Abu Dhabi, a world of contrasts

24th September 2017 7:40 PM

ABU Dhabi is a destination of diversity with a rich history of traditions and heritage. From Bedouin beginnings it has become one the world's most modern cities with a dynamic and luxurious presence.

It is the capital and largest of the seven emirates that comprise the UAE. Abu Dhabi is home to more than 200 natural islands and borders Oman, Saudi Arabia and the sparkling waters of the Arabian Sea.

The city features large gardens and parks with shaded boulevards lined with sophisticated high-rise buildings, international luxury hotels and opulent shopping malls.

Abu Dhabi isn't afraid to challenge world records. It has the world's largest hand-loomed carpet, the fastest roller coaster, the highest high tea and the tower with the greatest lean.

A contrasting experience is the other side of Abu Dhabi were you can stroll around the dhow harbour, haggle in the markets and absorb the atmosphere at sheesha cafes.

Whether you are an adventure addict or luxury lover, you are spoilt for choice in Abu Dhabi. For beach goers there is over 700km of beautiful coastline. Then there is Ferrari World with a roller coaster that hits 240km/h in just five seconds. At the Falcon Hospital visitors can hold one of these magnificent birds and watch them in free flight.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi will open in November, followed by the Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim.

No visit to Abu Dhabi is complete without a visit to the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The dazzling white marble edifice of epic proportions has the capacity to hold 40,000 worshippers.

On my recent visit, even though temperatures were in the 40s, I spent hours wandering around the mosque in a traditional abaya and headscarf in awe of this building which was second most popular world landmark in 2016.

Abu Dhabi is a shopper's parades. It is one of my favourite stopovers and well worth a few days exploring.