Mod­ern as to­mor­row

Abu Dhabi shapes up and moves with the times

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SI­MON CALDER

Per­haps like you, I first vis­ited Abu Dhabi in the mid­dle of the night. In the days be­fore tech­nol­ogy al­lowed non­stop flights be­tween Europe and Asia, planes were obliged to re­fuel along the way. One of the lead­ing pit stops was the cap­i­tal of the United Arab Emi­rates, Abu Dhabi.

In an air­port ter­mi­nal that felt vaguely space-age, pas­sen­gers from, say, Heathrow or Frank­furt would min­gle blearily for a while with trav­ellers from Sin­ga­pore or Hong Kong. I never got a chance to ap­pre­ci­ate the sur­round­ings, be­cause no mat­ter whether you were head­ing east or west, it al­ways seemed to be 3am in AUH, the code for the air­port.

To­day the ter­mi­nal is still stand­ing, as the air­port ex- pands around it. But AUH is no longer an avi­a­tion fill­ing sta­tion. It’s now the gate­way to an in­trigu­ing des­ti­na­tion.

Abu Dhabi is grow­ing as rapidly as its neigh­bour, Dubai, but with a very dif­fer­ent look and feel. Abu Dhabi rip­ples inshore from the Cor­niche, the water­front beach, park and road that runs for kilo­me­tres be­side the Ara­bian Gulf.

At the north­ern end, the Dhow Har­bour gives a glimpse of tra­di­tional life, with sailors mend­ing nets in prepa­ra­tion for their next voyage. But this water­side scene, and the ad­ja­cent fish mar­ket, are among the few con­stants in a city of change.

Down­town Abu Dhabi has an ar­ray of steel and glass sky­scrapers, best viewed from the UAE Her­itage Vil­lage, a com­plex almost at the end of the break­wa­ter that juts out from the Cor­niche. Yet it’s not all about height. At the

Sky­line from the Cor­niche, top; Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, above; an artist’s im­pres­sion of the planned Lou­vre Abu Dhabi, above right

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