Until recently, Abu Dhabi was known as the sedate Emirate with little to do but eat and watch the sun go down. Not anymore! With Yas Island bringing the F1 Grand Prix to town, the city has revved into action and there's now plenty to keep visitors of all ages and inclinations on the go.
Yas Island is the place to head to for thrill-seekers. The island offers opportunities to drive racecars on the Formula One circuit, to simulate flying, to experience g-force on the world's fastest roller coaster and get dunked, flung and whirlpooled into water from alarming heights. Booking online eliminates long waits.
Getting active in Abu Dhabi isn't just about being thrilled (or terrorised) by technology: it also involves gentler pursuits. Jogging in city parks, cycling along the Corniche, or teeing off on some beautiful, celebrity-designed golf courses are some of the many slower-paced, easily accessed activities available.
The Gulf is the arena in which rush and hush combine. Famous for its annual F1 powerboat competition, the capital is a good place to learn to drive these spirited steeds of the water. A whole range of other watersports are on offer, from paddle power to pedalo, and the resorts offer kayaking, fishing trips and sunset cruises.
A Day in the Desert
The great desert explorer, Wilfred Thesiger, claimed that no one could live like the Bedouin in the desert and remain unchanged. To get an inkling of what he meant, a day in the sand dunes, with their rhythm and their song (some whistle when it is windy), is a wonderful way to understand both Abu Dhabi's rich Bedouin heritage and also the city's remarkable growth against the physical odds.
Many tour companies offer exciting excursions into dunes and the oases of Abu Dhabi Emirate. They offer an opportunity to learn about Bedouin traditions, to ride a camel, and to appreciate the beauty of the desert and the surprisingly abundant life it harbours. Try to discourage companies from engaging in 'dune bashing': 4WD trips are a legitimate way of exploring the desert, but tearing up the dunes with speed as the only objective is not the healthiest engagement with this fragile environment. The following companies are recommended.