Dubai & Abu Dhabi Latest Attractions
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the two major cities of the United Arab Emirates so both have a lot to see and do. With the rapid development in the country, it's always worth finding out about the latest attractions. (It certainly gives you lots of reasons for return visits!)
QASR AL WATAN
The country's newest attraction is in the capital Abu Dhabi. The magnificent Qasr Al Watan is a new cultural landmark housed within the Presidential Palace compound. It opened in March 2019 and is seen as an important symbol of the UAE's progressive journey.
Qasr Al Watan pays homage to Arabian heritage and design and it's white and gold decor is every bit as impressive as you would expect. Visitors can see the stunning Great Hall as well as gifts presented to the UAE president by various countries around the world. There's also the Qasr Al Watan Library that is home to a vast collection of over 50,000 books and resources about the UAE's political, social and cultural history. Exhibits highlight the Arab world's contributions to various intellectual fields including science, arts, humanities and literature, and aims to give visitors a stronger understanding of the UAE's governing traditions and values.
Qasr Al Watan is open daily from 10am to 8pm with guided tours available. Each evening there is a spectacular light and sound show told in three acts covering the past, present and future vision of the country.
LOUVRE ABU DHABI
Louvre Abu Dhabi is an art and civilization museum that opened in November 2017 on Saadiyat Island. It's a 30-year collaboration with Louvre in Paris to create a new type of cultural institution. The largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula, it presents both ancient and contemporary works of historic, cultural, and sociological interest from around the world.
It is not a copy of the French Louvre; it is an individual institution offering its own interpretation of a universal museum. Its collection, which includes loans from French institutions (rotated on a ten-year basis), as well as works from its own currently-developing compilation, is presented in a chronological and theme-based format but the display picks out universal themes and common influences to illustrate the similarities that grow out of a shared human experience, beyond any geographical, historical or cultural boundaries.
The collection includes painting, sculpture, tapestry and goldwork as well as a photography collection and decorative arts. You can see a gold bracelet made in Iran nearly 3,000 years ago, an Italian gold and garnet fibula (brooch) from the 5th century BC, a Virgin and Child by Bellini, paintings by Manet, Gauguin, and Magritte and a paper collage by Picasso never seen in the public domain. There's also a Soninke/Djennenke figure from Mali, a dancing Shiva from India, an Ottoman turban helmet and a monumental work by Ai Weiwei (1957).
SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
Not new – the Grand Mosque was built between 1996 and 2007 – but definitely one to see, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque covers an area of more than 12 hectares/30 acres (the equivalent of five football fields). It's one of the world's largest mosques and has capacity for 40,000 worshippers and visitors.
The Mosque is free to visit and there are free guided tours. You'll want to see the prayer hall as it has the largest dome of its kind in the world in front of the mihrab, the focal point of the whole mosque. The dome carries the largest chandelier in the world made of thousands of German Swarovski crystals and there's also the world's largest hand-knotted carpet with 2,268,000 knots.
By day the white building looks somewhat like a wedding cake but at night the 82 onion-top domes are lit up making it even more beautiful.
AL SHINDAGHA MUSEUM
Moving over to Dubai, Al Shindagha Museum opened in March 2019. Nestled along the banks of the historic Dubai Creek, it brings to life the story of the nation with multimedia displays to learn about the emirate's seafaring history and its evolution from a humble fishing village into a thriving global metropolis. Do stop by the Perfume House which showcases the tradition behind scents in Emirati culture with a focus on traditional techniques and exotic ingredients.
Open since October 2018, XDubai Slingshot at Kite Beach is not for the faint-hearted. Visitors are first suspended four metres in the air before being pulled back 40m and then propelled at 4 Gs – four times the force of gravity – reaching speeds of up to 100kph in just half a second.
Those brave enough to give it a go can video their experiences with an included GoPro head camera.
Adrenaline junkies should also head over to XLine at Dubai Marina to ride the world’s longest urban zipline (open since 2017).
An architectural landmark that culturally connects the past with the present, Dubai Frame opened on 1 January 2018. It consists of two transparent glass towers at 150 metres, connected by a 93-metre bridge. Resembling a picture frame, Dubai's historic district can be seen to the north while the south provides breathtaking vistas of the city's modern skyline.
The bridge is made even more incredible as a 50m long glass section is crafted from liquid crystal and sensors in the floor become clear only when you walk over it. And at night every footstep sees the projected image (and sound effect) of ice cracking!
The ground floor has a museum about the development of the city that is an immersive experience through time with traditional music and aromatic scents. And on the sky-deck level, it's about Dubai today with augmented reality screens to discover interesting facts. On the other side of the mezzanine level, you can see the Future Zone looking 50 years ahead in an immersive time tunnel to reveals what Dubai is expected to look like complete with flying taxis, underwater living and missions to space.
DUBAI MIRACLE GARDEN
Launched on Valentine's Day 2013, Dubai Miracle Garden is open each year from mid-November to mid-May. The huge 72,000 sqm space showcases identifiable structures completely covered with flowers. It reinvents itself every year with a whole new concept and design.
In 2013 it had the largest vertical garden in the world and 2016 brought the world’s largest floral sculpture forming the shape of an Airbus A380. 2018's tallest topiary sculpture was 18 metres high featuring Disney’s first character floral display in the Middle East.
There are pyramids and full-size houses covered in flowers, all meticulously cared for so the flower displays look their absolute best during every visit.
DUBAI BUTTERFLY GARDEN
Another great feature worth seeing is the Dubai Butterfly Garden, housing 15,000 butterflies. Open since 2015, the circular garden features ten climate-controlled domes – each decorated with flower displays and home to a range of butterflies. In the centre of the domes, there's a butterfly flower park and three ponds featuring different sizes of koi fish in 10 colours where you can feed the fish by hand.
Open all year, this is the world’s largest butterfly garden. The butterflies are quite stunning so do take a camera as they will land on your hand.
BOLLYWOOD PARKS DUBAI
The first theme park of its kind in the world, Bollywood Parks Dubai opened in November 2016. An ode to India's prolific Bollywood film industry, it brings the colour and energy which Bollywood is famous for.
The park is made up of five zones – Bollywood Boulevard, Bollywood Film Studios, Royal Plaza, Rustic Ravine and Mumbai Chowk – each one celebrating a different part of India's film industry with 16 rides and attractions inspired by Bollywood blockbusters. Plus, there are regular live performances throughout the day with amazing dance routines.
Enjoy the 3D cinematic extravaganzas, shoot-em-up laser rides, car chase rides and soaring flight simulators. You can even ride inside a cricket ball in a game of cricket – India’s most popular sport.
Conceived as a 'city within the city', Dubai Marina is an artificial canal city, built along a 3 km (2-mile) stretch of Persian Gulf shoreline. There is a large central waterway, excavated from the desert and running the length of the site. Although much of this area is occupied by the marina water surface, it also includes almost 8 km of landscaped public walkways.
This affluent residential neighbourhood includes a leisure complex with al fresco dining and sandy beaches. When the entire development is complete, it will accommodate more than 120,000 people in residential towers and villas. Smart cafes and pop-up craft markets line waterside promenade Dubai Marina Walk, while Dubai Marina Mall is packed with chain and luxury fashion brands. Upscale yachts cruise through the large man-made marina, where activities range from jet-skiing to skydiving. A great way to explore the neighbourhood is on a cruise on a traditional dhow boat.
DUBAI GARDEN GLOW
Established in 2015, Dubai Garden Glow is great for all ages. It's the region's first glowing theme park and features hundreds of sparkling displays created by artists from all around the world, using millions of colourful lights.
What makes this glittering theme park even more impressive is that the material used is recycled as this attraction is not only here to entertain but to educate as well. The light-themed garden hopes to promote the issue of global warming and carbon footprints.
The life aquatic installation is full of giant jellyfish glistening in the sky with their reflection twinkling in the lake, and the dinosaur park's life-size figures transport you to Jurassic Park. Along with breathtaking installations and glowing flowers all around, there are acrobatic performances to make the night even more lively.
WHERE TO STAY
Consistently rated one of the best places to stay in Dubai, Fraser Suites Dubai is well located with great rooms, amazing views and excellent food. 265 luxury hotel rooms and hotel apartments occupy the top 23 floors of the Sidra Tower at Dubai's famous Sheikh Zayed Road with a rooftop pool, tennis court, squash court, gym, steam room and sauna. The only rain you are likely to see in Dubai is from the rain showers in the marble hotel bathrooms. With service and hospitality our priority, you'll soon see why our guests return.
Written by Laura Porter - Travel Writer for Frasers Hospitality