How to maximise your Abu Dhabi layover

How to maximise your Abu Dhabi layover

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As capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and second most populous city (the first being Dubai) of the seven emirates, Abu Dhabi truly lives up to its name as a middle eastern metropolis.

And while its level of humidity is not one many can acclimatise to, Abu Dhabi remains a charming city to visit. A more toned-down version of Dubai’s party central, Abu Dhabi entices with its seemingly quiet demeanour.

We’ve come up with a concise list of must-dos in the city, for those who’ve time to spare for a slightly longer layover.

Visit: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The most notable site of worship for Muslims in the country, the mosque can accommodate over 40,000 worshippers at any one time. Completed in 2007, the all-white mosque (save for the sand covering its peaks) sits on more than 12 hectres of land, and comprises a main prayer hall, and two other smaller ones, one of which is reserved for women.

Apart from its design that includes hand-carved verses from the Quran, the main prayer hall is covered in what’s considered to be the world’s largest carpet, with Faustig-designed chandeliers hanging from the ceilings.

Relax: Emirates Palace Spa
Located in Emirates Palace, one of the few seven-star hotels in the world, the spa delivers treatments that are nothing short of royal. Given that the beahfront hotel spans 1.3km, it takes a good 15 minutes to stroll from the east to the west wing, where the spa is located.

As with everything luxurious in the UAE, space is far from a concern. The spa is spread over 1,500sqm across two levels, and features a traditional Moroccan Hamman, two Jacuzzis and steam rooms, a heated marble cave and an ice cave. Here, you’ll find treatments using 24k gold sheets, and if there’s not enough, you can always opt for massages that use 24k gold, diamond or caviar oil.

Dine: Sofra bld, Observation Deck at 300 and Cipriani
Brunch: One of the best brunch places in the city is at Sofra bld, located in Shangri-La hotel. Most known for its Friday brunches (AED285, S$110), locals make beeline for the restaurant after their prayers. Apart from live cooking stations featuring the best of Arabic cuisine, you’ll also enjoy Middle Eastern dishes from Iran, Morroco and UAE. Also noteworthy are the restaurants decorated drinking carts serving a lethal dose of alcoholic lemonade and punch (packages available from AED365, S$141). For those with a sweet tooth, the Hansel and Gretel-like station is bound to impress.

High tea: To put it simply, dining at Observation Deck at 300 is the definition of high tea (from AED175, S$68). Located on the 74th floor of Jumeirah hotel, enjoy 360-degree views of Abu Dhabi’s skyline, sip on TWG Tea, mocktails, and small bites. For those not intending to nibble, the entrance fee to the observation deck is an affordable AED55 (S$33), and the ticket comes with an AED50 (S$20) credit that can be redeemed on the day of your visit. It’s best to make reservations to secure a window seat.

Dinner: An Italian dinner at Cipriani on Yas island may raise eyebrows. After all, you’re in an Arabic state, where spices and herbs don’t just play supporting roles in a culinary feast. What sets this apart though, is its unique ship-like décor found in the most luxurious cruises. Port holes for windows, white leather seats, tables arranged in a way that looks towards the stage where live bands perform and service staff decked in white tuxedos. Apart from authentic Italian fare, if you’re there during Formula 1, you’ll get a gorgeous view of the marina and track.

The Galleria

Shop: The Galleria
Similar to The Shoppes At Marina Bay Sands, The Galleria on Al Maryah island is located by the waters and offers only the most luxurious shopping experience one can look forward to. From high fashion to watches and jewellery, many of the stores have a VVIP room tucked in a corner for added privacy. In particular, Louis Vuitton’s VVIP room on the second floor includes a changing room, lounge, and a larger-than-life LV trunk that displays the most sought-after pieces fresh from the runway.

Etihad Airways flies from Singapore to Abu Dhabi on a daily basis.