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About Abu Dhabi
Dubai has the glitz, but Abu Dhabi has the class. Capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi manages to be both one of the world's most modern cities and one of the most elegant. Class over glitz is the same when it comes to the best places to stay in Abu Dhabi, but you'll still find the fantastical palace hotels the UAE is becoming known for.
You wouldn't imagine it from the spectacular desert location, but Abu Dhabi is noted for its large parks and gardens - this city has been planned with care, with most of it occupying an island connected to the mainland with two bridges.
Fifty years ago Abu Dhabi was a fishing port, so while the rich emirate culture goes back many colourful centuries, it didn't actually happen in the capital. The elegant fort, Qasr al-Husn, was built in the 17th Century, and there were a few buildings made of beautiful, white coral, but mostly this was just an ocean of desert.
What Abu Dhabi does have is a Falcon Hospital and adjacent museum - falcons have a legendary status here, and 'patients' are brought in from far and wide.
It also has the hugely impressive Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, with its more than eighty domes, four minarets over a hundred metres high, one thousand pillars and prayer space to accommodate forty thousand - wow. And that's just the outside; inside it's all gold, marble, semi-precious stones and crystal.
Abu Dhabi also boasts 'Ferrari World', which has the world's fastest roller coaster. And the camel races. And the Corniche, the spectacular waterfront walkway which stretches along the whole city, passing lovely beaches, malls, marinas, playgrounds and of course places to stop for a break.
Thankfully Abu Dhabi's planning means that it doesn't suffer from the same kind of epic traffic jams that you can find in Dubai, but it's not immune, this city was built for cars. But that's definitely not an invitation to get behind the wheel! The road rules here probably aren't what they are at home, so you're best bet is taking taxis or the local bus services. Abu Dhabi is a bit to big to navigate totally on foot, so you'll need to take the plunge on the roads or risk missing out.
Abu Dhabi city is only going to become more interesting, in 2015 an outpost of the Louvre Museum is scheduled to open, and in 2017 they're getting a Guggenheim.
And if you can get out of the city you'll find a lot more than the desert. There you'll discover fossil lined cliffs, waterfalls and mountains.
- The Qasr Al Sarab in Abu Dhabi is the perfect spot to fulfil your Arabian Nights fantasies, a luxurious desert palace in the dunes. Dine under the stars in a Bedouin tent, splash about in one of the many pools, relax in the impeccable spa and soak up the peace.
- Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace is one of the grandest hotels in the region - apparently they have an ATM which dispenses gold bars? but you don't need to check in to visit the art gallery and museum in the lobby, and it's certainly worth popping by.
Best Hotels in Abu Dhabi
Qasr Al Sarab 206 rooms from $236Abu Dhabi (Hameem)
Desert romance and sophisticated luxury in the dunes. Gorgeous rooms and suites in muted tones in the style of Arabian Nights, twinkling swimming pools dotted around the hotel, fabulous food, and an impeccable spa.Romantic - Good for couples.LuxuryRomantic BreakKids Club - For little ones and teenagers tooRecommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith