went down in front of the hotel… perfect!
Whilst James really wanted to do nothing but relax on holiday, I had slightly more itchy feet and wanted to get out and see as much as we could (as well as enjoy the great pool and beach club).
First we enjoyed a half day city tour, where we were absolutely blown away by the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which cost around USD $1 million to build! Our guide was fantastic and she answered every question we had about the building, the city and its history.
Then onto the local date and fish markets (my team back at the office particularly enjoyed the white chocolate covered dates that I brought back!) then finally onto the Heritage Village, to learn about the history and culture of the UAE - totally fascinating! Another highlight on our trip was our evening at the YAS Marina Formula One Circuit, where we were given complimentary bikes to enjoy cycling around the track for a couple of hours, we had so much fun! It was just beautiful as all the lights of the famous Yas Viceroy Hotel started to illuminate the track. You could run or walk around too, but that seemed a bit too much effort for me so I stuck to my bike!
If we had more time we would have made a visit to the nearby ‘Ferrari World’ on Yas Island to enjoy a driving experience, but we will save that for another time!
An absolute must do when visiting Abu Dhabi is to enjoy a sundowner dune safari in the desert. We were collected from the hotel and driven around an hour out into the desert. After visiting a small camel farm to get a feel for the landscape, the real fun began!
Imagine a rollercoaster ride but from inside a 4x4 vehicle! Our driver effortlessly glided through, up and over the high sand dunes (anyone prone to travel sickness may wish to take something beforehand, and sit in the front of the car!) it was quite an experience!
The desert sunset is simply stunning and whilst we were out in the dunes it felt so peaceful, we had plenty of opportunity for photos and to enjoy the gorgeous views.
Then we were taken to a Bedouin style camp for a short camel ride, a delicious BBQ, music, shisha and star gazing – what a fabulous way to spend an evening! There is so much more to Abu Dhabi than shopping malls and sunbathing, and surprisingly it is much larger than the nearby tourist hub of Dubai. Abu Dhabi is less commercialised, quieter and far more laid back than Dubai in atmosphere, so if you want winter sun with plenty of activity options, but without the crowds of Dubai, give Abu Dhabi a try, you won’t be disappointed!