You need Ferrari eyewear in Abu Dhabi's Bling Central



I set off on the hour-and-a-bit drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, with little excitement. I'd made a contact on Twitter who offered to show me round the capital and I was desperate to get out of Dubai so I took a risk.

It paid off – my travel companion was excellent company and very well informed. My knowledge of Abu Dhabi being fairly perfunctory, I left the itinerary in his hands and I soon began to suspect that he might work for Guinness World Records because the tour definitely had a theme ….

Our first stop was the man-made Yas Island, home of the Formula 1 racing circuit and the revolting-sounding Ferrari World. This was pretty much what I expected – a vast shopping opportunity for people who don't actually own a Ferrari but want the "merch". It did, however, boast the world's fastest roller coaster which we braved wearing our Ferrari protective eyewear. We were left in no doubt that this thing was fast – so fast that there was no longer any need for lunch so we popped over to Saadiyat Island which is set to be culture HQ for Abu Dhabi (a new Louvre is being built there.)

At that moment there wasn't much to see so we headed into town proper and stopped at the Emirates Palace, the world's most expensive hotel – it cost a mere £3bn to build. At one stage the place was offering a £1m package-break that included being helicoptered over to Iran to have your own carpet made for you.

Unsurprisingly, it was Bling Central. The lobby alone was so vast that it could have been a contender to host the F1 Grand Prix.

I started to feel a bit ill in there so we went to look at other architectural delights. We parked outside the world's most leaning building. It was impressive but strangely pointless since most architecture up till now has been about stopping buildings from leaning. It was also further proof, should I have needed it, that somewhere in this country was a bar full of architects howling with laughter at the latest thing they'd been able to build.

The pièce de résistance however, was our last destination – the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It is the largest mosque in the world that non-Muslims can visit and, in a country that doesn't really go for architectural beauty, it is utterly magnificent. It boasts the world's largest carpet and the world's largest chandelier (by now you'll have realised that everything here has to be the biggest) and is one of the most wonderful buildings I've seen... and yet I'd never heard of it.

Having just revisited Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul, I had something to compare it with and Sheikh Zayed won hands down. Possibly because it is so new, it doesn't yet rate on the global consciousness. It most certainly will though. This is a building that has been constructed with the purpose of announcing to the world that the UAE has arrived. And it does the job.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...

Primary teachers required for schools in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

£18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Brooks Newmark  

If Brooks Newmark is ‘sick’ what does that say about the rest of us?

Simon Kelner
Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi where Mohammad Asghar is being held  

Mohammed Ashgar: A Briton on death row in Pakistan who the Government must act to save

David Morrisey
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style