About Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. To quote the New York Times, “oil has transformed Abu Dhabi from an impoverished principality to a wealthy state” . 1 Abu Dhabi has about 94% of the United Arab Emirates’ oil supply and its oil reserves are expected to last for at least another 100 years. Abu Dhabi certainly has the wealth to finance the dramatic transformation which it is about to undergo. This is an excellent time for your group to visit Abu Dhabi so that you can have a benchmark with which to compare the Abu Dhabi of the future.
How I Fell in Love with Abu Dhabi
Upon arrival in Abu Dhabi, our group checked into the brand new Shangri-la Qaryat Al Beri that was on soft launch at the time. After, we were presented with a welcome drink and hot towels, our group check in was handled promptly and smoothly. By the time we reached our spacius rooms, our bags were already there. The bed absolutey huge and filled with pillows. The bathroom was lavishly decorated and large with shower and tub. It had been a 13 hour flight from Canada so we welcomed the opportunity to freshen up and rest for a bit.
I had a view of the infinity pool, beach and mosque from my room. I could see that plans were underway for some event but I wasn’t to discover what it was until later.
(c) Shangri-la Qaryat Al Beri
After lunch, we went shopping, visited the UAE Heritage Village, and strolled along the Corniche.
On the way back to the hotel, we had a photo stop outside the Emirates Palace. A fantastic surprise was in store for us. We were to be dinner guestsof the hotel that night and have a full tour. What a magical experience. There were Ferraris pulling up as we arrived and another hot car that all of the men in our party were drooling over. I still don’t know what kind of car it was but here it is:
Then, we went inside. WOW!! Our guide told us that the concept behind the Emirates Palace was to give guests a taste of how members of the royal family live. I think they have succeeded.
(c) Emirates Palace
The Sheikh with the Cell Phone
A tall Arabic man talking on a cell phone strolled by. “This is how that man lives every day” our guide told us. Then he revealed that the man talking on the cell phone was HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. We saw him a few times that evening and with good reason. Our group had arrived in Abu Dhabi on the opening night of the 2007 Middle East International Film Festival. The Emirates Palace was the festival’s official hotel.
The Emirates Palace was impressive. Gold leafing, marble, mirrors, glass made the whole place sparkle.
(c) Emirates Palace
The rooms were nothing short of stunning. Take a peek:
One feature of the hotel is that there is always some display or exhibit taking place. During our visit, some of the Czars’ treasures were on display. I took a particular interest in the saddles for obvious reasons. There was also an exhibit revealing the shape of things to come in Abu Dhabi. Land is being reclaimed from the sea and we saw miniature architectural renderings of the replicas of the Louvre and the Guggenheim, as well as Venetian inspires Biennale Park, and 29 luxury resorts are slated for development on Saadiyat Island.
Dinner was fabulous. We were treated to a wide variety of tapas and a buffet with delicacies from around the world. There was a section of the buffet that featured Middle Eastern entrees and sweets.
The Sheikh Who Parked his Ferrari
Upon returning to the Shangri-la, there was yet another luxurious car, a Ferrari, parked outside. Man it must be nice. We were told that a Sheikh and his guest were dining at the hotel but they didn’t tell us which Sheikh. It was when we returned to the hotel that we discovered the reason for all of the preparations near the pool. The opening night party for the film festival was in full swing. Some members of my party joined in the celebrations but I had had a full day so I said good night and finally had a chance to try out that huge bed. It didn’t take long before I was in dreamland. The perfect end to a dreamy day.
The next day we departed for Dubai and then spent some time in Oman. After a almost a week in the Middle East, our party returned to the Shangri-la. We spent the morning relaxing on the beach where we were offered cool drinks and fresh towels regularly. After enjoying the fabulous lunch buffet, we went on a desert safari before heading to the airport and returning to Canada.
Combining Abu Dhabi & Dubai in 1 Trip
You can arrange a day trip for your team to Abu Dhabi from Dubai. Another option would be to have or fly into Abu Dhabi. Arrive early and have your group stay there for a night before heading on to Dubai or Oman. You can enjoy the comforts of the Shangri-la Qaryat Al Beri, the luxury of the Emirates Palace and also go on a desert safari and get a glimpse of the traditional Bedouin lifestyle. Now how many places in the world can you do that?
F1 Formula One Abu Dhabi
(Opening in October, 2010)
Visit Executive Oasis International for Help in Planning:
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Anne Thornley-Brown is the President of Executive Oasis International, a Toronto based firm that regularly organizes incentive travel and executive retreats in Abu Dhabi and other parts of the United Arab Emirates. They provide a one stop shopping service with a personalized approach to incentive travel. Customized itineraries include travel, transfers, hotel, tours, team activities, and special events for corporate groups of 10 to 60.