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Mice Net : February 2009
dubai and abu dhabi Year-round sunshine, pristine beaches, spectacular sand dunes and a cosmopolitan lifestyle blended with some wonderfully traditional Arabian experiences. await every guest in Abu Dhabi. Possibly because of its vast oil reserves Abu Dhabi has not had the explosive growth of Dubai, nor it appears as if it will anytime soon. While the destination does have luxurious hotels, a state-of-the-art convention centre, spas, spectacular golf courses, and museums (including the soon-to-open Guggenheim and Louvre), it also has an abundance of more traditional Arabian experiences and historical sites. Cultural sites abound in Abu Dhabi, whose name implies “Father of the Gazelle” most likely due to the large number of gazelles and oryx that once flocked the emirate’s arid deserts. Heritage sites provide visitors with a glimpse of this emirate’s past which stretches as far back as 5000 BC. These include the Al Maqtaa Fort, the 200-year old structure visible upon approaching the Al Maqtaa Bridge towards Abu Dhabi Island, which served as a watch house against invading bandits at the time. This valuable piece of the emirate’s history, as most other forts in the country, has undergone major renovations in the past. First-timers to Abu Dhabi are encouraged to visit the Heritage Village which overlooks the Corniche, near Abu Dhabi’s breakwater and a short distance away from the Marina Mall. Here visitors can get a real taste of what life was like for Abu Dhabi’s bedouin by viewing a reconstruction of their traditional desert encampment including a goat’s hair tent and a campfire with coffee pots. The Heritage Village also features a reconstruction of the old well and irrigation system, mud-brick houses, old fishing villages and suoqs (bazaars). The Heritage Village features several workshops that simulate old- fashioned metal work, pottery and weaving. A spice shop within the Heritage Village treats the visitor’s culinary senses and a small souvenir shop sells handicraft items. Another “must do” in Abu Dhabi is the Women’s Handicraft Centre 176 mice.net located in the city of Abu Dhabi. The rounded building features several huts where local women artists perform silver thread work and weaving, exhibit essential Arabic oils, incense, local dress and handmade crafts and - for a minimal fee under US$3 –treat female visitors to the famous traditional art of henna body painting. While Abu Dhabi’s development is slow in comparison to that of Dubai, the rulers of the emirate are nevertheless intent on offering their own special brand of experiences and attractions. These include the construction of two of the world’s most recognised museums – the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The museums will be located on Saadiyat Island, just 500 metres from the main Abu Dhabi Island. Being built at a cost of more than $1 billion the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is designed by world renowned architect Frank Gehry, and will be the largest Guggenheim in the world. The Louvre Abu Dhabi will boast 6000 square metre galleries for permanent displays and another 2000 square metres for temporary exhibitions. The Guggenheim will open in 2011 and the Louvre in 2012. In terms of meetings facilities, the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Centre (ADNEC) is hard to beat. The venue – the largest in the Middle East – opened in early 2007 and features 11 exhibition halls totalling 55,000 square metres, two main conference rooms which can accommodate 400 and 800 delegates respectively, and 16 meeting rooms. Another 15 meeting rooms are currently being added. To learn more contact Abu Dhabi Tourism on +61 2 8268 5503 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For on-the-ground assistance contact Arabian Adventures by visiting www.arabian-adventures.com. Images supplied by Abu Dhabi Tourism. ABOVE LEFT: Sir Bani Yas island is home to a herd of over 400 Arabian Oryx. ABOVE RIGHT: Tall pots of aromatic and cardamom-infused Arabic coffee along with dates is the way Bedouin have welcomed people for many years. INSET: Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Grand Mosque.