48 Hours in Abu Dhabi
What to do when you’ve got 48 hours to spare in Dubai – leave. We finally had a weekend free and we’ve been eager to get out of the hustling Dubai city and head over to Abu Dhabi since we moved here. A friend lent us his car and an hour later we arrived, staying at the luxurious Shangri – La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri – we knew our weekend escape was in good hands.
Once our car was complimentary valet parked we were welcomed with Arabic tea and a free upgrade to a suite for our stay. The suite exerted a regal Arabian residency, the dominating arches and expansive balcony led to a view of the palatial mosque. The rich colours and silky textures transport you away to what felt like a Moroccan riad. The decor and grandeur of the suite made you feel pampered yet comforted at the same time. Indulgent extras including a walk-in wardrobe, surround sound in the bathroom and a bed that’s gonna take some beating, made leaving our suite to explore Abu Dhabi a tough call.
The hotel itself comprises of 4 restaurants, 3 bar lounges, a spa and health club, hotel apartments, even housing its own souk which can be reached by a mini Venice-inspired canal. We headed straight down to ESS lounge. A beach front shisha bar to chill and enjoy the un-rivaled view of the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
The next morning and our first full day in Abu Dhabi. We woke early to catch the sunrise and make the most of our short time. Our stay came with breakfast included – being early birds we were amongst the first to grace the dining room. The choice on offer for breakfast seemed endless. Multiple stations dedicated to catering to your every breakfast, and quite honestly lunch and dinner, desires. After circling and inspecting every delight on offer, we opted for eggs and pancakes and sat in the grand dining hall. A sweeping staircase and floor to ceiling windows led out to the renowned infinity pool. After breakfast we took a couple of hours to enjoy the beach and pool. Everywhere you look from the restaurants to the pool, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is in full view and commands your attention.
As it was Friday, Holy day, the Mosque wasn’t open to the public until 4.30pm giving us plenty of time to enjoy the newest museum opening in Abu Dhabi, The Louvre. Even if you’re not one for museums, this museum is architectural brilliance at its best. The design is so captivating you are coaxed inside to see how this floating museum unfolds. Huge windows round every corner bring the outside in as a piece of art in themselves. Wide, expansive walls and relaxing water pools give a modern, recreational feel as you wander. The final destination is the terrace, a concrete passageway that allows you to enjoy the intricate construction of the roof and the circular pools of light that beam down in am almost space age feel. You are able to get considerably close to the water and enjoy lunch at the tranquil Museum Café. We’re not really museum go-ers either but this is a must.
From The Louvre it’s only short drive to The Grand Mosque. We arrived for 4.30pm – just as the Mosque opens to the general public. Women are given an Abaya and Men a Kandora if not appropriately covered. Walking in the presence of the Mosque is simply a spectacle in itself. Just to stand and marvel at the magnitude of such a place is humbling. Huge arched walkways lead to a colossal central dome complete with ornamental chandelier and walls covered in hand painted vine leaves. Separate Men’s and Women’s prayer rooms lead off from here. You have to muster your way through the hoards of people who flock to see this impressive sanctuary, but when you find that quite spot the sheer scale and respect the building demands becomes ever-present.
We were fortunate to see the sun set between the domes whilst there, seeing the pure white palace turn to blue is quite something. You simply have to go and experience the Mosque for yourself.
If you’re anything like us, you try to fit a weeks worth into two days. Well like me! I had planned this weekend getaway for River’s birthday surprise and i’d heard about a private island resort called Zaya Nurai. It is a speedy 20 minutes boat ride away and looked like utter paradise. Using myconceirge.com I booked a day pass for us both. The price of the day pass is fully redeemable against food and drink at any of the restaurants on the island. The boat departs from Saadiyat Island, just a 20 minute drive from the Shangri-La.
The island is magical. You are free to roam and enjoy the island at your leisure. There is a pool side with beach and cabanas to unwind on. Whilst on the other side the famous Smoky Pineapple beach club is found – a favourite among instagrammers! Dive in to enjoy the floating hammocks and water swings before sipping a cocktail on the swings hung around the bar. The huge pineapple shaped pizza oven and white isle furniture transports you to Fiji or maybe Hawaii – definitely not 30 minutes from Abu Dhabi. The island comes complete with bikes and golf buggies to travel around in style, passing the enviable island stayers in their even more enviable luxury abodes. With entire glass front and decking down to the sea, or even a private pool into the sea. Once you’ve had a nosey you definitely wish you were staying in one!
We stayed to enjoy the sunset then headed back to get the boat just as the fairy lights and lanterns brought the island to life after dark. We were sad to leave but had found places we’d be sure to return to. Whether you have 48 hours or longer definitely make the time to visit Abu Dhabi. The quieter, more cultural emirate that has plenty to discover.