When people think Abu Dhabi, they liken it to Dubai’s mature older sister who opens the door when the younger one breaks curfew. Or they’re taken back to the grueling two hours they spent with the ladies from SATC 2 as they ran around the city wearing horrifying clothes while making deep insightful observations like wondering how one eats a French fry through a burkha. Apart from boasting a civilization that can be traced back all the way to the third millennium BCE and a UNESCO heritage site, the city is a bona fide island playground with it’s 400 Km of pristine coastline surrounded by a coterie of islands. The three day Formula-1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (27th -29th November 2015) is the last race of the F1 calendar, the only one that takes place at twilight and always boasts a line up puts Singapore to shame – this year they have Enrique and Florence & the Machine (does she ever stop?) headlining and a host of entertainment that makes puts this at par with a global music festival. If you still happen to find some time in between though, here are some tips for visiting Abu Dhabi that will have you wondering if you need to extend your stay!

I would head straight to the marinas to spot the world’s most glorious and expensive yachts and perhaps catch of glimpse of the 180 ft Azzam, owned by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nayan, President of the United Arab Emirates and Emir of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi city is located on a t-shaped island that juts out into the Persian Gulf and boasts a rich maritime history that harks back to days of pearl trading where pearling fleets would scour the sea in their traditional ‘dhow’, trading vessels with long hulls and lateen sails. Want to experience the ‘dhow’ yourself? Climb aboard a Jalboot and cruise the channel between Abu Dhabi and Hudairi Yat islands while you snack on dates and sip the local coffee. While Abu Dhabi has nothing on Dubai with respect to its skyscrapers, their seven marinas are sailor’s dream. If you’re there for the GP then you’ll already have a stellar view of the city’s most gorgeous marina, which can house 222 super and mega yachts. If you’re an architecture buff, then head to Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, a lavish ode to marble complete with 82 domes, over a 1,000 columns, 24-carat gold gilded chandeliers and the world’s largest hand knotted carpet.

Water babies ahoy! Take a day off from the cars, pack a swim bag and head to either Al Forsan International Sport Resort- Arabia’s first wakeboarding, waterskiing and knee boarding cable ski parks or go Kayaking with Noukhada through the natural mangrove forests dotted around the plethora of islands in view of the rising Abu Dhabi city skyline.

ET must do: Head to Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter), the world’s largest uninterrupted ocean of sand with endless undulating dunes that will have you hovering between petrified (please don’t lose me here) and gobsmacked (I never want to leave). You’ll be taken to the Qasr Al Sarab or Mirage Palace, a luxurious oasis in the midst of the desert where you can walk at dawn, and do camel trekking, dune bashing, falconry shows and camp fire barbecues.

(Image by Ghassan Tabet)

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