Abu Dhabi Architecture

The Gate building leans more than the Tower of Piza. The Yas Viceroy is a hotel built within a racetrack. And the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque gives its audience an entirely new perception of grandeur. In this young country where architectural dreams still come true, Abu Dhabi’s towers, bridges, and structures are meant to awe. And a drive by each will introduce you to a different part of the city.

Yas Marina Circuit - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates
If you enjoy a touch of elegance, plus imaginative architecture, and if F1 racing gets your heart going, then a few nights at the Yas Viceroy hotel in Abu Dhabi will be on your destination list. The only hotel built within an F1 track, here guests experience racing firsthand, as the hotel actually sits astride part of the track. Adventurous drivers can choose to take a ride —or even drive the track in their choice of several high-end cars. Design does not stop at the curvy facade of this fascinating hotel. Rooms capture the outside appeal in neutral tones and complementary shapes and textures.
Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates
The design of Ferrari World corresponds with my inclination that architecture should be inspirational from all angles. From the air, the structure is distinctly Ferrari red and undeniably represents the sleek brand. From the ground, its curves invite guests to enjoy the entertainment within. In a country where high end fast automobiles are prized, it’s fitting that Abu Dhabi has a luxury sports car theme park with the world’s fastest roller coaster, a tour of Italy, and kids zone all packed under the red roof.
Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street, 5th Street, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
No matter where you are staying in the UAE, you can’t leave without visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. The mosque, the third-largest in the world, is the final resting place of Sheikh Zayed, the nation’s founder. Even on the hottest summer day, the white marble floors—inlaid with mosaic flowers and vines—remain cool underfoot, and the scale of the space will impress even the most casual observer: The main hall can hold about 7,000 people. Take a tour and learn about the iconography of the intricate tiles and mosaics. Marvel at the huge rug that covers the floor in the main worship space; it’s the largest handmade rug in the world. If you happen to be visiting during Ramadan, you could consider joining one of the community iftar dinners, which sometimes serve as many as a thousand people in an evening.
West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Some experienced travelers would never consider a hotel a “sight,” but Emirates Palace is a full-blown spectacle. A world onto itself, this luxurious spot opened in 2006 to the tune of roughly $6 billion with every conceivable amenity—plus a few you never knew you needed. There’s a beach club with a lazy river, football fields, and nearly four miles of jogging paths; a golf course where you can get tips from a PGA pro; a Bedouin tent for relaxing before a beachfront camel ride; and a luxury spa complete with Moroccan hammam. Marble and gold embellish surfaces everywhere on the property, including in the magnificent tiled dome above the lobby. Whether or not you feel like shelling out serious dough to say you stayed here, you won’t regret a stroll in the lobby for curiosity’s sake.
Etihad Towers,West Corniche, - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates
Etihad Towers offers much more than a beautiful and feminine architectural crown to the Abu Dhabi skyline. The five blue-tinted structures are home to Jumeirah Hotel, an office building, and three residential towers. Shoppers will find many of the finer things in life on sale at the Avenue, a high-end mall of refined shops and several cafes in the podium of the Towers. An observation deck can be accessed on the 74th floor with a stunning view of Abu Dhabi Island and the Arabian Gulf. Among others, fine dining options include Tori No Su, Pearls by Michael Caines, Nahaam, and Rosewater.
Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates
These buildings are not edible, but they have taken on the identity of pineapple and honeycomb by their fascinating responsive facades that open and close to the sun. Each time I drive down Al Salam Street, I look forward to seeing how the towers are shaded. In an effort to create a sustainable tower, this moving veil around the building is open and closed by a computer management system.
Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates
The Capital Gate building’s most impressive feature is the 18-degree angle at which it leans out of the ground. The structure was designed with graceful elegance and looks as if it’s rising out of Abu Dhabi Island. You can’t miss this tower on a drive from the airport to the Corniche right along Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street. Capital Gate is also home to the Andaz hotel, which occupies floors 18 to 33 of the 35-floor building. The modern architectural wonder is part of Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre’s development, where many conferences and events are held throughout the year.
Al Falah St - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates
The new, well-respected Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi hospital is open. I hope to only admire this beautiful building from the outside rather than to be treated inside. The facade of the building is a double-skinned light show to the passerby. The design is meant to integrate traditional Arab design with modern architectural principles and uses colors of the desert and Arabian Gulf waters. Similarly, the interiors are thoughtfully appointed, with rooms that are culturally sensitive to the region, but provide the best in healthcare.
Masdar City, Presidential Flight, Khalifa City A - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates
Remember the movie Bio-Dome? Masdar City is a zero-emission community with a research institute, shops, restaurants, and even apartments. Park outside the self-contained complex and take a driverless car to the Knowledge Centre, where you can read up on the ambitious urban-design project’s plan to become a “greenprint” for cities all around the world as they move to reduce emissions. When you get hungry, grab lunch at one of the nearby cafés—Barbacoa is a local fave—and enjoy the fact that all the energy being used to cook your food comes straight from the sun.
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AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
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