So in my previous post we had a look on the new things in Dubai, but let's travel now to some of the other Emirates and let us see what they have new for us there.
Abu Dhabi - Louvre
The long awaited opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi happened last year in November with a big fanfare and the attention of the international press worldwide. The Louvre is part of the ambitious plan of Abu Dhabi to position the city as one of the main cultural hubs of the region. Other museums like the Guggenheim or Zayed National Museum are coming up in the near future on Sadiyaat Island Cultural District.
So first the architecture of the Louvre is simply stunning - a seemingly floating dome structure. The web pattern dome allows the sun to shine through and creates amazing shadows. The idea was here to create rays of sunlight passing through date palm fronds in an oasis. Artworks from around the world are showcased inside with a a focus on bridging the gap between Eastern and Western art. At the moment you will find more statues than pictures inside, but the collections will change and special showcases will be hosted throughout the year. You can go for yourself on an exploration tour with an audio-guide or you can book for a guided tour through the museum. Afterwards don't miss a coffee break or lunch at the restaurant with its amazing seaside location. Of course the museum is very small compared to the Louvre in Paris with a complete different atmosphere, but the museum is the first of its kind in the region and currently the largest art museum on the Arabian Peninsula - so for that it can own its fame. I recommend to purchase the tickets online in advance to avoid queues.
Coming back to the Emirate of Dubai - Hatta is a good 90 minutes drive away from the city (as they have closed the straight road for all non-Emiratis passing through Buraimi you need to go on a longer diversion through the Dubai - Khalba road). Hatta is still a quite sleepy little village nestled in some lush green oasis and surrounded by a beautiful mountain panorama. Currently the tourism planners of Dubai are trying to push this region and to make it a new adventure and activity hub.
So when you enter the village you can first follow the signboards for the Hatta Hill Park - where you can climb up to the watch tower for a nice view over the area.
Afterwards a quick stop at the Heritage Village is nice - there is nothing major to see there, but it gives some general information about the rural life in UAE and at the newly built Oasis Park beside you can rest in the shadows of the date palm trees and observe the water floating in the ancient irrigation Falaj system.
Next is the drive up to the Hatta Dam - a beautiful deep green lake surrounded by the majestic Hatta mountains. The guys from Hatta Kayak are sorting out your activity here and there is a wide range of different boat types for rent (www.hattakayak.com). I would suggest here to hire a traditional Kayak that you can keep as long as you want without any time restriction and then cross the lake and enter the narrow Wadi at the end. You will be surrounded by a beautiful silence and can observe some bird life around. The perfect way to re-energize from the busy city life. I would also highly recommend to avoid visits on a Friday when the place gets real crowded and all the peace is gone - also parking is an issue there, so you might need to leave your car further down and take a walk up. On my last visit they told me that a proper visitor center and restaurant is planned - but for the moment you need to bring your own snacks along.
In terms of activities also watch out for a Mountain Bike Center that is planned for the future in Hatta.
Then they have the Hatta Honey Farm to visit - first they will gear you up with proper protection cloth before you are ready to meet their little villagers. They will tell you everything how the delicious honey is sourced and how they manage to breed bees in that hot environment. They told me that also here a kind of visitor center and a small cafe and honey shop is planned - but not sure when that will be ready.
For a hotel lunch or dinner and an overnight there is still mainly only one place in town - the Hatta Fort Hotel (www.jaresortshotels.com). The hotel itself is already quite old, but they did some renovations in the rooms and with that tranquil surroundings it is still a great city escape. You also have a choice of two swimming pools, a jogging track and various other activities like for example archery.
On my visit we were invited from Dubai Tourism and actually had a more authentic lunch place at a local farm. The friendly owner is hosting guests here and you can also stay overnight in the middle of various fruit trees and other greenery including a small pool. If you are interested in that option, please get in touch with me and I can get you connected.
Another local experience is the Hatta Camp, which is created in the old Bedouin style and offers a great insight into the countryside and Bedouin life. The owner has collected various items from the past and present there and you can try some real local food that you won't get in any restaurant. For us they did a lamb in the old style digged for hours into the ground and wrapped in palm leaves - when they pulled it out from the ground it was a great experience to see and the meat was so tender and tasty. If you want to take it to an extremer level of an authentic experience they also offer overnights in traditional wooden Barasti huts - very basic, but something different for a special feel. Follow them on Instagram for more information #hatta_camping
Ajman, The Oberoi Al Zorah Hotel
Not only Dubai, but also the other Emirates can see exciting new hotel openings like the Oberoi Hotel in Ajman. Surrounded by a beautiful mangrove lagoon you can even spot some flamingos on the way to the hotel and guests can enjoy some kayak tours as well as a round of golf at the nearby Al Zorah course. The hotel itself is a tranquil escape from the city - modern and with straight lines it creates a heaven of relaxation. Of course as it is an Oberoi a stay here does not come cheap, but it is worth every single Dirham and also the beach is a very nice one. I only tried the food at the beach restaurant, which was excellent so I guess the same quality can be found in their other food outlets as well. The Spa is small, but very cosy and with premium products. You can choose for your stay either a room in one of the two main buildings or you opt for the bigger beachside villas if you travel with your family. No day visitors are allowed at the hotel.