Everything about Abu Dhabi is glamorous. It’s the largest and wealthiest of the seven United Arab Emirates, but unlike the neighbouring Dubai, it has managed to hold onto it’s traditional culture making it fascinating city to explore; on the outskirts, you’ll find the tents and camels while flashy Ferraris, blacked out 4x4s and designer shops line the smart, seafront Corniche boulevard. The Grand Prix itself takes place on Yas Island, on the eastern side of the city, where there are numerous 5-star hotels, a Ferrari World theme park and the most expensive circuit built in the history of Formula 1. It runs alongside the island’s impressive marina, underneath the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi hotel and past a 60-metre sun tower.
Most F1 drivers and VIPs stay in the Yas Viceroy for the best views and impeccable service. The interiors are sleek and modern, whilst the facade is draped with a colourful LED canopy that adds to the F1 party atmosphere. The eleven dining and lounge venues showcase first-class cuisine from across the world, including Kazu Japanese restaurant and the cool Latitude and Longitude bar located on the rooftop next to the infinity pool. When you’re not watching high speed racing, indulge at the luxury ESPA facility and then party until the early hours at the famed Rush nightclub where you’re likely to bump into the stars of the racing scene. The hotel’s Grand Prix trackside terrace and suite fully caters for the VIP experience, with open bars serving fine champagne and fine wines as well as exclusive daily Q&A sessions with a driver. Or else, stay at the capital’s lavish landmark hotel, the Emirates Palace. Located on a private white sandy beach and surrounded by beautiful landscaped gardens, the hotel is a peaceful Arabian retreat with opulent suites and excellent restaurants, including a Hakkasan and Havana club stocked with the world’s finest cognacs and cigars. The spa here is also worth a visit for the decadent 24-carat gold inspired treatments, such as the full day of indulgence beginning with a signature massage, visit to the Hammam, radiance facial and pedicure.
When it comes to dining, you’re spoilt for choice. Abu Dhabi is home to some of the world’s best restaurants such as Zuma and Marco Pierre White’s three-Michelin starred Steakhouse & Grill in the Fairmont Hotel. Silk and Spice in Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche serves award winning Thai food whilst Byblos Sur Mer at the Intercontinental features a stunning alfresco terrace overlooking the marina. During the day, Iris Yas Island has a relaxed atmosphere that’s perfect for lunch, then as the sun sets enjoy delicious cocktails whilst listening to live performances from world class DJs.
However, the hottest spot to be during the Grand Prix is on the Amber Lounge celebrity yacht where exclusive parties will be held on Saturday and Sunday night with a star-studded guest list of models, oligarchs and drivers. There’s a fabulous line-up of post race concerts too, kicking off with the Chemical Brothers on Friday evening, followed by Lionel Richie and Rihanna closing the weekend by playing her only Middle East date on her Anti-World Tour.
Once you’ve had your fill of fast cars and parties, head into the Rub Al Khali desert, known locally as ‘The Empty Quater’ to experience life in the sand dunes. Or else the town of Al Ain is also popular with tourists. This ancient settlement has been inhabited for more than 3,000 years and is considered the spiritual heart of Abu Dhabi. There’s plenty to do here; visit the natural springs, forts, UNESCO sites and stunning central date-palm oasis or drive up the mountain road to the top of Jebel Hafeet for the most breath-taking views of the arid landscapes below