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Over the past five decades, the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, has transformed from a quiet fishing village to one of the world’s most extravagant destinations. Covering more than 200 islands, the city offers views of the Persian Gulf, year-round sunshine, futuristic architecture and eclectic Arabian culture. Only here can you sleep in a palace, swim in an infinity pool overlooking the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque or have your butler arrange a heady supper on a helipad.
This mesmerising resort in Rub Al Khali – the world’s largest sand desert – was designed to reflect traditional Bedouin forts of yesteryear. A two-hour drive from Abu Dhabi city centre, the 12-year-old property has 140 rooms, 14 suites and 52 pool villas, full of Arabesque luxury, from Egyptian cotton linens to the marble decor and bespoke art. Each room provides you with desert views alongside a deep soaking bath, rain shower and a pillow menu. After soaking up the rays by the pool, head to the Bedouin camp-style restaurant, Al Falaj, for Arabian mezze and slow-cooked lamb.
This beachfront property from Turkish brand Rixos Hotels is in good company on Saadiyat Island, an exclusive coastal strip located 20 minutes from the central business district and just down the road from the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Built to resemble an Ottoman Palace, this 378-room resort – the only all-inclusive hotel in the UAE – exudes opulence. Dazzling suede interiors in emerald greens and the glittering chandeliers elevate the palatial style of this rich space. There are seven international restaurants onsite, as well as a dedicated shisha lounge, an expansive private beach, a luxurious Turkish-inspired day spa with traditional hammam and ice cave, plus a kids’ Aqua Park with a wave pool.
Gloriously stylish, this Ian Schrager-designed hotel brings a unique boutique style to Abu Dhabi. The Edition is one of just two hotels in the twinkling Al Bateen marina district of the city – within walking distance of the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Centre and a range of cafes and restaurants. A red carpet leads you into a lobby that’s more akin to a luxurious living room than an entryway. The three-storey standalone Annex complex is a unique entertainment space, and the trio of restaurants – Market at Edition, Oak Room and Alba Terrace – come under the direction of British celebrity chef Tom Aikens, his first culinary foray in the UAE.
This is an updated version of an article originally written by Melinda Healy.