Abu Dhabi has always been the dominant economic and political force in the United Arab Emirates although, until recently, you might not have realised this.
Since the Nineties, when Dubai decided to splash its rapidly diminishing oil cash on grand schemes for trade and tourism, the relatively tiny Emirate has managed to hog most of the headlines.But now Abu Dhabi is flexing its muscles and quickly asserting its dominance in whichever arena it chooses (such as in the English Premier League where last season Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City finished as champions).When Abu Dhabi decided to take a dip into the world of motor racing, it did so by building a stunning new circuit inspired by Monaco. When it wanted a theme park to sit next to the new racetrack, who did they call? Ferrari.
For the past few years, Abu Dhabi has been setting about attracting tourists by coupling financial muscle with a canny grasp of how to win well-heeled tourists.It has done much more than simply provide the infrastructure – although it has done this with some style and elegance. It has, for example, established a world-class airline, Etihad, which has rapidly grown to prove a capable rival to Dubai-based Emirates.The quality of top-class hotels is breathtaking: one of the newest additions to the skyline is the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. Causing a sensation in Abu Dhabi’s hotel world is a stiff challenge because the oil-rich emirate has managed to accumulate a stunning portfolio of top-class properties in a short time.
But the Jumeirah – Abu Dhabi’s first Jumeirah group property – is a modern architectural wonder. The 920ft-high hotel tower is part of a new iconic five towers complex in the capital of the UAE.Other interesting new hotel developments are on Saadiyat Island, including the St Regis and Park Hyatt. With an eye to attracting more highbrow visitors, Saadiyat will become the new cultural centre of the country, with museum outposts of the Louvre and the Guggenheim due to open in the next few years.
The island already boasts a championship golf course, which has received praise from top stars including Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. The two golfers, incidentally, will head an all-star cast of the biggest names in golf at the eighth annual Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship being held next year from January 17-20 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club (where the winner will pocket £1.6 million).To woo international visitors, the organisers have launched a series of visitor packages available via Golf In Abu Dhabi – golfinabudhabi.com. These include tickets and the opportunity to extend stays to play at some of the emirate’s other golf courses.
The high-profile success of F1 motor racing and golf (and earlier this year Abu Dhabi also staged cricket matches between England and Pakistan) provides convincing proof that the state offers more than sandy beaches and year-round sun.The other prongs of Abu Dhabi’s tourism campaign are heritage and environment. The emirate has never lost touch with its desert history – nor has it carelessly spoilt areas of natural beauty with inappropriate development.While there are large, glossy tower blocks aplenty, you do not have to venture very far to discover traditional life with date and camel markets continuing to trade.
There are also desert forts and coastal islands where you will find flora and fauna carefully monitored and preserved. Abu Dhabi also has its eye on attracting stopover tourists – people flying Etihad to Australia, for example, who will be staying no more than a night or two.Hotels, tour operators, dining outlets, shops, adventure parks, cultural attractions and sports facilities are providing a range of offers to entice tourists and business travellers to spend time in Abu Dhabi with a range of discount offers and deals. Visitors flying into Abu Dhabi on Etihad can present their boarding cards at participating outlets to redeem the offers within seven days of arriving in Abu Dhabi. – Dailymail