GOLD DUST, CAMEL BURGERS AND OVER-THE-TOP OPULENCE
When it comes to grandeur, Abu Dhabi takes a go-big-or-go-home approach. You can visit the world’s only Ferrari theme park, tour a stunning mosque complete with inlaid marble courtyard and buy a shard of agar tree wood. Then go eat camel burgers on the be
CUPPA GOLD The luxurious 394-room Emirates Palace Hotel once had a gold-bar vending machine in the lobby. It’s gone. But you can still find gold in the Palace Cappuccino. Literally a rich cup of coffee, it comes with the hotel’s logo swirled on top in chocolate and a generous sprinkle of gold dust. Accompanied by a small plate of dates and dark chocolate discs, it set me back 74 AED ($27).
FLYING CARS Ferrari World Abu Dhabi on Yas Island opened in late 2010 and drives kid play to a whole new level. The exterior of the world’s only Ferrari theme park looks like a wingsuit and has Formula Rossa, the fastest roller coaster in the world, outside and a bunch of family-friendly activities inside, including go-karts and a theatre with a VR tour of Italy. Day tickets are 230 AED ($85) for kids, 275 AED ($100) for adults. MAGNIFICENT MOSQUE A masterwork of Islamic architecture framed by reflecting pools, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is serene and arrestingly beautiful. The main prayer hall has the world’s largest knotted carpet, and Swarovski crystal and gilded chandeliers (which is, frankly, a bit much). I preferred the stunning marble courtyard with inlaid flowers and the mother-of-pearl blossoms trailing up 92 marble columns.
ARABIAN SCENT The woody, sensual Oriental fragrance of oud (pronounced “oode”) made from agar tree wood resin is everywhere in Abu Dhabi. The favourite perfume of the Emirati is all the rage now, with designers from Tom Ford to Versace coming out with oud-based scents. It’s burned in braziers in homes and malls to perfume air and clothing. Stores sell shards of the pricey wood as well as aromatic oil and perfumes.
CAMEL FOR DINNER Camel is popular, traditional meat in the U.A.E, so I had to try it. My seaside camel burger at Yas Beach (95 AED/$35) came topped with cheese, fried onions and mayo, so it was hard to actually taste the meat. A nibble from the side revealed it was slightly gamy and, since it’s low fat, a bit chewy. Rich-tasting camel milk on my morning cereal was tangy, like goat’s milk. I didn’t try camel gelato, but saw it on a menu.