The natural escape
Al Wathba Wetland Reserve
Nope, that’s not a mirage in the middle of the desert – you really are seeing a flock of pink flamingos. In fact, bag up your binoculars, nature-lovers, at last count there were around 4,000 of these birds at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, a fully protected former sabkha (salt flat) just outside downtown Abu Dhabi, home to around 250 species of birds. Yes, really. And not just flamingos. There are black-winged stilts, avocets and bright, lime-green bee-eaters, as well as rare eagles, swarms of dragonflies and the elusive spiny-tailed lizard. Founded in 1998 by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the fully accessible, free-to-enter site (Thursday–Saturday, 8am–4pm) opened in 2017 and is one of 43 protected nature reserves in the UAE.
Surprised? Quite possibly. While Abu Dhabi is well known for its sci-fi skyline and world-class shopping, its natural bounty is often overlooked. But not for much longer, perhaps. This month sees the launch of a new drive to up global recognition of the city-state and its neighbouring emirates’ “natural wonders” via a new app from the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. Profiling attractions such as Mangrove National Park in Abu Dhabi, Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve in Dubai and Wadi Wurayah National Park in Fujairah, the point is to position the UAE as one of the world’s least-explored destinations for eco-tourism, says Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Abu Dhabi.
“The National Ecotourism Project is a result of the country’s commitment to preserving the environment,” he says. Still, changing perceptions won’t be easy, he concedes. “Raising awareness is going to be a long-term challenge, it will not happen overnight. But we are going to constantly update our databases to ensure that we keep attracting more and more guests.”
By far Abu Dhabi’s coolest concept store, Sheikha Alia Al Qassimi’s super-chic Al Raha Beach boutique Minbart is known for its boundary-pushing, hard-to-find designs from up-and-coming and established labels. This month sees new stock from brands such as Whit and Atelier Delphine, as well as this statement, five-pocket Mara Hoffman jacket in Jardin print (pictured).
Restaurant of the month
Black Tap Burger
Responsible for the super-sized, Insta-famed “shakes that broke the internet”, cult New York burger chain Black Tap has opened an Abu Dhabi outpost at Yas Mall with a menu of “signature craft burgers” and, yes, those giant Crazy Shakes that have proved an Instagram sensation since chef-owner Joe Isidori opened his first Black Tap in 2015.
Abu Dhabi T20 Cricket
Tickets are now available for Abu Dhabi’s first T20 cricket tournament (4–6 October), which sees seven games played by five teams (Pakistan, England, South Africa, Australia and Afghanistan) over two days. Who to watch? The Afghan Boost Defenders have West Indian big-hitter Chris Gayle on side so should be a safe bet for lots of runs.
Abu Dhabi dates for your diary
8 -30 September
The new autumn season at avant-garde art space Warehouse 421 kicks off with renowned Lebanese photographer and collage artist Camille Zakharia
Coinciding with World Cleanup day, Yas Mall in partnership with the Emirates Wildlife Society and WWF, presents workshops and initiatives to make us more environmentally aware.
Inflatable waterslides fill up Yas Marina for Splash – designed for both kids and adults to cool down. You can also have a go at kayaking or water-skiing, and there are paddling pools for toddlers.
Yas Island Cycle Race
The Abu Dhabi Sports Council’s community cycling race series returns. All riders welcome.
Middle Eastern Games Con
Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre
The second edition of the GCC’s largest ever dedicated gaming event.