The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal
Dubai often outshines the UAE in terms of tourism, but traveling to the Middle East just to see Dubai feels a little bit like traveling to Los Angeles but only staying in Hollywood. It makes no sense. Sure the touristy sites in Dubai are awesome but we wanted to experience something deeper than a desert city developing on speed. We wanted to see classic Arabia and experience all the romanticism it offers and more. In a later post, I’ll discuss my time in Dubai, but here I can’t wait to write about one of the most fabulous hotels we’ve ever stayed at in all our travels. And in Abu Dhabi, this consisted of two different hotels. So here’s the first. And it’s hard to believe this one was actually my favorite runner up.
Abu Dhabi is about an hour’s drive from Dubai, but coming all the way to the UAE and not seeing the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque would be a tremendous travel sin in my book. After a few days in Dubai, we hired a taxi and headed to The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal.
I absolutely live for that feeling you get when you arrive at a new hotel, well particularly a luxury hotel or resort. You know you’re experiencing the closest thing to royalty and a surge of giddiness from all the glamour runs through you in a wave of excitement. Once you arrive and your bags are taken, you enter the majestic atrium and are handed a refreshing hand towel or an iced beverage before deciding upon whether or not to upgrade to club level or reserve a spot at the breakfast buffet. Suddenly these are the hardest decisions you face in life and I relish the moment.
Upon arriving at The Ritz-Carlton, we were, as expected, awestruck by its neighbor, The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. No other hotel in Abu Dhabi boasts such a majestic view. I grabbed my husband and urged “we have to get there before sunset!” He reassured me we would, but the photographer in me was overwhelmed with anxiety to photograph such a magnificent sight.
I’ve stayed at a lot of luxury properties, but The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi goes down as one of the most memorable. The lobby was simply palatial with sweeping gold and marble and chandeliers and bellhops donning Aladdin attire with pointy shoes weaving through the lobby armed with silver platters of Arabian dates to the sound of classical music. The entire hotel felt like I had waltzed into a 19th century time lapse of the Old World aristocracy and that British colonialism was still alive and well.
In my experience, the most moving travel experiences are those when you arrive at such an unfamiliar scene that you can’t help but just observe the moment, as if you’re looking at it from between the story book’s pages and for just a glimpse of time, you can imagine yourself at another place in history.
It’s sad we won’t all be around for time travel in the distant future, so moments like these are the next best thing. And so our adventure in Arabia finally began.
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