How to spend a whirlwind 48 hours in Abu Dhabi

the du Arena

the du Arena   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement


From zipping across Formula One race tracks and witnessing the best UFC athletes fight it out, to giving your inner culture geek a rush at The Louvre and experiencing some stunning local cuisine — here’s all the fun things you can do in the city

Despite the hot sun and humid weather in Abu Dhabi, there is a jaunty air of enthusiasm as thousands of vacationers — from all parts of the globe — make their way to the city and Yas Island (the multi-purpose entertainment centre that hosts shows and festivals attracting millions, making the UAE a hotspot for party-goers and tourists). Gucci bags and Louis Vuitton dresses are found amidst more conventional beachwear and flip flops, all set for the Abu Dhabi Showdown Week: a seven-day event promoting the best the city has to offer.

Day 1

10 am

A cab ride to Yas Island is just 20 minutes from the airport, and after checking in at one of the many ritzy (yet affordable) hotels in the district, we grab some breakfast by the pool. A surprise is discovering that while texting is allowed, free audio/ video calling is blocked in Abu Dhabi (WhatsApp/Facetime, and so on) and Uber is not an option either. No matter, metered taxis are reasonably priced and the drivers are a friendly lot.

Our first stop is at Warner Bros World that is a blast of nostalgia for anyone who grew up watching Cartoon Network. Characters from Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera and DC Comics are just some of the franchises on showcase here, and even the non-stop babble of pre-teens excitedly bumping into everyone around cannot dampen our mood.

Six themed areas are present: Gotham City, Metropolis, Cartoon Junction, Bedrock, Dynamite Gulch and Warner Bros Plaza, and it is with a heavy heart that we leave after a couple of hours, having tried just a few of the 30-plus rides and attractions. The must-try? A toss up between Scooby Doo: The Museum of Mysteries and Justice League: Warworld Attacks!

1 pm

No time for lunch — a shawarma or two will do (of course we are going to binge on them while in the UAE!) — as we make our way to the Yas Marina Circuit, official home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Later this year, fans can watch Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel compete on the track — but wait for it — enjoy Marshmello and Lana Del Rey open for the race too!

For visitors now, apart from taking in the stunning views, an experiential drive around the circuit in a Formula One car — or a variety of other high-end monsters — is available, though it will set you back by quite a bit (anywhere between ₹20,000 to ₹80,000).

Nearby, there is more for fans of race cars and amusement parks: the astounding Ferrari World, which is home to the Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest rollercoaster! (top speed of 240 kilometres per hour). There is also another beauty — Flying Aces — that has the world’s tallest non-inverting loop. However, if coasters are not your thing, there is plenty to keep everyone happy: from motion simulators and interactive game shows to 4-D rides and a tour of the historic Ferrari factory.

5 pm

The du Arena — a stunning 13,000-seater indoor stadium created recently to host the best of global events and artistes — is an experience in itself.

However, we are present for the latest edition of the Ultimate Fighting Championship — UFC 242 — the MMA event that is headlined by a bout between stars, eventual lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier. The global phenomenon is a rage in Dubai, as not just fans of mixed martial arts, but also enthusiasts of sports entertainment turn up to support their favourites.

It’s total but organised chaos at the venue pre-fight: fans from the US, Europe, Russia, Australia and all over Asia have flown in, and it’s almost a party in the fan section! Photo-ops with ring girls, posing with the UFC championship belts, memorabilia, beer and food counters, dancing are all part of the evening.

Don’t believe the hype yet? The Red Hot Chili Peppers were flown in the previous day to a sold-out arena as part of the showcase!

Well past midnight, after the celebrations inside the arena are over, we end up in the Yas party district — any cabbie will know how to take you there.

Pub-hopping is the best route of action here, as a number of joints such as MAD, Stills, Stars ‘N’ Bars, Y Bar and so on offer varying degrees of night-life and celebrity-spotting. With luck, you could find yourself at the bar counter next to a UFC superstar or a pop singer like Katy Perry or Coldplay’s Chris Martin (no, we don’t kid).

Day 2

9 am

An early wake-up call sees us on our way to the Arabian Wildlife Park in Sir Bani Yas Island. It has a very unique draw — it allows you to come face-to-face with the giraffes that call it home. A viewing platform allows visitors to get up close with the magnificent animals and offers breathtaking panoramic views.

You can go on Nature safaris within the sprawling park that has close to 10,000 animals that move freely on the island, and you are bound to encounter cheetahs, gazelles, hyenas and oryxes on the drives.

12.30 pm

Abu Dhabi has its own version of Chokhi Dhani, with an expansive Heritage Village that tourists can experience. The attraction is a recreation of pre-modern Abu Dhabi and will give tourists a taste of typical life in the desert. The village has a mosque and an encampment and showcases the traditional way of life. There is also a fantastic opportunity to see traditional craftsmen at work making pottery, weaving fabric and crafting metal. There is a shop for spices and souvenirs.

4 pm

The spectacular Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi is two years old and houses some of the most renowned artwork. Its existence is the result of an agreement between the UAE and French government, making the Louvre one of the largest museums in the region.

In addition to paintings, the museum also houses breathtaking photographs and sculptures, including works of Paul Gauguin and Rene Magritte. Other famous painters whose works can be found at the Louvre include Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet. With so many formidable artists housed under one roof, the experience that the Louvre has on offer is unparalleled.

7 pm

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in Abu Dhabi, taking 11 years to construct at a whopping 2 billion dirhams and spans 30 acres. The mosque architecture borrows from Persian, Indian, Arab and Mughal styles. Marble, gold, precious stones, ceramics and crystals add to the glittering surface of the mosque, which offers stunning views that make it a favourite among tourists. The large Persian carpet in the prayer hall is one of the many crowd favourites in the mosque. The seven German chandeliers are also renowned for their workmanship. The lighting in the mosque has been designed to showcase the phases of the moon.

9.30 pm

We wind up our day at the gorgeous Saadiyat white sand beach, which is a novel attraction for those visiting from the subcontinent. The beach offers great scenic views to unwind and its natural landscape is one of the few that have been unaltered.

Rows of sunbeds are available to relax and take in the scenery. Hawksbill turtles use the beach as a nesting spot. The nine-kilometre stretch is free to access and has various amenities, including public restrooms and lifeguards on patrol.

Visitors are allowed to bring their own food. There is a wide selection of cafés and fine dining restaurants to choose from. Souvenirs can be bought at small shops that surround the beach. For those keen on a great dining experience, restaurants such as Mare Mare, Beach House and Sontaya are a stone’s throw away from the beach.

(The writer was in Abu Dhabi on the invitation of Sony Pictures Sports Network and UFC)

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 10:00:46 AM |

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