Both Etihad Airways and Jet Airways have many direct flights operating from major Indian cities to the Abu Dhabi International Airport every week (return fare from approx. `17,000).
WHERE TO STAY
- With ‘grand’ inserted in its name rather suitably, the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal (from approx INR 13,000; ritzcarlton.com), where I stayed during my visit, stands for ultimate luxury. It is neighbours with the beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and houses a Venetian Village with over seven restaurants and cafés.
- The self-professed cultural hub, Saadiyat Island, implores you to linger for many reasons. Pick Jumeirah Saadiyat Island Resort (from approx. INR 15,000; jumeirah.com) for your stay. Three outdoor pools, stunning interiors and direct access to the beach. Are you listening?
- In Al Ain, Aloft (from approx INR 4,000; marriott.com) is a comfortable budget option with a lovely roof. It fits in with the adjacent Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, the home stadium of the Al Ain FC, quite well.
WHERE TO EAT
- The orange-infused crème brûlée at the Museum Café, Louvre Abu Dhabi (louvreabudhabi.ae) tastes like the stars, and makes a satisfying sound when you crack it. Also, try the salads here.
- The gold in Emirates Palace isn’t limited to its interiors. Try the Palace Cappuccino sprinkled with real 24-karat gold flakes at Le Café (do it for Instagram).
- For a satisfying Emirati meal, book a table at restaurant Mezlai (kempinski.com).
- At Tean (jumeirah.com) in Jumeirah Saadiyat, I loved trying a wide range of modern Middle Eastern dishes—falafel and Turkish pide included.
- But for really authentic and unpretentious food, Al Fanar (alfanarrestaurant.com) in Al Ain is where to go. The oven-baked potato dish, ali wallan, is garlicky and perfect, and the restaurant hits the sweet spot with their generous portions of luqaimat.
WHAT TO DO & SEE
- The Arabian Nights Village, about an hour from the main city, has to be the desert that inspired the folktales. Camel rides, dune-bashing, Arabic coffee, stunning sunsets—get the whole Middle Eastern shebang when you visit.
- When you stop by the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (you really must), go for an official guided tour—it’s really quite anecdotal.
- I must also mention the Corniche, because a friend who grew up near it asked me not to return to India if I didn’t pay it a visit. The waterfront stretch is perfect for un-sweating any city grime and rubbing sea salt to skin.
- Around Mina Zayed, if you smell something fishy, you’re right. The Mina Fish Souk is known for some of the best varieties of fresh catch. Buy some from the many vendors there, or if you can’t wait—have some cooked on spot.
- Besides the natural date palm oasis, learning about the city’s history at the Al Ain’s Palace Museum and the Al Jahili Fort is underrated.