31 December 2009
Just 50 years ago, Abu Dhabi was little more than a fishing village comprising a fort, a few coral buildings and a smattering of berasti huts. Now, not only does the attractive capital of the United Arab Emirates boast opportunities for luxury breaks, fine dining, golf, spa, water and desert experiences, it also provides travellers with a palpable sense of history and heritage. Visitors can tour the 200-year-old Al Maqta Fort and the astonishing Sheikh Zayed Mosque, or while away a morning at the Heritage Village, a fascinating replica of an old nomadic settlement, complete with a recreated souk, mosque and Bedouin encampment, at which craftsmen hold workshops on pot making, glass blowing, weaving and brass beating.
In addition to the newly expanded 18-hole golf course at Al Ain’s Palm Sports Resort, the magnificent Gary Player-designed Saadiyat Beach Golf Club – the Arabian Gulf ’s first and only ‘ocean’ course – is now open on Saadiyat Island. With a new Links course also about to open on Yas Island, the emirate is now truly a world-class golfing destination. Other popular activities include kayaking among the mangroves, speed boat trips along the coast and city tours by the Big Bus Company.
Cultural connoisseurs should also keep an eye on Saadiyat Island. Besides golf courses, it’s also the future home of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Jean Nouvel’s Abu Dhabi Louvre and a gigantic performing arts space designed by noted Arab architect, Zaha Hadid. For a taste of what’s in store, make your way to the Cultural District Exhibition in the lavish Emirates Palace hotel.
Things don’t stop there, however. Clean, modern and hassle-free Abu Dhabi boasts an enviable calendar of eclectic events. Here are some annual highlights.
Abu Dhabi Golf Championship January
This star-studded annual event takes to the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s stunning national course every January and is the first major leg of the European Tour. The event, which attracts world-class players such as Paul Casey, Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Adam Scott, is hosted by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and fully sanctioned by the pga European Tour.
Al Ain Aerobatic Show January
The oasis city of Al Ain hosts the Al Ain Aerobatic Show. The show is currently the only aerobatic show in the Middle East, where thousands of spectators gather to enjoy spectacular displays, breathtaking showmanship and aerobatic stunts.
Gourmet Abu Dhabi 05 to 19 Feb 2010
This 15-day event held in various city-centre hotels features a star-studded line-up of Michelin-starred chefs and award-winning pastry connoisseurs, all promising unique dining experiences.
Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Festival 20 Mar to 07 Apr 2010
The Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Festival is a twoweek injection of art, education, culture and creativity to the heart of the Emirate. Catch ballets, Arabian contemporary classical music, art exhibitions, workshops and educational programmes scattered across the city.
Red Bull Air Race 02 to 03 Apr 2010
Abu Dhabi hosts the opening event of the Red Bull Air Race World Championships, the world’s fastest form of motorsport. The series takes place across five continents, with the Abu Dhabi stage held along the waterfront above the heads of more than 200,000 spectators.
Camel racing at Al Wa thba Racetrack Apr 2010
Camel racing continues to be an indispensable part of Bedouin life in the United Arab Emirates. Al Wathba Racetrack, 45 km east of Abu Dhabi, has weekly races throughout the winter. Events are free to watch and the season culminates in the annual camel race festival in April.
Al Gharbia Wa tersports Festival May 2010
Numerous sporting competitions and activities, including kite boarding, surfsea kayaking, power boating, jet-skiing, wakeboarding, beach volleyball and football, are open for anyone to enjoy.
Summer in Abu Dhabi Festival 01 Jul to 10 Aug 2010
Summer in Abu Dhabi is a family carnival where once-in-a-lifetime experiences happen every day. Five islands have been created – Culture & Heritage, Adventure, Science & Technology, Entertainment and Sports – featuring a wide array of activities to appeal to all age groups and interests.
Etihad Airways F1 Grand Prix 14 Nov 2010
Yas Marina Circuit, perhaps the world’s most advanced motorsport centre, hosts the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November this year. A-list celebrities and many of the world’s political and business leaders will join F1 enthusiasts over the course of the race weekend.
Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge Dec 2010
A gruelling six-day multi-discipline endurance race, which includes events such as running, biking, canoeing and swimming, pits the world’s leading adventure-racing athletes against the elements and each other in one of the most testing events of its kind.