One of the most iconic landmarks of Abu Dhabi, this palatial hotel is fit for ultimate luxury and royalty. Awarded as one of the most luxurious and second most expensive hotel in the world, it is located on the shores of the Arabian Gulf, facing its own private beach, marina and bay. It spans across 85 acres of land and has 394 rooms, including 92 suites and 22 residential suites. The majority of the suites are furnished in gold and marble. Known for its Arabian architecture, this hotel is nothing less than a marvel. Beautifully landscaped with palms and fountains, the exterior boasts of 114 impressive domes. The interiors are predominantly dominated by gold and marble combined with modern technology. Unfortunately, for a person like me who likes colors and diversity, the interiors got a little monotonous and boring. (And as I always do, here's a movie trivia for all the movie buffs: Fast and Furious 7, Dabbang, Partner, Welcome Back and Do Knot Disturb were shot here).
We spent a night here, and when you are in one of the best hotels of the world, why not experience the suites. The hotel has 2 wings - East and West, each comprising of suites and a swimming pool. We were in the west wing. We were greeted by the hotel staff and were escorted to our suite room. There is a plaza lounge which is reserved only for suite guests. Here you can treat yourself with on the house food and drinks throughout the day. All the suits have a private lift which leads you directly to the beach and the pool. They also ensure you are given all the facilities and amenities by providing you with a private butler. To maintain its stature, the management is quite strict on the dress code for men and women. You can't be walking around in shorts, sleeveless clothes, mini skirts, flip flops or chappals. You need to be respectably dressed at all times near the lobby and restaurant areas. However such clothing is permitted near the beach and swimming pool areas.
The hotel has got numerous activities that can keep you busy throughout the day. If the weather is good, you could access the beach, try some water sports or simply laze in their swimming pool and jacuzzi. They also have a cricket ground, a mini football ground, an indoor tennis court and a helipad. The west pool is slightly more quite and relaxing with hammocks around the pool as well as in the water. The east pool has water slides and a few adventure rides for children and adults. The hotel houses Anantara spa as well with a variety of treatments. They also have Bedouin tents towards the beach, where they have local Arabic cultural performances and camel rides.
The hotel is so widely spread and huge, it does take a while to locate where you need to go. Amongst the plethora of restaurants, we chose the italian restaurant called Mezzaluna. The lip smacking mocktails, the mouth watering salads, pasta and wood fired pizza and heavenly desserts are definitely worth a try.
The next morning we indulged in some magnificent array of breakfast options at Le Vendome and surrendered to the royal treatments. The only issue we had was that the staff was quite stuck up on the breakfast timings. If you are nearer to the close time, they continuously keep nagging you that the restaurant is going to shut. We had then arranged for a golf cart drive to take us around the hotel.
To absorb the beauty around and do complete justice to the royalty, you should definitely try to spend 2 nights here. A visit to Abu Dhabi would be incomplete without a stop at the majestic Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
I would love to share a bit about the mosque as well. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is known to be the one of the world's largest mosque. It incorporates its architectural styles from various muslim civilizations. It also depicts diversity as it had architects who were Italian, British and Emirati, and the designs were inspired from parts of Morocco, Turkey, Pakistan and Egypt among other islamic countries. It has a capacity for more than 40,000 people at a time and is the key place for worship for daily prayers.
The mosque has 82 spectacular domes, most of them etched with verses of Quran and painted with gold leaves encircling their hollow part. It also has various pools that engulf the courtyard and reflect the white beauty. The beautiful prayer is always lit with blissful sunlight and also houses the world's largest chandelier and carpet, both intricately handmade.
The mosque is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. most of the days except on Fridays when the mosque is open to visitors only after 4:30 p.m. There may be a change in the time during the month of Ramadan. Since, this is a holy place, the dress code is very strict. You need to wear ankle length clothing and cover your head. You could also wear an Abaya, which is available at the mosque. The temperatures in Abu Dhabi are quite hot, so dress appropriately and keep yourself hydrated at all times. Outside food is not allowed in the mosque. You need approximately 1-2 hrs to explore it.
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