Abu Dhabi has the potential to surpass the Dubai experience says, Deepika Mital
The capital of the largest of the Emirates in UAE, and the seat of the ruling family, Abu Dhabi is the Miami to Dubai’s New York! This was how our tour guide tried to explain it, which didn’t make sense till we really looked at Abu Dhabi. After that it made perfect sense. The latter is a determinedly low rise and stately city with greenery rather than glitz as it’s stand out feature. Considering the fact that greenery is more difficult to achieve and maintain than bricks and mortar reinforces the fact that Abu Dhabi is the richer of the two Emirates.
But don’t get me wrong - Abu Dhabi has enough of glitz and glamour. They are now catching up to Dubai standards with the high rises and Ferrari world. Though in less profusion, the high rise buildings near the Sheik’s palace and the Emirates Palace hotel have already attracted attention and have been used as a backdrop for the Fast and Furious movies.
So once you have gawked at these impressively graceful glass and steel structures where Vin Diesel ran amok chasing the baddies, it is time to get your fill of the Corniche. Exotically named, this is a stretch of water front with beaches and promenades with great views of the Abu Dhabi skyline, such as it is. This area gives you the necessary distance from the downtown area and palaces to provide an overview of the city layout and important markers thereof. So one sees the palace hotel where Carrie and company played out probably the most embarrassing and unnecessary episodes of Sex and the City, as well as the royal palaces. This is also where you can access the beach and frolic in the calm waters of the Gulf. The best way to see the whole of this area would probably be by bicycle rather than walking. We did it in the comfort of an airconditioned car. The popular heritage village is also nearby, where one can visit ‘authentic’ stalls and see how the nomadic tribes of the area have lived for centuries. This, to me, seemed a bit of an overrated attraction, but that could also be due to the over exposure to such artificially maintained environments in India also. To each his own, I suppose.
The biggest attraction for younger visitors to this city would naturally be Ferrari World on Yas Island where the largest Ferrari branded theme park including the world’s fastest (and sick-making) rollercoaster Formula Rosso is located. It is also a destination for the car crazy – like my son, who was just happy to be able to hear the roar of a Ferrari engine and buy a Ferrari branded item from the exorbitant gift shop! Buyer beware.
Yas island and Yas Waterworld are also leading attractions for the more adventurous minded, with the latter a vast theme park with water slides and a central legend or theme.
The star attraction for older visitors would have to be the Sheik Zayed mosque or Grand Mosque. It is one of two mosques that open up to non-muslim visitors and it is definitely worth splashing out the ticket money for it. Amazingly serene, despite the hordes of tourists, it is the sheer calm of the architecture that inspires awe and peace. There should not be anything wrong with a world that can find place for such an oasis of exquisiteness, where spirituality meets beauty and calm. The pools outside the walkway are inspired in their design and reflect both the sky and the building to extreme effect. There are of course the usual restrictions imposed by guards holding walkie talkies with regard to head covering (for women) and loud behaviour. Please also be advised that all visitors must be decorously clad with no exposed limbs or hair, also keep in mind that sheer fabrics are a problem. There are however abayas available on hire for those who did not plan for the visit.
Food is aplenty, at most tourist spots and generally in Abu Dhabi, with world cuisines represented evenly and well. Indians will never miss Indian food in all of the UAE, because there are just so many chains and names that offer authentic Indian food to locals and visitors alike. Most restaurant offerings can be found in the huge malls of which Marina Mall is the largest and swankiest. With the fossil of a wooly mammoth and a ferris wheel numbering among its attractions, keep at least a day to uncover all the big and little things that it and the other malls have to offer. As one tourist put it, the Abu Dhabi malls are equally enchanting as those in Dubai, but with fewer people, so the experience is even better.
Even though no visit to Abu Dhabi is a stand alone experience as most UAE visits will always have the inherent comparison to Dubai, the city is without doubt worthy of an exclusive visit – it will not disappoint and could even surpass any previous experiences in Dubai. Go and check it out!