It’s Abu Dhabi calling for Indian tourists seeking weekend getaways

28 March,2024 10:32 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Maitrai Agarwal

Owing to a relaxed visa policy and connectivity like never before, the UAE has emerged as the top international destination for weekend getaways. Beyond the glitz of malls, Indian travellers share their most cherished experiences

Image for representational purposes only. Photo Courtesy: iStock

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As countries across the globe battle to become the next trending destination, discerning travellers are always seeking something that piques their myriad interests. As per digital travel platform Agoda, the United Arab Emirates is the second most popular outbound destination for Indians between September 2023 and February 2024.

What makes a place desirable to Indian tourists? Ease of access, affordability, and a diverse set of offerings that can keep the family engaged. One of the main reasons for the UAE's growing popularity among Indians is its proximity. Thanks to modern infrastructure, and excellent hospitality, the UAE has seemed to tick off all of those boxes for the thousands of Indians who are increasingly choosing to fly down to the Gulf nation every year.

According to the annual report published by the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi, the emirate received 18 million visitors in 2022. Post-covid, a shift towards greater recognition of the value of culture has been observed globally. While the UAE is famed for its luxury experiences and retail offerings, the capital Abu Dhabi is positioning itself as an emerging cultural, and culinary hotspot. To further evaluate its claim as the preferred weekend getaway, we asked Indian travellers to share their memorable experiences from recent travels to the buzzing capital.

Also Read: Weekend getaways: How Mumbaikars are taking quick trips to seek respite

Tracing the history of a modern capital
"Abu Dhabi can best be described as an ancient city meeting a modern cosmopolitan capital," shares luxury lifestyle and travel influencer Shashank Sanghvi. While the new skyscrapers are glittering, the city has multiple sites to help you learn about human settlements stretching back 7,000 years. The 34-year-old elaborates, "It is not very common for tourists to visit the historical sites in UAE, but I found them to be fascinating. Be it Qasr Al Hosn, the city's oldest structure dating to the late 18th century, or the Al Jahili Fort, both offer a peak into the rich history of the emirate." The former is located in the heart of the city amidst the modern skyline, and the latter is a 90-minute drive away in the quaint town of Al Ain.
The Mumbaikar concludes by saying, "Exploring the vast array of heritage sites and landmarks has been a journey through time, allowing me to witness the city's evolution while connecting with its rich past. The majestic Qasr Al Hosn served as a tangible link to the city's heritage, offering insights into its history and traditions that have shaped its identity".

Contextualising universal art
"If you are an art enthusiast, a trip to the city cannot be complete without visiting the Louvre Abu Dhabi," marketing executive Aishwarya Kapoor excitedly tells us. She goes on to share how the building itself is famed for its architecture, and the museum aims to bring different cultures together through common stories of humanity. The permanent collection comprises over 700 groups of artworks from every period and civilisation, ranging from the Achaemenid Empire (510 BCE) to 17th- century Japanese folding screens. The vast collection also includes notable works from Claude Monet, Auguste Rodin, Rene Magritte, and more.
When asked what sets the Louvre apart, the 27-year-old poses, "I was surprised by the range of objects on display. I believe the collection puts the global timeline of human creativity into context which is rare in an art museum. How could two ancient civilisations practice similar rituals, or create similar art in times of no contact? The point of collective heritage is made and driven across well."

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Sensory overload
"It would not be a stretch to say that Abu Dhabi is home to two of the best modern Islamic architecture landmarks. When I entered the main hall of the Qasr Al Watan, I did not know where to look, or what to take a photo of. It was as if the opulence of the emirates had been distilled, and modelled into a tangible structure," recalls Shraddha Singh. Built to showcase the region's artistry and heritage, the working presidential palace houses multiple exhibitions.

The Chandigarh-based artist further speaks of one of the world's largest mosques, "If you look closely, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque celebrates several design styles. From India to Iran, artisans have contributed to the beauty of this mosque. If you ask me, the gold-plated Swarovski chandeliers are surely the most glittering of them all."

Culinary diversity and Ramadan spreads
"Name the cuisine, and you shall find it. From authentic Japanese to mind-numbing Lebanese, Abu Dhabi offers the finest of dining options," says Sana Khan who recently visited the city on a long weekend with her family. She also spotted plenty of vegetarian options across menus, a definite plus for Indian tourists.
The New Delhi resident tells us that since a few family members were fasting for Ramadan, the iftar was a vital part of their day. "I was glad to see that during Ramadan, most restaurants offer elaborate iftar spreads. From Indian to Italian, there was everything one could want. My family's visit to Majlis by the Sea at the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental was a memory we will all cherish. Also, if you take pride in relishing local specialities, I would highly recommend trying the traditional Arabic coffee, known as ‘gahwa'. It is similar to how chai in India is much more than a beverage, but an intrinsic part of our hospitality."
For those who wish to indulge in local fare, Abu Dhabi is also home to the only Michelin-star recipient Emirati restaurant, Erth. The charming restaurant offers a take on modern Emirati cuisine.

Also Read: How Mumbai's road queens blaze trails with biking adventures

From beaches to the desert
"One of the reasons I chose to fly to Abu Dhabi was the pristine waters. I spent many idyllic afternoons by the sea at the Mamsha Al Saadiyat beachfront promenade. Clear blue skies and the ideal temperature of the water were all I needed to unwind. The plethora of boutique stores and restaurants also made it a convenient spot for the family to enjoy themselves," shares Gaurav Katheriya.

The 25-year-old also spent a night glamping at an eco-retreat in the desert. "It was a unique experience to be camping in the desert at the Jebel Hafit Desert Park. In the silence of the night, we could tap into the sounds of nature, which was restorative after being in the bustling city. I was able to explore the extensive rough terrain on a guided buggy ride which was definitely the highlight of my trip."

Also Read: Connecting with nature: Exploring how Mumbaikars can go camping and tips for beginners

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