A sunseeker’s paradise, Abu Dhabi also delights with its sophisticated cultural offerings, natural beauty and cutting-edge architecture, best seen from a stay at Jumeirah At Saadiyat Island Resort. Juliet Herd reviews.
A Sustainable Offering In The Heart Of Abu Dhabi: Jumeirah At Saadiyat Island Resort – Review
As the capital of the UAE and its second largest city, Abu Dhabi is known for its world-class museums, notably the spectacular Louvre with its giant floating dome, the glittering Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the world’s fastest rollercoaster Formula Rossa at Ferrari World, and countless shopping malls. As a centre for finance, banking and culture, it is widely regarded as the richest city in the world, with a higher per capita income than Dubai.
There’s no shortage of things to do, either – from camping out in the Empty Quarter (or Rub Al Khali desert, as it is formally known) and spotting wildlife on Sir Bani Yas Island, to kayaking through one of the many mangrove forests on the eastern coast, and exploring the 5000-year-old beehive-like Hafeet Tombs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated in the foothills of the Jebel Hafeet Mountain.
Jumeirah At Saadiyat Island Resort is the group’s flagship sustainability resort, reflected by its nature-inspired architecture and interior design. It is the only resort in the Middle East to hold an Ocean Champion Badge through initiatives such as reducing single-use plastic consumption (you’ll be given a reusable water bottle on arrival), sustainable food procurement and the use of non-toxic products. Conservation is also a key focus with the resort’s protected sand dunes – home to endangered hawksbill turtles as well as falcons, gazelles and foxes. During our stay, we were treated to the joyous sight of a pod of dolphins staging a spontaneous display in front of what is considered one of the best beaches in the UAE.
Surrounded by such natural beauty, the elliptical-shaped property hugs the coastline, while the light-filled lobby offers uninterrupted sight lines to the sea. Prepare to be wowed by the spectacular hand-blown Bohemian crystal chandelier at the entrance, with each opal and azure crystal resembling precious marine life. Designed with the region’s climate in mind, all the suites face north, with cooling views to the water. Wide airy corridors take you to the 296 stylish rooms, suites and villas, all in neutral palettes and offering a mix of patios, balconies and garden access. There are three outdoor pools, including an adult-only one, and the sleekly-designed SPA, designed around a central hammam, is equipped with hydrotherapy pools, salt and steam rooms and a traditional Arabic Rasul room.
The aptly named Mare Mare (from the Italian word for ‘sea’) is the perfect lunch spot, and its Italian menu – offering gourmet pizzas and seasonal salads – is popular with locals as well as guests. The resort’s signature Levantine-inspired restaurant Tean is next level: we feasted on creamy beetroot hummus (there are ten types to choose from), tender and spicy Australian lamb chops, and delectable Turkish baklava and saffron ice cream. For evening cocktails and live entertainment, head to the rooftop Lounge. Breakfast is something else – chefs serve pancakes and waffles from wooden beach huts while waiters weave among the tables bearing baskets of croissants and pastries.
It’s no wonder Saadiyat Island is considered the Emirate’s cultural district: it boasts the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened in 2017 as part of a cultural exchange partnership between France and the UAE and showcases chronologically-displayed artwork from prehistory to the present day. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and inspired by the traditional Arabic medina, this dazzling building, flanked by open water on three sides, features a huge silver metal dome comprising nearly 8000 interlocked stars that create a virtual “rain of light” beneath. It is the first of three world-class museums to open on the island with Frank Gehry’s new Guggenheim due to be finished in 2025 and the Zayed National Museum, with its distinctive soaring glass structures designed by Foster + Partners, also scheduled for completion then. There’s also the newly-opened Abrahamic Family House, encompassing a mosque, church, synagogue and educational centre.
Back at the resort, we played a round of eco golf on the beach, which involved the surprisingly satisfying exercise of hitting a biodegradable golf ball filled with fish food into the ocean. For more serious golfers, there’s the nearby 18-hole Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.
Ocean Deluxe Room from £275 per night. jumeirah.com