Last week members of the Traveleads team flew out to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways to learn more about the capital and second most populous city of the United Arab Emirates.
The destination takes its name from the ‘Dhabi’ an Arabian species of gazelle once common in the region. Abu Dhabi initially gained fame for its pearl fishing industry. Divers were forbidden from using air tanks or any mechanical devices and were not paid for their work, instead they received a portion of the profits each seasons trade delivered.
By the 1930’s the pearl trade had slipped into decline, however interests in the regions natural resources grew, and in January 1936 an agreement was signed initiating the search for oil. By 2010 oil production in the UAE had reached 2.3million barrels per day. Instant wealth demanded an instant overhaul of the city and today the skyline is completely unrecognisable to anything seen back in the 1930’s. Today Abu Dhabi is a front runner for cutting edge architecture, offering visitors a glimpse of what the future of all cities might eventually look like. Abu Dhabi accounts for two thirds of the whopping annual $400billion economy of the UAE - they say that money talks, here it shouts at the top of its voice!

We stayed at the Dusit Thani which was recently ranked in the top 100 hotels of the world. Located in the city’s new business and government district the hotel is ideally placed to discover the Eastern Mangroves, the Abu Dhabi Exhibition Centre, the lush natural habitat of the Corniche, along with the city’s iconic seaside promenade. The hotel fuses Thai elegance with state of the art elements, including a sensational lobby with a ceiling height of over 100 meters!  

Temperatures range from 24 degrees in the winter to a sizzling 43 degrees in summer, so there’s little chance of rain spoiling your trip, and yet the Abu Dhabi Water Company manages to supply over 560 million imperial gallons of water to the city every day – using groundwater as the most significant source. The result is a beautiful green oasis, surrounded by natural and man-made islands, separated by coastal rivers and streams.
80% of the cities inhabitants are working migrants from overseas. Only 20% of the population are UAE nationals, so you might be surprised to discover a city rich in diversity. Islam is the country’s official religion, however Christian churches, Hindu temples, and Sikh gurdwaras can be found alongside mosques.  The grandest mosque being the Sheikh Zayed Mosque – the third largest in the world. Constructed between 1996 and 2007 the mosque can hold up to 40,000 worshippers and covers more than 30 acres, and that doesn’t include its extensive gardens and landscaping!
Built from materials including marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. The mosque is absolutely spectacular …no wonder it has twice been voted the second greatest landmark in the world by TripAdvisor.

For visitors wanting to combine a business trip in the city with a relaxing beach stay look no further than Zaya Nurai Island, described by Conde Nast as one of the world’s most incredible island resorts. Just a short 10-15 minute trip by speedboat from the resorts private jetty on the mainland, the island is the perfect place to kick off your shoes and take advantage of Abu Dhabi’s year round sunshine. We spent the afternoon here and discovered for ourselves why the island regularly features on the Instagram accounts of the rich and famous. A tropical island retreat just minutes from the city. Beach bars, poolside dining, luxury accommodation, a full service spa, sensational sea views and world class service – what’s not to love?


If it’s less relaxation and more acceleration you’re after, look no further than the high-speed thrill rides of Ferrari world. The first Ferrari branded theme park is home to Formula Rossa the world’s fastest rollercoaster, we rode it and it almost took the shirts off our backs! With a launch speed taking riders from 0 – 240km per hour in just 4 seconds it’s not for the faint hearted. There are attractions and rides here for all ages, not to mention Ferrari’s galore (It’s a motor enthusiasts dream) With the largest space frame structure ever built, the entire theme park is air conditioned and under one roof. It’s an unforgettable day out for adults and children alike.

Why not combine business and pleasure? Abu Dhabi is a wonderfully safe destination for children, if you’re looking for a family friendly resort the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi is waiting to welcome you. In the morning the sunlight sparkles off the Al Maqta Creek, while in the evening the beautifully lit Grand Mosque provides a stunning backdrop, not to mention the perfect photo opportunity to remember your stay here. With a kids program, a waterpark, a choice of dining options and the famous Ritz-Carlton Club level rooms offering access to an exclusive club lounge, the list of reasons to stay here are almost as endless as the delicious culinary options served throughout the day.

Ferarri World, Yas Waterword, Yas Links Golf Club, Yas Mall, Yas beach, and the brand new Warner Brothers Studios (opening soon) are all located on Yas island, which is also home to the famous Abu Dhabi Grand Prix circuit. We stayed at the Yas Island Rotana, just 10 minutes from the airport, 20 minutes from the business district and only 40 minutes from Dubai.  To experience Yas Island and its unique attractions in comfort and style why not take the Yas Express a complimentary transport service available to all hotel guests, providing collection and drop offs at all attractions on Yas Island. With carefully thought out floor plans, and spacious bathrooms, the Yas Island Rotana boasts an enviable location in one of the most exciting parts of the city. Nine fully equipped meeting rooms fitted with the latest technology make this a great place to hold your next corporate event or meeting, and a dedicated conference team are on hand to look after all of your MICE requirements.

If you have a taste for the finer things in life then head to the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, from the moment you arrive you know you this is no ordinary hotel, an endless procession of supercars pull in and out of the valet bay, the latest offerings from Porsche, Lamborghini and Ferrari pale in comparison to the one of a kind prototypes you won’t find anywhere else in the world. It’s not only the cars that shine here, the entire hotel gleams.  A masterpiece in glass, marble and crystal.   Rising majestically from its beachside setting, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers' dramatic sculptural form and spectacular design set a new standard for luxury hotels in Abu Dhabi.
The complex is made up of five towers – three residential towers, one office tower, and the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers hotel. This multi-award winning luxury hotel features a number of unique venues for social events, outstanding conference and meeting facilities, and 382 elegant rooms and suites, which afford some of the most stunning views of the Arabian Gulf.  Whether you prefer to spend your time cooling off in one of the three swimming pools, strolling along the glorious private beach, treating yourself to some of the best retail therapy to be found in the Middle East, or being pampered in the Talise Spa, you'll find the service here is second to none.

Thanks to Etihad Airways and our fabulous hosts we discovered a very different version of the Middle East than we had set off expecting to find. Welcoming, culturally diverse, and state of the art. If you think Abu Dhabi is a developing city in the desert, think again!  
                 
Etihad Airways offer direct flights to Abu Dhabi from 6 UK airports including: London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham and Glasgow.