The building site in the desert

Expert Opinion

On landing at Abu Dhabi International Airport there is no question that the Emirate is working tirelessly to attract the elite to this unique place. 

This was my first time in the United Arab Emirates to visit Reed Travel Exhibitions’ GIBTM exhibition, but alongside the busy calendar of business meetings and crowded aisles of the show floor, my trip included a unique look into the real Abu Dhabi.


Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority wanted to show, myself and five other journalists, what a delegate or business visitor has available to them in their downtime, and I wasn’t disappointed.


Here I want to share a small synopsis of some of the unique things I experienced on my tour, food for thought for any organiser, or delegate, interested in this unique place.


Yas Hotel

I stayed at the only hotel in the world to straddle a formula one race track. The Yas Hotel is a five-star signature property at the heart of Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, set half on land and half on water. This breathtaking hotel design overlooks a marina and the Yas Marina Circuit. The design, style and setting really are like no other I have ever experienced before.


Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

This majestic mosque is arguably one of the most important architectural treasures of contemporary UAE society. It was inhabited by the late UAE president and ruler of Abu Dhabi HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nayhan. It can house more than 40,000 worshippers, many of whom kneel to pray on the world’s largest hand-made carpet, which measures 5,627sqm.


Emirates Palace

Built in the style of a majestic Arabian Palace rising from the desert sands, Emirates Palace is set on a 1.3km stretch of private beach and surrounded by hectares of manicured lawns.The palace boasts 302 rooms and 92 suites which are the ultimate luxury.


Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

This is the world’s largest hospital dedicated to the highest standard of comprehensive treatment and care of falcons and other raptors with over 4,400 patients per year. Visitors can join guided tours of the hospital and its unique falconry museum and gain an insight into this traditional desert sport by trying their hand at falconry. 


The hospital also has a newly-opened Shaheen Conference Centre, which includes a hall for 200 people that can be divided into two smaller halls.


Balloon Adventures Emirates

The adventure starts with a four-wheeled drive transfer into a desert oasis north of Al Ain. A pre-inflated balloon and its crew takes guests soaring over the dramatic Hajjar mountains to watch the sunrise over the desert.


On the outside, Abu Dhabi is an area that never sleeps, the cranes never stop and this is a building site in the desert. But looking beyond that exterior there is a charming character to the place. Style and sophistication are infused with traditional values of hospitality and respect coming together to create a travel experience like no other.


– Vikki Carley, Deputy Editor of CMW

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