Photo: Race car in front of modern building

Abu Dhabi's Formula 1 track passes through the futuristic Yas Hotel, giving guests a bird's-eye view.

Photograph by Peter Steffen, EPA/Corbis

By Mary Gostelow

  1. Have your hands patterned with henna at the Abu Dhabi Library and Cultural Centre. This stately complex, across from the Grand Mosque, houses nearly two million volumes.

  2. Rise early and get to the vegetable market at Port Zayed by 6 a.m. for your pick of fresh fish, fruit, and other produce. (There are plans to move the market farther inland soon.)

  3. Take a ride on a traditional abra boat along the man-made waterway that winds through the Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri. Make stops at the on-site suq (market) and spa.

  4. Sate your sweet tooth in style at the Emirates Palace hotel, where chefs go through 11 pounds (5 kilograms) of edible gold topping every year.

  5. Check the schedule for the next WOMAD (World of Music, Arts, and Dance) festival. The multiday event, part of a series of worldwide festivals, features dozens of world-class performances.

  6. Grab pizza-by-the-meter at Spaccanapoli restaurant, a branch of the London favorite run by former Dorchester Hotel chef Domenico Savarese. Eat a whole one and you get free dessert.

  7. At dawn, take a desert walk into the Empty Quarter, organized by the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara.

  8. Reserve a table on the terrace of the Yacht Club (TYC), looking across Khor Al Bateen waterway to Coconut Island. You can have a bottle of one of 57 vodka labels waiting—along with unlimited ice and mixers. A resident "mood guru" spins the perfect beats.

  9. It's definitely worth flying the national airline, Etihad Airways, which has a dedicated terminal at the airport. There's also a premium lounge where first class and business travelers can get complimentary 15-minute massages or visit the Six Senses Spa.

  10. Take in the Yas Hotel, which straddles Abu Dhabi's Formula 1 track so that you can look down at the race going on beneath you. The two halves of the hotel are covered, as if by a gigantic fishnet, with a multipanel glass shell.

Mary Gostelow is editor at large of WOW.travel, the online magazine of kiwicollection.com, and owner of the monthly Gostelow Report.

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