Category Archives: Out and About
Based on Yas Island, just minutes away from Yas Marina Circuit, Ferrari World boasts the fastest roller coaster in the world.
Called Formula Rossa, those of a nervous disposition will not want to watch it shoot past as you queue up. In only 5 seconds it hits 240km per hour, and wearing safety goggles is mandatory. If only they had something to keep my stomach in place, because it certainly takes a little while to recover from, for even the most hard-core rollercoaster riders out there.
The rest of the park (all covered to protect visitors from the sun) has a varied selection of attractions, from rides appealing to the brave and to those who like it more sedate.
There is a cinema showing old Ferraris and what it is like to drive one, as well as some great racing simulators.
For Ferrari lovers, you can buy anything Ferrari related you can dream of (except for an actual Ferrari), and for those who have always wanted to visit Italy, or for those who miss it, Italian food and a miniature Italy await.
A top tip for visitors would be try and go outside of peak times. The park can get pretty busy during the holidays.
There are fast track tickets available on days when you can’t escape the crowds, and handily the screens as you queue up show you how long you have to wait for rides, with and without the fast track option.
For the early birds, make sure you ride Formula Rossa before the crowds descend. It may leave you a little dazed for the rest of your day but it might be wise to do it on an empty stomach.
Click HERE to read more about THEME PARKS in Abu Dhabi.
Geocaching can be a familiar term to many, but for those who have never heard of it, I thought it was worth writing a post about it, as it is really an incredibly fun thing to do.
The bottom line is: ‘geocaches’ (or simply ‘caches’) are small containers of various sizes (usually on the small side) which contain ‘treasures’ (of course, in a broad sense of the term).
Some are hard to find because disguised as wooden logs or simply really tiny; others are bigger, but sometimes hidden so well that you will really struggle (yes, it did happen to us).
See below for an example of various geocaching containers we have personally found, back in the UK.
These containers are distributed all over the world. Literally. There are over 2 million people hiding and seeking ‘geocaches’ on the planet in this precise moment!
Each container is logged (by the person who hides it) on the official geocaching website with satellite coordinates, so that anyone around the world can find it again (and re-hide it after).
Usually the containers are hidden in spots of natural beauty or of some sort of cultural interest, so that people can enjoy the outdoors as well as playing the game.
One of the main rules of geocaching is that you should not remove/move the containers from their location: usually you open them, sign your name in the provided logbook (which can be just a roll of paper) and that’s it, you put them back: the fun part is the search, not really the container itself.
Bigger containers might have several objects in them, so the main rule in this case is that if you take one item out, you must replace it with something else. After this, you just log everything online and move to the next search!
It might sound complicated, but it is basically treasure hunting done with the help of modern technology. It is really great fun!!
We have a little bit of geocaching experience, but we are keen on starting again in the UAE, as we never geocached over here before.
There are so many geocaches just around Abu Dhabi! (See map’s screenshot below!)
As useful starting point, apart from the official website, I also found this UAE Facebook group.
To get started, in my opinion, it is easier to download the app than starting from the website: the app is much more straightforward, as it tracks your position istantly and simply tells you which caches you have around, so that you can start straight away.
Another advice – from personal experience: if you decide to start geocaching it is a good idea to invest in a cable to charge your mobile phone in the car, if you don’t have one already: using the geocache app is great but it is horrible when your battery dies just meters from the goal!
Joining the fun is totally free (unless you want premium perks) and we can’t wait to start again!
Click HERE to read more about NATURE in Abu Dhabi.
Le Méridien hotel in Abu Dhabi is organising a ‘Village festival’ on the 28th of March, starting at 1pm. The theme of the festival is Africa: its diverse culture, traditions and cuisine. (Directions here).
For those who are new to the city and might not know many people as yet, this Internations group is planning on going, and new faces are always welcome.
African delicacies will be on sale at the many food stalls, with particular focus on Ethiopian, Moroccan and South African cuisine: couscous and bastilla, Injera bread, Azifa, Alecha, Malva pudding, as well as a barbecue and a specially brewed coffee.
There will be live music, by the band Dubai Drums, the in-house South African band Trio del Sol, and DJ Badu (also on facebook).
Various activities will include children’s face painting and a bouncy castle, and the chance for all to get a makeover thanks to expert hairstylists ready to create beautiful braids.
There will also be a raffle, and the winning ticket will win two return flights to Nairobi, in Kenya.
Qasr Al Hosn, which is said to be the oldest building in Abu Dhabi, is a fort dating back to the 18th century, located not far from the Corniche.
Currently undergoing extensive refurbishments, this beautiful landmark will be open for visits in occasion of the Qasr Al Hosn Festival, which will run from the 20th of February to the 1st of March 2014. (But on the 21st of February is open only to women and children).
The 2014 festival will be divided in four areas related to different aspects of the history and culture of Abu Dhabi: Desert, Oasis, Marine and Abu Dhabi Island. Interactive shows, workshops, traditional performances, guided tours, children activities and celebrations will showcase Emirati heritage and traditions.
More info on the official facebook page, or the official website.
One of the highlights of this year’s festival will be the show Cavalia at Qasr Al Hosn, an equestrian stage show created by the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, Normand Latourelle. (Official website; Tickets available here). The show, presented for the first time in a specially adapted version to be staged at the fort, will feature more than 40 highly trained horses, performing alongside dancers and musicians.
This year’s festival will celebrate more than 250 years of UAE history and it is the first opportunity in several years to visit this landmark and see the results of the undergoing works of conservation: visitors will be able to access the interior foyer of the fort, as well as the historic National Consultative Council Chamber, which is located next to the fort’s walls, and the Cultural Foundation building, which will host live performances, poetry recitals and a series of films produced by emerging UAE artists, as well as a space dedicated to Arabic coffee, called Gahwa: in this space visitors will learn about the local coffee rituals and history and will be able to taste or buy various types of traditional Gahwa.
The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) is the largest gathering on sustainability held in the Middle East, and this year will run between the 18th and the 25th of January. (More info on their official website).
One of the highlights of the week-long gatherings will be the Festival at Masdar City, which is free and open to all.
Masdar city is not far from the Al Raha, Yas or Saadiyat areas (10-15 minutes by car) and it is one of the most sustainable communities in the world, and – since our recent visit – one of our favourite places in Abu Dhabi.
I say only one word: robot-cars. OK, that’s two words, but still: robot cars! (blog post to follow).
From 11am to 9pm, on the 24th and 25th of January, Masdar City will be hosting a street festival featuring various zones, each with a custom theme and offering a variety of activities, aimed at inspiring more sustainable habits.
The traffic-free city (every road is a pedestrian road!) will be bustling with eco stores selling organic produce, a variety of workshops for children and teenagers, food stalls, music and entertainment for all ages, and exhibitors showcasing home solutions for sustainable living.
Interactive activities for children will include flower planting, windmill building, eco-craft workshop, a ‘little inventor’ competition, and even a secret garden. A children book-swap will also take place, to encourage reading and recycling.
There will be dedicated areas where to safely recycle batteries and electrical goods, as well as experts at hand to give tips to reduce energy consumption (and energy bills).
We have never been before, but it does sound fun! I want to build a windmill!! (And, of course, ride again in a robot-car!)
During ADSW, apparently, aside of the ones for the media, tours of Masdar city will be available to general public throughout the day on the 20th, 21st, and 22nd of January. (source)
Topics of discussion scheduled for this year’s ADSW include water, renewable energy and ecowaste.
Most of the events are open only to government officials, students, trade sector professionals or media, but some can be attended by the general public, previous registration. (The complete list of events can be found here and here).
During the Sustainability Week, Abu Dhabi will host several summits and conferences, such as the 7th World Future Energy Summit (WFES) a trade show featuring areas such as the Sustainable Living Expo (SLE), which includes a real-sized home and a model hotel suite showcasing water and energy efficient products; the 2nd International Water Summit (IWS), a platform aiming to promote water sustainability in arid regions, and the 1st EcoWASTE exhibition, held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, a place where new projects and cutting-edge new technologies will be presented.
We have only one planet, so it is great to have a chance to find out more about how to make it last. See you at Masdar City!
British-Iraqi Dame Zaha Hadid (also on wikipedia) is one of the most visionary and innovative architects of our times. Worldwide acclaimed for her fluid and creative designs, she has been the first woman ever to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which is considered the Nobel for architecture.
Her name was in the news recently because she designed Qatar’s Al-Wakrah stadium for the World Cup 2022 in Qatar and redesigned the new Tokyo National Stadium for the 2020 Olympic Games, to be set in Japan.
She also designed this incredible yacht, still in the process of be made reality, but guaranteed to give nightmares to all sailors out there. (I love it, but I must admit it would scare me out of my pyjamas if I were to see it approaching my boat on a dark, stormy night!)
The list of the iconic buildings she designed could go on for hours, but my personal favourites are the Aquatic Centre for the London Olympic Park, for the 2012 Olympic Games, the very recent Sackler Serpentine Gallery in London, and the MAXXI Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome.
Now, I have another wonderful structure to add to my list: Sheikh Zayed Bridge, which was opened in 2010, is a triple-arched bridge inspired by the asymmetric shapes of desert sand dunes. It was awarded the Global Road Achievement Award in the Design category from the UN recognised International Roads Federation.
This bridge is 842 meters long and 64 meters high, and houses a two-way four lane highway spanning 140 meters. The cantilevered road decks are suspended from symmetrical steel arches, which form a sinusoidal waveform and give this massive structure its fluid silhouette. (source)
Named after HH the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, together with Maqta bridge and Mussafah bridge, this is one of the three main bridges connecting Abu Dhabi island with the rest of the city, and it is said to be the most intricate bridge ever built.
I really love it, and I can’t help by taking photos of it every time I am passing over it or seeing it from the distance: it looks amazing, both during the day and at night, when it is all lit by the impressive dynamic lighting created by Dutch designer Rogier Van Der Heide: he used Martin professional luminaries in subtle colours which gradually fade from a shade to another, flowing across the bridge’s spine and symbolising the connecting nature of the bridge and the energy that Abu Dhabi radiates across the water. (photos)
This innovative lighting can be customised and the different colours can mark national or religious holidays as well as other important events. As it happens with the lighting of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (about which I have written here), also this bridge’s lights follow the phases of the moon, and once a month both landmarks appear coloured in a deep blue shade. (source) (source)
With such amazing choice in restaurants and bars, we find ourselves going out a lot.
And the wallet cries.
A great way to have the cake AND eat it, is to be on the lookout for discount vouchers.
Many restaurants will give you vouchers at the end of your meal (like Spaccanapoli, inside Crowne Plaza) so you can save some money the next time you eat there.
Others will have special deals on certain days of the week, or special discounts for bigger groups of friends, or maybe give you a free entry to their pool or beach, if you are eating inside a hotel, which is very nice.
In general, though, what we found to be the best way to save money is to get the Entertainer books.
We had never heard of it before moving here, but it is quite a popular thing around Abu Dhabi.
The Entertainer books are a collection of “two for one” vouchers from thousand of establishments, from restaurant to ice cream parlours, from golf courses to waterparks, from beauty salons to hotels.
Each page is composed by three vouchers from each establishment, which are valid for one year.
We just have to be very careful to buy the 2014 book, not the 2013 editions, which are still available for purchase on the website.
UPDATE – MAY 2014: Click HERE for an exclusive 10 % discount on all Entertainer products valid until the end of June 2014!
Usually there are different kinds of books, both in mobile and paper version, but we had the general one this year and it covered all what we wanted to do.
The 2014 version is currently available for pre-ordering and there is a 10% discount on the cover price available on the official website.
The price for one book is approximately between 250 and 400 AED, depending on which version you choose, but we found that if you use at least four or five of the hundreds of vouchers inside, you have already got your money back and started saving.
The vouchers are valid for one year, but a few might have some restrictions on days and times of use, so it’s always good to read the small prints.
More info on the official Entertainer website.
Click HERE to read more about EXPAT info & tips.
These residential towers on Al Reem Island are very popular with Expats, thanks to their sleek design, great facilities and easy location.
Beside the fact that my ears pop between four and five times each time I am in the lift to go visit someone, I can’t help but be amazed by these glass and steel giants, overlooking the rest of the rapidly expanding island with a slightly suspicious eye.
Sun and Sky are two non-identical twin elliptical towers, with cantilevered sections that create vertical (on Sky) and horizontal (on Sun) patterns on their glass surface. These sections translate in extra space for some residential units, a sort of ‘light box’ with floor to ceiling glass windows.
Sky is 74-storeys strong, as it contains both residential units and a shopping centre, whilst Sun is ‘only’ 65 as it is only residential.
The two towers are joined at the base by the ‘Podium’, a large communal space for the towers’ residents, complete with gyms, swimming pools, tennis courts and similar amenities.
It is easy to get a crooked neck if looking at these imposing blue giants from the street below, but their elegant silhouette in the clear sky of Abu Dhabi is definitely worth a visit.
Words fail me when it comes to describe how wonderful this Holy place is.
I know I will write many other posts about this beautiful Mosque, but this time I would like to concentrate on its stunning architecture, to try at least to give an idea of how impressive this religious landmark is.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was built between 1996 and 2007, and takes its name from Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who is buried at the site.
With its 22,000m2 of space, it is the third largest Mosque in the world, being able to welcome between 30.000 and 40.000 worshippers at any given time.
The main courtyard, a space of 17,000 m2, features the largest mosaic floor in the world.
The Mosque is visible from the three main bridges connecting the island to mainland Abu Dhabi: Maqta bridge, Mussafah bridge and Sheikh Zayed Bridge. This geographical positioning is a symbol of the connection between the whole city and its Grand Mosque.
Amongst many wonders, it is home to 82 domes, over a thousand columns, four minarets standing over 100m high, the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet (measuring 5,627 m2 and weighing 32 Ton) and some of the world’s largest chandeliers, incorporating millions of Swarovsky crystals.
The Islamic religious calendar is based on the lunar cycle, hence the moon has been used as source of inspiration and design motif across the whole building.
The Mosque’s look is based on a full moon with clouds moving across its face: a system of hidden projectors create this impression, and the clouds are drifting from the direction of Mecca.
As the lunar cycle changes, the building is lit in different ways: even if to the naked eye might be hard to notice these changes, the Mosque has been designed so that with the full moon it appears basking in bright white light, but as the days go on and the moon wanes, the building gradually becomes lit by a bluer, darker light.
Built in concrete and then clad with marble from Macedonia, this Mosque is a masterpiece of both traditional and innovative Islamic art. Materials for its completion were sourced from many countries including Greece, Italy, Germany, China, Austria, India and New Zealand, just to name a few.
Thanks to the many lanterns and artificial lighting, the Mosque is just as stunning in the evening than under the sun: the building’s ‘glow’ comes from the many carved wood latticework (the Mashrabiya) and from the expert lighting of each material used in the interiors: marble panels, glass mosaics, carved gypsum panels and calligraphy have all been lit so to highlight their texture and natural veining.
Inside the Mosque, the Qibla prayer wall, pointing to Mecca, is a luminous panel where end-emitting fibre illuminates a gold-mesh curtain, concealed behind the 99 inscribed names of Allah, while side glow fibres reveal the organic forms of vine fronds.
This is an amazing religious space and a true architectural wonder. Thanks also to the fountains reflecting the beautiful courtyard’s columns and the perfectly groomed gardens, the Grand Mosque takes my breath away every time I catch even just a glimpse of it.
They are composed of three 65-storeys towers and a two-storeys penthouse bridge delicately sitting on top of them, which standing at over 240 meters it is believed to be the highest in the world of a residential kind. The bridge is also the largest and highest to ever been lifted, with its first two sections weighing 750-ton. The fourth and final section took four days to be forklifted in place. (source and source)
Click here to see interesting photos from the construction site which clearly showcase the incredible height of the penthouse bridge.
In recent times, the concept of ‘skybridges’ has become more and more popular in the world (see the Marina Bay Sand in Singapore or – somehow – the Elephant Tower in Bangkok) however no building reaches world-record numbers quite as these stunning Abu Dhabi towers.
What personally strikes me the most is that, despite its fantastic modernity, this is basically what Stonehenge would look like if it had been made by aliens. And I love it.