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Abu Dhabi’s Big Five

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Date: August 11, 2016
The allure of Africa’s Big Five draws thousands of tourists to Africa hoping to witness a lion kill, see a leopard lazing in the broad branches of a tree or watching a herd of elephants trampling their way through the African bush.
Had your Big Five fix and keen to expand your horizons to the Middle East? You can enjoy a Big Five of a different kind just a flight away and with no jetlag. Here are our Top 5 things to do when you’re visiting Abu Dhabi…

Largest mosque in the UAE…
Arguably the biggest, boldest and most famous landmark in Abu Dhabi, the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a shimmering white marble beacon that welcomes up to 40 000 worshippers simultaneously. The 82 white marble domes, intricate floral motifs created with semi-precious stones and mother of pearl and Swarovski crystal chandelier, the third-largest in the world, provide an impressive backdrop and are a must-see on any trip to Abu Dhabi. One of our favourite highlights is the 5 627 square metre handmade carpet made by over 12 00 carpet knotters and weighing over 35 tons which visitors walk on barefoot as they explore the interior of the beautiful Grand Mosque. Visit the mosque at your own pace or take one of the free guided tours. There is a dress code which you have to adhere to when visiting the mosque.

Sand as far as the eye can see…
Abu Dhabi is home to the Empty Quarter, the largest uninterrupted desert spanning 1000km long and 500km wide. The gateway to this desert, which was most recently the setting for the desert scenes in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is the Liwa Oasis where travellers can experience a soulful sojourn away from the crowds. Visit Qasr al Sarab, a desert resort just a few hours from Abu Dhabi city and enjoy camel rides over sun-soaked sand dunes, views of desert wildlife grazing, fat biking, dune bashing and even falconry – a full desert experience!

The world’s highest brunch…
Now for the ultimate higher-than-life experience. Literally. Brunch in the clouds is held in the world’s highest suspended suite at 220 metres above sea level and spanning the St Regis Abu Dhabi’s 48th and 49th floors with bedrooms, a cinema, spa and a two-level majlis. Each room in the suite is dedicated to different food items such as the cheese and dessert room, the oyster room, a caviar ice-bar, roaming chef stations and a cinema filled with sweets. Brunch in the clouds happens on the last Friday of every month and only 50 guests are allowed at each brunch – so remember to reserve your spot ahead of time.

Higher and steeper than you’ve ever been…
Buckle up for the ride of your life. Ferrari World, the largest indoor amusement park, is home to the world’s fastest and now highest roller coasters. Formula Rossa spits you out at 240km/ph and within 40 seconds it’s all over! The Flying Aces roller coaster, which opened this year, boasts the world’s steepest and highest loop with speeds of over 120km/ph. For those of us whose hearts leap into their mouth at the very thought of boarding any of these adrenalin-busting rides, there are a range of more sedate rides to celebrate the history of Ferrari that suit all ages and thirsts for adventure.

Island styling…
If the thought of Abu Dhabi conjures up nothing more than desert dunes and dates, think again. Would you believe that Abu Dhabi comprises over 200 islands, including a desert island with a game reserve, an exclusive private island with beach villas, a heritage island which has kept its Arabian spirit intact and a cultural island on which the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi are being built.  Of course if your island styling has more to do with the beach than the vast array of activities we just mentioned, Abu Dhabi sports some of the most beautiful beaches in the Middle East with facilities for families and couples – no matter your interest.


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