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24 hours in Abu Dhabi: Diary of an action-packed stopover

Want to know the secret to surviving a long haul flight between Australia and Europe? Break it up with a stopover in Abu Dhabi says Skyscanner Australia's guest blogger Jayne Gorman. Here she shares her diary of an action-packed 24 hour stopover in Abu Dhabi filled with luxury malls, fast rides and incredible architecture.

Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

07.05 We’ve landed in Abu Dhabi after a smooth overnight flight from London with Etihad. We probably managed about 4 hours sleep in-between the movies and mealtimes but are determined not to waste our 1 full day in Abu Dhabi. Security is swift so we grab our bags, extract cash from the ATM in arrivals and join the short queue for a taxi.

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Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi

08.00 Our hotel – the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi – is just 10 minutes drive away from the airport. We chose it for this reason and also because it’s a stylish 5-star property that straddles the Yas Marina and F1 race circuit. It’s off-season so not only do the hotel offer us a sweet deal on a suite upgrade but we’re able to check in straightaway. The porter takes my other half through what all the buttons do in our expansive room whilst I check out the track view from our balcony, picturing how epic it must be to sit here within spitting distance of the drivers during the Grand Prix.

Suite at Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi

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09.00 We’ve had much needed rainforest showers, an espresso from the minibar for him and a tea for me (I’m British!) and are waiting in the lobby for the free Yas Express bus to Yas Mall. Unfortunately we don’t spot the bus as it pulls up a little way from the door (a little too busy milking the Wi-Fi in the lobby) so end up grabbing a taxi instead. It takes less than 5 minutes and costs just small change to do so.

View of the F1 track from Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi

09.15 Yas Mall is a joy to behold. It’s got all the great Aussie and British high street heroes as well as international designer labels and US eateries like Shake Shack but there’s hardly anyone else around. (Arriving on an early morning flight has its benefits). We’re on the hunt for something to eat for breakfast and the smell of freshly baked Cinnabons coming out of the oven proves irresistible.

Yas Mall Abu Dhabi

11.00 After pocketing a few treats from Topshop we make our way to Ferrari World, which is attached to the Yas Mall. It’s the largest indoor theme park in the world so a fun way to avoid the heat if you’re visiting during the summer months. There’s a range of Ferrari themed rides and attractions for all ages but we’re here for Formula Rossa – the fastest rollercoaster in the world.

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

We decide to work our way up to the Rossa with a few runs on the other ‘coasters first. The park is surprisingly quiet so we get to go on Flying Aces and Fiorano GT Challenge twice each – as there was no one else in the queue, we simply sat in our seats and went around again.

Once we feel our breakfast is fully digested we make our way to Formula Rossa. The ride whizzes you from 0 to 240 km per hour in less than 5 seconds and if the G-force wasn’t enough of an adrenaline rush the blast of hot air to your face as you exit the park building certainly is (Goggles are provided for protection)! With our stomachs left several kms behind the carriage we shakily exit the ride saying we must do it again. You have to give your body 15 minutes to recover before taking the ride again so we wait in the observation area for a full 16 minutes before racing back for another go.

Fastest rollercoaster in the world in Abu Dhabi

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Before leaving the park my hubby decides to try his hand at racing a Ferrari on the Yas Formula 1 Circuit – don’t worry it’s a simulator. He does well before crashing spectacularly and walking away blaming the machine!

13.00 If we had children we would certainly have spent a full day at Ferrari World but as we’re adults who like a bit of R&R we decide to leave the park in search of somewhere more peaceful. We grab lunch at a café in the mall before hailing a cab back to the hotel.

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14.00 We’re beginning to flag. A mixture of jet lag and fast rides has left us a little dizzy so we weigh up the options of pool (the Yas has 2 rooftop pools including an adults only option), beach (Yas Viceroy guests get free sun beds at Yas Beach) or taking a kip in the suite. Our age must be showing as we opt for the kip with the promise to visit the pool or beach early the next morning.

Yas Beach
Image source: Yas Beach

16.00 The alarm rattles us awake. For a few seconds I don’t know who I am or what country I’m in and then I remember the afternoon’s mission to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – the number 1 attraction in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque Abu Dhabi

16.30 It takes just 20 minutes to drive to this spectacular building which we spot long before we get to it. The Grand Mosque is the largest in the UAE and one of the most opulent I have ever seen – it can fit up to 40,000 worshippers and boasts 7 incredible crystal chandeliers.

One of 7 opulent chandeliers at Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

We’ve dressed modestly but I’m directed to hire an Abaya in order to cover my wrists and ankles. Suitably covered we beginning walking the sparkling white corridors around the edge of the mosque; blown away by the details, scale and immaculate condition of the building.

Visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

We stay for a couple of hours, marvelling at the prayer halls and watching the minarets change colour during the soft pink light of sunset. During the last light of the day the golden lights are switched on and the call of prayer rings out across the tiles. It’s the most magical way to finish our day in Abu Dhabi.

Sunset at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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19.30 After a quick freshen up and costume change we head to dinner at Atayeb Arabic-Mediterranean fusion restaurant. We’ve waited all day to tuck into an Arabian feast and we’ve come to the right place. As we sit on the terrace, watching the LED lights of the hotel reflect across the marina, the courteous waiters bring us generous portions of hummus, tabbouleh and baba ghanoush. We tuck into kebabs and order more warm pitta to mop up our dips. Dessert is a date pudding with a dollop of ice cream – the perfect way to finish this Abu Dhabi evening.

Dinner at Atayeb

We glance at the lights of bars along the marina but the truth is we’re beat and can’t wait to retreat to the massive bed in our luxury suite.

07.00 As we promised ourselves yesterday we rise early for a swim before leaving. It’s warm but not unbearable in the early morning sunshine, especially as the attendants come round with cold towels and drinks to refresh us. I stare longingly at the ESPA spa I didn’t have time to visit but our onward flight to Sydney awaits us. We pack up and head back to the airport, grabbing breakfast in the lounge before take off.

Pool at Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi

It’s been an action-packed 24 hours in Abu Dhabi – a day I can’t wait to repeat next time I’ve flying in that direction.

Ready to plan an Abu Dhabi stopover? Search with no service fees, for the cheapest flights, and find the best deals on hotels as well as car hire on Skyscanner Australia now.

About The Author

Jayne Gorman is a sun-loving freelance travel writer and blogger based in Sydney, Australia. Keep up to date with Jayne’s travels on her blog Girl Tweets World.

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