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Abu Dhabi: beautiful cultural oasis rising out of the desert

IMG_0362GRAND Prix time and Abu Dhabi has laid on a glamorous, opulent party. No expense spared. During the daytime the Yas Marina Circuit, which curves right through the middle of the Yas Viceroy Hotel vibrates to the deafening roar of the elite of the motor-racing world. At night, the du Arena is vibrating as rapper Jay Z, flown in for the event, blasts the crowd with such ferocity he literally blows up the generator. In between, there are glittering gatherings on massive multimillion-dollar yachts berthed in the marina. Celebrities mingle with the rich and the royal and the rest of us.

The Grand Prix is just one of a series of international events from golf and powerboat racing, Formula One motorbikes to arts, that Abu Dhabi is staging to attract international tourists. But these headline events are only half the story.Less than 50 years ago, Abu Dhabi was literally empty desert, inhabited by nomadic Bedouins, and a large grouping of disconnected islands. But as the oil dollars began rolling in, Sheik Zayed, the founder of the United Arab Emirates, devised an ambitious but carefully considered plan to develop his country.

Even just a few years ago, Abu Dhabi was for most travellers a brief stop on the journey from somewhere to somewhere else, a couple of hours of sumptuous duty-free shopping while the plane refuelled. Today, it’s an exciting fusion of glittering modernity and the culture that has been at its heart stretching back through time: a destination in its own right with attractions for all the family. It’s a story being told in many parts, each equally important to the country.

IMG_0388The city of Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and the country Abu Dhabi has the largest land mass of the UAE’s seven member states and a population of about 1.6million. Although architecturally striking high-rise buildings are beginning to appear on the horizon, Abu Dhabi is deliberately aiming for a more subtle national persona than its close neighbour, Dubai. It is combining its natural assets – its ancient culture, pristine beaches


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