Capital gains in Abu Dhabi - Julie Marshall on how the city’s tourism is hot on the heels of near neighbours Dubai

The Hyatt Capita Gate is one of a number of prestigious  hotels hoping to attract visitors to Abu Dhabi.

The Hyatt Capita Gate is one of a number of prestigious hotels hoping to attract visitors to Abu Dhabi.

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Despite being the capital and the second-highest populated city in the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is some years behind near-neighbour  Dubai with regards to tourism – but  it is going all out to catch up.

Abu Dhabi is gearing up for an influx of tourists in the wake of grand plans to bring culture to the region, and already there are signs that the strategy is working.

Abu Dhabi is actually an archipelago, made up of a number of small islands, some of which are linked by elaborate road bridges, each island with its own distinct identity.

Saadiyat island to the north is all set to take centre stage as the cultural hub of the middle east once the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum open.

Yas Island, dubbed the entertainment island, is the home of Yas Links, a par 72 championship golf course and the Yas Marina circuit where the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is held. It’s also the site of the world’s largest indoor theme park Ferrari World, which houses the fastest rollercoaster in the world in Formula Rossa, and Flying Aces, the tallest loop in the world.

By the end of 2016, three new landmark hotels will have opened; the first of these, the 200-room Four Seasons on Al Maryah island had welcomed its first guests only a few days before our visit in May; The Grand Hyatt and Fairmont Marina will follow later this year. Visitors to Abu Dhabi will find plenty to entertain and amuse – not least on the beautiful unspoiled beaches dotted along the 400km of coastline.

Yellow Boats offer a speed-boat trip around the coastline and are a great way to see first hand the ongoing development around the coastline. An unmissable experience is a visit to the

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the world’s most iconic landmarks which has room for up to 40,000 worshippers. The Rub Al Khali desert is a few miles out of the city and is the largest expanse of sand in the world.

Various desert experience packages can be booked which include visits to a camel far, dune bashing, camel rides and an arabic-style buffet eaten while sitting cross-legged beneath the stars.

Foodies will be in their element in Abu Dhabi – seafood is a particular speciality and award-winning chefs can be found in abundance.

Best time to visit is probably November to April when temperatures are around 24C during the day: in the height of summer they can reach 42C.

Travel facts:

A return fare from Manchester – Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways starts from £377 in economy class and £1,886 in business class inclusive of all taxes.

- Visit www.etihad.com or call 0345 608 1225.

- For more details about Abu Dhabi as a tourist destination see www.visitabudhabi.ae.

- Four Seasons rooms start from AED 990 plus taxes www.fourseasons.com/abudhabi/

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