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

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page


General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk