The more I get to know Abu Dhabi, the more I like it. The emirate wasn’t on my travel radar until last year when I visited en route to Nepal, but the trip made me realize how much it has to offer and tempted me to go back. Which is convenient, because I’ve been invited on a sponsored trip to Abu Dhabi with the Department of Culture & Tourism and Etihad Airways. And while I’m here I find 7 reasons to fall in love with Abu Dhabi.
1. The Etihad Business Class Experience
I discover the first reason before I even arrive. I’m flying business class with Etihad Airways, and everything from the spacious seats to the friendly staff makes for a positive experience. The interiors are new, the entertainment system comes with a large screen and lots of good TV shows and movies, and there’s even a lounge in the cabin.
The Arabic mezze sets me up for good food while I’m in the UAE, and the fast pass gets me through immigration quickly when I land.
2. The Cultural Highlights
Once I’m on the ground, Etihad passes the baton to Abu Dhabi for its chance to show me a good time. I start with the cultural highlights, which are always my favorite things about a destination. On my last visit, I fell in love with the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and this time I’m smitten with the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Opened in late 2017, it’s beautiful both inside and out. The building was designed by Jean Nouvel, and its white walls are surrounded by turquoise water as if it’s floating on the sea. Above the walls hovers a geometric dome that casts patterns of light and shadow into the exterior courtyard.
Inside, the museum takes me on a tour through time. Each room has art and objects from all over the world, showing a cross-section of cultural treasures from ancient times to modern.
3. The Fun
But not all of Abu Dhabi’s attractions are artistic. Some focus on good old fashioned fun. While I’m in town, I visit Ferrari World Abu Dhabi on Yas Island. The theme park is home to the world’s fastest roller coaster and the roller coaster with the world’s tallest loop. It also has everything from shows and restaurants to shops and a real Ferrari driving experience around the island.
But my favorite thing has to be the Bell’Italia ride, where model vintage Ferraris take visitors on a tour of a miniature Italy. It’s perfect for my inner travel lover.
The soon-to-open Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi on Yas Island sounds like it will be, too. With six immersive worlds to explore, I’m sure it will keep me entertained on my next trip. As could the many events that take place throughout the summer months. I’ve always imagined Abu Dhabi as a winter sun destination, but there’s a lot of fun to be had here all year.
4. The Sun
For now I’m focused on winter sun, though. After months of gray skies in London, I’m reveling in Abu Dhabi’s warm climate and blue skies. This is particularly true when I head to Saadiyat Beach Club to sit by the pool in my own private cabana.
A fruit bowl that’s almost too pretty to eat sets the tone for my time here. Everything from the interior lounges to the white sand beach is gorgeous. And that’s to say nothing of the people. This place could be Sloane-Square-on-Sea.
5. The Hotels and Resorts
Along the beach, I go on a hard hat tour of the Jumeirah Saadiyat Island resort, which is set to open later this year. Sitting right on the sand, it features beautiful suites, swimming pools, and al fresco dining. But what really wins me over is the spa, which is both expansive and luxurious.
Speaking of accommodation, I’m staying at the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers while I’m in Abu Dhabi. They’ve put me up in a large room with views over the water, and I’m pleasantly surprised when I learn how affordable the rates are.
I have breakfast at their Rosewater buffet restaurant, which has culinary options from all over the world. The only downside is that the staff is a bit slow to bring my tea each morning, and I’m usually finished eating before it arrives.
The service is better at Li Beirut, where the hot and cold mezze starters are full of flavor and the sea bass goes down a treat. I could keep coming back here to try everything on the menu.
6. The Views
But my time is limited, and there’s more to do. And see. The Observation Deck at 300 at the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers has panoramic views of the city, and I go up several times to see the landscape at different times of day. My favorite time is at sunset, when I watch the sky light up in orange and pink and the buildings glow.
7. The Endless Possibilities
But perhaps the best thing about Abu Dhabi is how much there is to do here. I used to think of it as a layover destination, but now that I’ve been here twice, I’ve learned there’s enough to do to fill a week or two. Beyond the city is the desert, where I spent two days on my last trip. And that’s to say nothing of Sir Bani Yas Island. Its Arabian Wildlife Park is home to 13,000 animals, including cheetah, giraffe, and Arabian Oryx.
But this trip has come to an end, and it’s time to travel back to London. I take advantage of the Etihad Premium Lounge as I wait to board my flight home, marveling at how many buffets and seating areas there are. If I were transiting I would use the showers, and if I had more time I would treat myself to a massage at the spa.
The flight itself is smooth enough to lull me to sleep and comfortable enough to help me pass the time quickly. And when I land in London, I’m tempted to sneak back on the plane for the return trip. I wouldn’t mind a bit of extra time to find more reasons to love Abu Dhabi.