An increasingly popular destination in the Middle East, Abu Dhabi showcases beautiful beaches, world-renowned art galleries, state-of-the-art theme parks and expansive golden desert - as I was about to discover.
The Dreamy Desert: Jumeriah Al Wathba Desert Resort & Spa
My group and I were some of the very first guests to see the amazing new Jumeriah Al Wathba Desert Resort & Spa and I wasn't quite sure what to expect as we drove from the airport into the vast Abu Dhabi desert. To say I was wowed would be an understatement! From the moment we entered the grand archway, we were met with the warmest welcome imaginable and a quick, easy VIP check in to my gorgeous room. Luxurious but understated, it featured neutral colours, plenty of wood, Arabic accessories and views over the dunes, perfectly complementing its sandy surroundings.
After settling in, it was time to explore. For those familiar with the fabulous spa facilities at Dubai's renowned Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, the same can be expected at the beautiful Talise Spa here, surrounded by tranquil gardens. I was lucky enough to be treated to an amazing back massage - the perfect remedy after a long flight. It was also here that I enjoyed yoga at sunrise one morning. Those views are something I won't be forgetting in a hurry!
A definite highlight of Al Wathba is the perfect blend of five-star Jumeirah luxury and an authentic desert experience. One of just several restaurants that serve everything from Arabic delights to authentic Italian cuisine, Al Mabeet is a traditional Bedouin-style camp in the desert. As we dined here on amazing Arabian food, watching the stunning sunset, I really felt as though I'd stepped back in time - just good company, good food and the dreamy desert surrounds. The Arabian adventures didn't stop with dining, though. In keeping with the traditions of the desert, we enjoyed a falconry show, archery and knife-throwing - so much fun and a great way to immerse ourselves in the surroundings.
The Middle East's Best Beach: Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort
Though sad to be leaving the desert, my Abu Dhabi adventure wasn't over yet, as we were whisked to the coast and our next hotel, Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort. Great to combine and only around an hour's drive between the two, the properties were strikingly different, the Arabian design and grandeur replaced for crisp, white and stylish interiors that perfectly highlighted the BEAUTIFUL beach - easily one of (if not the) best in the Middle East! I also loved that there is a focus here on sustainability and eco-friendly luxury. Aiming to reduce single-use plastics in the resort, my room included a premium Jumeirah water bottle that we could fill from water fountains (with both still and sparkling water) dotted around the hotel.
Visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Although I could have easily kept busy sunbathing on the beach, enjoying the non-motorised watersports, eating at the wonderful restaurants, or relaxing with a treatment in the spa (which includes an amazing gym from Bodyism!), the hotel is with easy reach of some of Abu Dhabi's best bits. We couldn't stay on Sadiyaat Island without a visit to the Louvre Abu Dhabi! I was impressed even before we'd entered the art gallery, just at the beauty of the domed building, surrounded by water and designed by Jean Nouvel. An inspiring guide showed us around the genuinely fascinating exhibitions that tell the story of humanity through twelve chapters, sharing lots of additional information, before we refreshed with cocktails as the sun set over the water. Bliss.
From art to rollercoasters, the next day involved a trip to Yas Island, a place dedicated to fun! Not just for families, fun is certainly what we had here - from speeding down slides at Yas Waterworld to enjoying the animated adventures at Warner Bros World. I can also now say that I've ridden the fastest rollercoaster on the planet, the Formula Rossa at Ferrari World. Reaching up 240km/h, it's that speedy, you need to wear goggles! We were also able to glimpse a side of authentic Abu Dhabi with a trip to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest in the UAE and able to hold 40,000 visitors at once. A friendly guide showed us around one of the most beautiful and ornate buildings I've ever seen, with huge domes, white marble and cute courtyards, perfectly contrasting the super modern attractions that the emirate also offers.