As “One of the world’s most important emerging regions in terms of contemporary culture” (Thomas Krens, former Guggenheim director), Arabia is fast becoming a melting pot of arts and tourism. Nowhere is this more apparent than in ‘museum city’ Abu Dhabi. With its reputation as a low-rise alternative to Dubai’s city in the sky, the Abu Dhabi of today already boasts a wealth of world-class attractions, from the spiritual to the adrenalin-fuelled. But with a raft of cultural investment gracing this Arabian Gulf province in the coming months, the Abu Dhabi of tomorrow is set to raise the bar even higher. Our Arabia destination experts recommend their top four Abu Dhabi attractions; two you can visit today and two to plan for the future.
For today: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
A quick look around some of Abu Dhabi’s magnificent civic monuments will soon remind you of its status as the UAE capital. Chief among these has to be the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The structure was conceived as a unification not only of Islamic cultural diversity but also as a way of connecting the values of local art and architecture through the ages. The mosque took 10 years to build and upon its completion in 2007 became the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates with a capacity of 41,000 during Eid prayers. The entire complex covers 30 acres, and such scope and ambition create plenty of opportunities for unique moments such as: the world’s largest carpet, imported chandeliers made up of millions of Swarovski candles, and a striking effect caused by exterior reflections in the pools along the mosque’s arcades. Lighting engineers Speirs and Major Associates designed a special system to reflect the phases of the moon which makes this phenomenon even more awesome at night.
For tomorrow: Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
The byword in collecting and displaying modern and contemporary art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and its museums in New York, Venice and Bilbao have revolutionised the global art gallery scene. Next on the list of locations for this iconic art collector is Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, where an innovative new 30,000 square-metre museum is in development. Designed by architecture royalty Frank Gehry with lighting by L’Observatoire International, the site is flanked on three sides by water where, says Gehry, “the light quality of the place suggested some of the direction.” Computer mock-ups of the project reveal a modernist interpretation of traditional Arabian courtyards and wind towers, alongside clusters of galleries on vertical and horizontal plains connected by catwalks. The completion date is yet to be announced, but excitement is building steadily. Watch this space…
For today: Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
A change of gear now as we rev things up for Arabia holidays. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the sports-car-themed amusement park on Yas Island where fun is fast and furious. Not only is Ferrari World Abu Dhabi the largest space frame structure on the planet, it also holds the record for the world’s fastest rollercoaster – Formula Rossa. Since its opening in 2010, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi has thrilled thousands of families with its range of attractions. Five rollercoasters, three thrill rides, nine family rides, five children’s rides and four shows alongside superb shop & dine venues keep kids big and small entertained for hours.
For tomorrow: Louvre Abu Dhabi
Art fans on holiday in Abu Dhabi this November can look forward to another landmark opening, and once again it’s a famous art gallery brand expanding its empire. The Louvre has recognised Abu Dhabi’s pre-eminence as an arts & culture hotbed with its decision to build an edition of its famous museum in the city. And the countdown for its 11th November 2017 launch has begun. Visitors are invited to ‘see humanity in a new light’ in a building innovatively designed to be a celebration of Abu Dhabi’s land & sea geography, its heritage and its architecture. Using fascinating artworks from antiquity right through to the present day, the museum’s galleries will weave the story of humanity in 12 distinct ‘chapters’, from the first villages and trade routes to cosmography and modernity. The world-renowned Parisian museum’s Arabian outpost is set to be a must-visit and highly talked-about occasion on the itineraries of Abu Dhabi holidays from here on in.