Just returned from a excellent stay in Abu Dhabi, first week of December 2012. Had a excellent deal with British Airways holidays which included flights and accommodation in the Emirates Palace on a half board basis. The Emirates Palace is the second most expensive hotel in the world, costing 3.9 billion pounds to be built. Words cannot describe this hotel, more later. Hope you find the report useful.
Friday 30th November 2012 - Overnight stay in Heathrow Airport.
Arrived in Heathrow Airport at 3pm, stayed overnight in the Sofitel which is located next door to the airport. Excellent airport hotel, very comfortable and quiet with a excellent location for our flight the following day. Definitely recommended if you have a early morning flight.
Saturday 1st December 2012 - Flight to Abu Dhabi & transfer to Emirates Palace
The low cloud and fog started to clear from a cold Heathrow where the temperature struggled to reach freezing. Straight to the British Airways bag drop as we had checked in online twenty four hours before. Very easy and hassle free with no problems. Our flight was due to depart at 9.45am and we boarded on time, the Boeing 777-200 looked in good condition. Travelled economy but managed to have the extra leg room seats which was an added bonus. The flight was not full with lots of spare seats, majority of people consisted of business men travelling on their own. Due to the fog earlier in the morning and air traffic control restrictions sat on the plane for 55 minutes and eventually left at 10.40am. Made up some time on route and only arrived half an hour late.
The flying time was 6hrs 45min, four hours ahead of the UK. Very smooth flight with the standard in-flight service which consisted of a main meal at the start of the journey (chicken or pasta) & sandwiches just before we arrived. Arrived at 9pm local time with a temperature of 22C and a clear sky. With the exception of busy passport control, the airport was hassle free.
Taxi’s in Abu Dhabi are very safe and much cheaper than the UK. From the arrivals hall, turned left and followed the taxi signs downstairs to the main taxi rank. Top tip - If anyone approaches you in the terminal building decline the offer as they overcharge. Always catch the taxi from the official taxi rank outside the airport. Transfer to the Emirates Palace was approximately 35 minutes, taxi driver used the meter and charged 70AED (approximately £12) which is the standard price. Abu Dhabi looked very clean and the roads were in excellent condition, did not seem as built up as nearby Dubai.
The following day was a bank holiday in Abu Dhabi, National Day. Lots of the cars were decorated with flags in the UAE colours. The tall buildings were lit up in striking colours & flashing lights for the celebrations.
On arrival at the Emirates Palace we passed the landscaped gardens and the twelve external fountains, the palace was lit up in red with different coloured lasers shooting into the night sky. Words cannot describe the interior, 114 domes, 1002 chandeliers, water features. palm tress in room corridors & marble. Check in was completed sitting down with cold towels, drinks and the women were given a rose in a presentation case which even included water. Wow, could not believe that I was staying in this hotel. I have written a separate trip report which will appear in the hotel section shortly.
The UAE’s National Day arrived with lots of celebration and special events throughout the day. Weather was sunny with some high cloud, very pleasant temperature of 26C. After a late breakfast visited Marina Mall, approximately 20 minutes walk from the hotel. Lots of the cars were decorated in striking colours and flags for the car parade. After admiring the cars strolled along the promenade and enjoyed good views of Abu Dhabi with the tall buildings in the background. Arrived at Marina Mall, large shopping centre with 400 stores, coffee shops and restaurants. Lots of clothes shops (including Marks & Spencer), expensive jewellery shops, electronics, home furnishing, supermarket & banks. Whilst not as impressive as some of the shopping malls in Dubai I thought it was very clean and spacious. Perfect place to relax and enjoy a coffee.
On the way back to the hotel, the National Day celebrations started with the worlds largest flying aerial flag. The UAE flag was towed by a helicopter measuring in excess of 50,000 square feet in size, 200 feet (60m) high & 278 feet (85m long). The flag was visible from 20 kilometres away which was very impressive. On arrival at the Emirates Palace, there was more celebrations with local dancing & an impressive display of 41 cakes in the main foyer with the UAE flag draped from the central dome at a height of 72.6 metres above ground. There was also a selection of complimentary local food & figs, dates, nuts and spices surrounded by a traditional bedwin tent. When walking back to the room heard loud aircraft noise, quickly dashed to the beach to watch Al Fursan (The Knights) the UAE Aerobatic Display, similar to the UK’s red arrows. This was my highlight, a breathtaking display with lots of different stunts and sharp manoeuvres. The sky was lit up by coloured smoke which represented the UAE flag, wow.
After a short rest decided to visit Jumeirah Etihad Towers which is opposite the hotel. The striking building has been named one of the worlds top skyscraper in an award for high rise architecture. The five towers comprise a total of 58 million square feet including nearly 900 apartments, the Jumeirah hotel, shopping centre and offices. Tried to visit the observation deck but ended up visiting a restaurant on the 41st floor. The restaurant was closed but the staff allowed us to have a look around, admired the panoramic views of the Emirates Palace and the coast. Worth a visit but not recommended if you dislike heights.
By the time we arrived back to the hotel had another surprise. Complimentary chocolates were left in the room in a presentation case with the colours of the UAE flag. The case looked very expensive, great souvenir & the chocolates were delicious. Ended the day with an impressive fireworks display, rockets lighting up the sky in patriotic colours. Wow, what a fantastic end to a great day.
Monday 3rd December 2012 - Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Visited the worlds third largest mosque which is one of the most famous and most visited places in Abu Dhabi. Travelled by taxi from the hotel, journey time 25 minutes, 40 AED (approximately £7). Weather was mostly sunny with a pleasant temperature of 26C. The mosque is open daily from 9am to 8pm with the exception of Friday morning for worshippers only. There is no entrance fee but appropriate clothing is required long sleeves, long skirts, trousers and no shorts for men or women. The mosque has 82 domes, gold chandeliers & the worlds largest hand made carpet. Much bigger than I expected as the mosque can accommodate more than 40,000 worshippers. The UAE’s aerobatic team flew over the mosque and did another display of stunts and sharp manoeuvres which was unexpected bonus. Returned by taxi to Marina Mall, 36 AED (approximately £6). Thought the mosque was stunning, recommended for any visit to Abu Dhabi.
Tuesday 4th December 2012 - Yas Marina Formula 1 Venue Tour
After a relaxing morning on the beach visited Yas Island. Booked a two hour venue tour which goes behind the scene of the Formula 1 circuit. 120 AED, approximately £21 per person. Left the hotel at 11.30am, the 50 minutes journey time was slightly longer than expected due to traffic. Taxi fare only 77 AED (£13) which was very reasonable. After looking at the Formular 1 track from the ultra modern Yas Hotel, decided to walk to the meeting point of the tour which started at 2pm. I read before hand that it was very difficult to find. As we had plenty of time decided to walk but was not anticipating a 1hr 10min walk which was a surprise. The directions on the Yas website says gate 21 but the meeting point is the racing school in the Jonny Rocket’s restaurant on the 1st floor. Luckily the weather was not too hot (24C) with a refreshing breeze.
The tour started with a look at the Formula 1 cars and a visit to the north grandstand. Had the opportunity to sit the spectators seats which overlooks the formula 1 track. Also visited the Yas Marina and saw the houses where the drivers stay during races. Managed to walk on the track itself visited the control room with the many cameras of the Formula 1 circuit. The guide also explained what is really inside the champagne bottles when the winner is spraying the content on the podium, any guesses? Tour finished at 4pm and we returned to the hotel by taxi. Excellent tour with good value for money and a must for any Formula 1 enthusiast.
Remainder of the holiday
Not a great deal to report for the remainder of the holiday. Spent the majority of the time relaxing on the beach with a couple of long walks. Weather continued to be very good and slightly warmer than the previous days with a temperature reaching 30C. Visited the Heritage Village close to the Marina Mall. Worth a visit if your in the area but not an essential place to visit in my opinion.
All good things come to an end and it was time to say goodbye to Abu Dhabi. My personal highlights has to the Emirates Palace, Mosque & the Formula 1 tour which contributed to a fantastic holiday. The night flight home with British Airways was smooth and uneventful.
To access my photographs, click on the following link :-
Thanks to all of the contributors to this forum who answered my questions prior to my trip, your valuable information definitely helped with the planning and the overall enjoyment. Special thanks to ILME, Djmcbell, Kerryjack, Ching, SCS123, Caicos Boy & Fa N.
If you have any questions, contact me and I will try to assist.
Have a great holiday!