GuidePal’s just returned from a trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where we’ve uncovered all the latest, greatest places to eat, play and sleep at – here’s some highlights:
Located directly opposite the iconic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, with the waters of the Grand Canal lapping gently against the resort’s private beach on the other side, the Ritz-Carlton really is a beautiful destination resort in its own right. Most guests while away their days next to the pool, which is the centrepiece of the resort and one of the largest in the UAE. There’s also a lovely beach and an ESPA spa that draws on local Bedouin traditions.
The Grand Mosque truly lives up to its name. This behemoth is one of the world’s largest mosques and cost nearly AED 2 billion to complete. It was the brainchild of the UAE’s first president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, and was completed in 2004, just after his death.
With space for over 40,000 worshippers, it’s decked out with 82 white-marble domes, an ornate 17,000-square-metres marble courtyard and gold chandeliers that sparkle with the light of millions of Swarovksi crystals.
We moved on to Dubai, where we stayed at the Waldorf Astoria. Set on the iconic Palm island in the middle of the Arabian Gulf, this stylish and elegant resort really has the wow-factor. Expansive, panoramic views from all areas of the property certainly make the most of the incredible setting – on one side you have beautiful views across the Arabian Gulf and of the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab, while on the other side, you overlook the private white sandy beach and on towards the glittering Dubai Marina skyline.
Buying off-the-rack in Dubai can be pricey, however having your threads custom-made is often extraordinarily reasonable. Bur Dubai and Satwa house some of the best tailors around (most are exports from the subcontinent).
Though many tend to stock their own fabrics, the truly luscious textiles can only be procured in Bastakiya’s ever colourful Textile Souk. Silks, brocades, cottons; you name it, they’ve got it by the yard. Haggling is expected, and only a fool would agree to pay the first price quoted.
There’s nothing better than ending a day by dining on the beach by candlelight. Beach Bar & Grill is blissfully romantic – though there are indoor tables, it’s the outdoor deck that gives the place its charm. Lighting is provided by candle, while the soundtrack is made up of the lapping of the waves on the hotel’s private beach.
The menu takes advantage of the seaside setting and is a fish-heavy with lots of seafood expertly slapped on the grill. Dining here has become something of a Dubai right of passage, so the prices are a little too high, but the atmosphere and fare are both good.