BY ARSLAN ABBASOV
AZERI OBSERVER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
When someone mentions the United Arab Emirates, the first emirate which comes to their mind is glittering Dubai. However, not many people know that the real gem of the country is Abu Dhabi, which is rightly defined as a hidden paradise.
The most convenient flight from Baku to Abu Dhabi is a flight on Etihad Airways. The airline was established by a decree of Emir Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2003 and launched its first flight from Abu Dhabi to Beirut in the same year. Within a short time, the company converted to a leader in the local market. In 2008 it ordered 205 aircrafts – 100 firm orders, 55 options and 50 purchase rights at the Farnborough Airshow. It was the largest aircraft order in commercial aviation history. In 2016, the airline won three awards at the prestigious Skytrax World Airline Award. The airline has a network of over 60 destinations across the world, including Azerbaijan. Flights from Baku are carried out three times a week, and starting this summer the number of flights will increase to five per week. It is worth mentioning that the business class of the company contains comfortable seats, a varied selection of dishes, including a vegetarian menu, and friendly and courteous staff. The airline also has a separate business terminal at the Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Abu Dhabi has a tremendous number of both chain and private luxury hotels. However, one of the most luxurious ones is the legendary The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, located in the high-rise National Towers next to Corniche Beach in the heart of the capital.
The hotel has 283 luxuriously appointed rooms, including an exclusive Abu Dhabi suite between the two towers, which presents panoramic views of the Gulf. The hotel has two gourmet restaurants, three cafes, and four bars. One restaurant offers buffets with a great variety of delicacies from Parma ham to all kinds of seafood and the most exquisite desserts. Italian cuisine lovers will undoubtedly like the second restaurant with a special menu from the chef, which includes a whole range of Tuscan, Neapolitan, and Sicilian dishes, and is continually changing. The risotto with scallops, truffles, and the best quality parmesan is highly recommended!
Those who like passive recreational activities will appreciate the Remede Spa, an excellent SPA-center, which occupies 3,200 square meters and offers a complete set of procedures, from all kinds of massage to special procedures for the face, body, and hair. The hotel also has a private beach, the Nation Riviera Beach Club, with pools and a special bar, where the guests can enjoy unique detox cocktails.
Personal butlers and individual complimentary services, including ironing, unpacking, and packing luggage is the brand’s signature for over 100 years. The hotel also offers a modern eButler electronic service. An interesting fact is that the owners of The St. Regis hotel network are the descendants of the owners of the shipbuilding company that built the legendary Titanic. They decided to keep the memory of this magnificent ship by decorating all of their hotels with the design elements that are reminiscent of being on board of the Titanic. So, the staircase in the foyer of The St. Regis Abu Dhabi is the same as it was in the luxury liner.
Those who prefer a quiet location to a hectic city should discover the Rixos Saadiyat Island hotel. Many people say that this hotel is paradise on Earth. Firstly, the hotel is located on a beautiful beach on Saadiyat Island with an incredible view of the bay next to the popular Saadiyat Beach Golf Club. Secondly, this is the only hotel in Abu Dhabi that offers an ultra all-inclusive concept, which is convenient if you spend your vacations with your family. For those who do not like to be seen by others, the resort offers luxurious villas with the highest level of comfort. The interior design of the hotel takes you to the One Thousand and One Nights fairy tale. Wrought iron staircases and turquoise carpets harmonize with the golden design on the walls, and colored glass chandeliers hung from round arches rise above the eastern fountains. The hotel has a main restaurant and six restaurants with a la carte menus. The Mediterranean restaurant, which serves roasted shrimps baked in cream sauce with grilled vegetables, deserves special mentioning. Luxury hotel rooms amaze with bathrooms made of expensive marble, silk linens, and a private terrace with a swimming pool. After all, there is nothing better than lying on the shore of a bay with transparent water and enjoying the sun kissing your skin.
In general, the capital of the Emirates has experienced meteoric development. Just 10-15 years ago, Abu Dhabi was associated only with business and oil, but today it claims to be the cultural capital of the Middle East. In recent years, Arabs have become much more interested in contemporary art, and it is not surprising that the magnificent Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum was opened here. Designed by French architect and Pritzker Prize laureate, Jean Nouvel, the museum has the form of a UFO, as if it landed on the shore of the Gulf. The Emirates government paid one billion euros for the project. The museum resembles a kind of Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders and keeps about three hundred unique exhibits from the Louvre, the Georges Pompidou Center, Versailles, the Rodin Museum, the Orsay Museum, and ancient pieces from China, India, Iraq, Congo, Jordan, and other countries. Different epochs, periods, and topics are presented in various museum halls.
For example, a page from the Blue Quran of the 9th century is exhibited next to the Yemeni Torah of 1498 and two Gothic Bibles of the 13th century. You can also visit the Halls of Ancient Greece and the Holy Roman Empire. In the Renaissance Hall, visitors can see such everlasting masterpieces as ‘The Beautiful Ferroniere’ by Leonardo da Vinci, ‘Bonaparte Crossing the Grand Saint-Bernard Pass’ by Jacques-Louis David, and ‘Woman with a Mirror’ by Titian. In the Impressionists Hall, there is a collection of paintings by artists including Claude Monet, James Whistler, and Vincent van Gogh. Fans of more modern artists will be delighted to see pieces of art by Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Henri Matisse, James Pollack, and Rene Magritte. Unique Persian carpets, Italian tapestries, and masks from Central Asian countries collected in the museum are also worth mentioning.
It is impossible to come to Abu Dhabi and not visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. This mosque is the second most popular tourist attraction in the world. It is home to the world’s largest carpet, designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi, and the world’s largest gold-plated chandelier (10 meters high, weighing about 12 tons), encrusted with millions of Swarovski crystals. From afar, the mosque resembles a palace floating in the air with 82 domes, and inside it is fully covered with rare hand-painted white marble. The mosque can accommodate up to 50 thousand believers.
The government of Abu Dhabi, while working on its multilateral development, did not forget about the entertainment sphere. The three main entertainment attractions of the city are Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, and Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi. Waterworld offers 40 unique aqua-attractions for young children and extreme rides and slides for adults. The concept of the waterpark is based on a legend about a girl called Dana, and a lost pearl. If you are a fan of Formula 1 or a lover of fast driving, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi will be the perfect attraction for you. The incredible park has the most extreme and fast rides in the world. If you are ready to experience an F1 pilots’ feelings, you can try the Formula Rossa, which is the fastest roller coaster in the world, reaching speeds of 240 km/ h in five seconds. Flying Aces roller coaster, in turn, makes the highest loop in the world. You can also visit the Formula 1 winner museum and the Ferrari auto collection museum. Those who prefer slower rides could take some classes at the karting academy.
The Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi amusement park will impress even the most pessimistic visitor. The park is organized into six themed areas, including three areas specially designed for small children. The Bedrock area takes visitors to the prehistoric period with the legendary Flintstones family. The more active area is the Dynamite Gulch, where visitors encounter the famed duo Road Runner and Wile E Coyote. One of the most popular areas in the park is the whimsical town of cartoons, Cartoon Junction. Here you can visit Bugs Bunny in his theater and take part in his show, go to the haunted house and solve secrets with Scooby-Doo and his friends, or go to the Tom and Jerry Spin, where you will be in pursuit of Swiss cheese and is the funniest attraction of the area. Though, the main attraction and gem of the park is the area of the legendary heroes of the DC Extended Universe. The journey starts in the gloomy streets of Gotham City, where the clock always shows 11 minutes after midnight. The design team has, in painstaking detail, recreated all of the quarters of the famous city where Batman fights against his sworn enemies. Gotham’s attractions are designed for older visitors. Here you can ride The Riddler Revolution roller coaster, go through a complicated maze in the Joker’s Funhouse or experience interactive fear during the Scarecrow Scare Raid. Of course, the headquarters of Wayne Enterprises is a must visit place. Here you have to go down to the underground laboratory of Bruce Wayne and become a member of the battle between Batman and the Joker. From gloomy Gotham, you can go to another themed area of DC, the Metropolis zone, where the sky is always a purple sunset because justice is administered only with sunlight.
The main attraction of the town is the Justice League Palace. In the marble lobby of the palace, there are giant statues of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Cyborg, and Green Lantern. All of the zones are located in a circle, and in the middle of the park, there is the main square in the style of old Hollywood. Here you can visit a wide variety of restaurants and souvenir shops, where 65% of the all of the goods are unique and are not sold outside the Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi park.
When it comes time to leave Abu Dhabi, you will undoubtedly find yourself thinking that you want to come back here more than once.