Whether it’s your first time in Abu Dhabi, or you’re a frequent visitor, here are our picks to make your next trip a truly memorable and luxurious one.
1. The hotel: Zaya Nurai Island
When Lindsay Lohan took a holiday in the UAE earlier this year, of all the capital’s plush resorts she chose to check into Zaya Nurai Island. Why? Well, its far-flung location, reached only via 20-seater speedboat from Saadiyat Island, is just the ticket for an off-duty celeb seeking R&R. You can cross the whole private island on foot in about one hour, or hop on one of the old buggies, should you feel like budging from the sun lounger.
Accommodation comes in the form of 32 beachfront villas (each with a private plunge pool), kitted out with walk-in rainfall showers and billowing white curtains at the floor-to-ceiling windows. Modelling itself more on Indian Ocean resorts than anything else in the region, there’s definitely a hint of the Maldives about its public spaces – see barefoot luxury-inspired beach club Smokin’ Pineapple.
Lohan’s not the only big name to hang out here before; the resort’s guest book counts Orlando Bloom, Margot Robbie, Jessie J and, err, a smattering of Love Island contestants, but that’s not so much something to shout about.
Stars aside, kids get plenty of special treatment, too: there are zip lines, teepees on the sand and an outdoor cinema.
It’s a reminder that for all the capital’s gleaming high-rise hotels, luxury malls and thrilling live concerts, there’s a whole different side to the emirate – of the slower-paced toes-in- the-sand sort.
2. The restaurant: Fouquet’s
For a new fine-dining restaurant in the heart of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, it called for another equally iconic Parisian institution. Enter Fouquet’s, its scarlet awnings a fixture on the Champs-Elysees since1899, and tables graced by everyone from Edith Piaf to Jean-Paul Sartre.
For its UAE debut, Fouquet’s serves classic French brasserie fare – like Burgundy snails with garlic, sole meunière and millefeuille – joined by nods to traditional Emirati cuisine, on a menu designed by Michelin-starred French chef Pierre Gagnaire. The elegant red-and-white decor also stays true to the original, too. After a few hours absorbed in the museum’s collections, sink into one of Fouquet’s leather armchair and prepare to be transported to the City of Lights.
3. The place: The Mangrove Walk
Get up close to Abu Dhabi’s “green lung” by treading Jubail Island’s new boardwalk. Covering 150km2 of the UAE’s coastline, the mangrove ecosytem is a haven for birds (look out for a flash of pink: flamingoes), crabs and juvenile fish; now the AED 5 billion Mangrove Walk Project lets nature lovers get up close to this pristine wilderness – with kayaking routes, play areas and viewing platforms among the winding pathways.
4. The kit: Desmond & Dempsey
We spend eight hours a night in bed (or at least try to), so shelling out on some fancy PJs represents decent cost per wear, if you think about it. Not that British brand Desmond & Dempsey’s luxury sleepwear needs justifying. Its bold, hand-painted prints – like this Soleia Leopard Print Cream robe (AED 888.25) – come in super-soft, lightweight cotton. Almost too cool to keep behind closed doors.