Its sister city of Dubai may draw all the yearning glances, but Abu Dhabi is where the real work gets done. More than half the wealth of the UAE is generated in this pleasant city that has an elegance born of uncanny clear thinking, which means it has avoided the traffic, pollution and other excesses of many major capitals around the world. It remains green and distinctly Arabic, despite the unmistakeable wealth on show – this is, after all, one of the richest places on earth.
That’s not to say there’s nothing ostentatious here; after all, it was little more than a remote fishing and pearling outpost as little as fifty year ago and its hard not to let that go to your head. But despite the riches that oil has brought, the pockets of luxury have done little to diminish the heart and soul of this sophisticated, multicultural but above all beautiful metropolis.
Where to stay
There is an overwhelming choice of luxury hotels, of which Danat Jebel Dhanna, with its stunning beach-side location, is probably the pick. Vision Hotel Apartments are excellent for longer stays, while The Park Inn is a more modest choice with a good reputation.
Where to eat
Abu Dhabi has an international menu and getting beyond your hotel restaurant is rewarding for both your palate and your wallet. Marakesh at the Millenium serves excellent Moroccan; the Lebanese Flower is a local institution and the best barbecue in town.
What to see
Explore the Corniche, the heart and soul of Abu Dhabi, or trace the city’s history at Heritage Village museum. Nearby Al Ain, a fertile oasis in a harsh and unforgiving desert, is worth a visit for both the stunning scenery and the camel market, which is the last of its kind in the Emirates.