Blue seas, golden sands, a desert wind and a land touched with more than a hint of magic: if you dreamed of the Arabian Nights as a child, then prepare to be amazed as your dreams come to life in the luxurious surroundings of Abu Dhabi.
You can recline by the pool in a luxury hotel, visit one of the many islands that lie off the coast, play golf in a purpose-built resort, and if you’re feeling brave, dine at an 18 degree incline in one of the world’s most steeply leaning towers.
If you want to be indulged, then a package holiday in Abu Dhabi could be the right choice for you. With a wide range of accommodation, hotels in Abu Dhabi are designed with the comfort of their guests in mind and most are four and five star luxury resorts.
However, if you were fascinated by tales of Ali Baba as a child, then there is one thing you just have to do while on holiday in Abu Dhabi, and that is visit the timeless sands of the desert.
The Empty Quarter (Rub Al Khali)
This is the place where mirages seem possible. The world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass is home to the world’s tallest sand dune, Tel Moreeb. It stands at over 300 metres high and attracts motor enthusiasts who relish the challenge of trying to meet the summit – The Moreeb Hill Climb is held here every winter. If you want to stay in the heart of the desert, there is a fortress-style resort tucked away amidst the expanses of sand.
The Arabian Nights Village
Hidden away in the silence of the desert, the Arabian Nights Village brings old Arabia to life. Enter through twin towers and choose to spend a night in a Bedouin tent, a palm house, desert house or the Fort Tower of Al Manha itself.
This is a destination that accommodates most ages, including the little ones; you can take a camel train into the desert or take a peaceful morning safari. If you are feeling more adventurous there is “dune bashing” on quad bikes that you may want to try your hand at.
Desert safaris and camping
If you want to experience traditional life while on holiday in Abu Dhabi, then this could be what you are looking for. Cross the spectacular dunes to the Garden City of Al Ain and spend the night dining beneath the stars. Most of these safaris offer dune bashing, quad biking and camel riding.
Al Khatem is what locals call the golden sands and untouched landscape of the desert. Despite its barren appearance, flowers do grow here and on occasions gazelles can be found grazing in the oasis. It is quite a feat that man managed to create life in this desert wilderness of the Bedouins.
You may want to try road driving in the sand dunes and journey into Al Khatem which can be a fun, if slightly adrenaline-filled way of exploring the landscape. You can either drive yourself or opt for an organised tour company to take you out. Just remember the golden rule: never drive alone in the desert!
This stretch of desert meets the sea and runs for hundreds of kilometres along the shore. Al Ghabir makes up two-thirds of the entire area of Abu Dhabi and is dotted with ancient forts. One of the most popular ways to start exploring this desert is to drive to Liwa, the gateway to the Empty Quarter and take in the historic oasis town.
Hot air balloons
Hot air balloons can be a breath-taking way in which to take in the sights and sounds of the desert; you can bathe in the silence and watch the desert unfold beneath you. Watch a sunrise over the dunes and see the sands change to gold as the light grows. Balloon flights set out over the Red Desert, near Fossil Rock.
There are so many other things to explore in and around Abu Dhabi that you could be spoilt for choice. But this is Arabia and the desert is part of its culture, so before you leave this magical place, go and view its roots and remember the tales of your childhood.