What the UAE lacks by way of natural landscapes it makes up for in manmade attractions. So while you won’t find the Cliffs of Moher, the Giants Causeway or Inchadonney anywhere around Abu Dhabi, the manmade attractions are equally as impressive.
What you will find is the 25 sq. km Yas Island, built on reclaimed land at the cost of forty billion dollars now home to Ferrari World and Yas Marina Circuit Formula 1 racetrack. There is also Reem Island, home to the Sorbonne, Sky and Sun Towers and the Gate Project Shams, three sixty five story towers upon which there is a hat being built to span across the three skyscrapers, containing penthouses with bird’s eye views of the city. Not forgetting LuLu Island another man-made island at 4.2k sq.m only accessible by private boat, plans are currently in progress as the developers decide on what would be the most impressive landmark to create.
Having often been referred to as a “tough crowd” I believe the term “overly biased towards Ireland and hopelessly retro” was also used, I may also have poo poo’d the engineering fete that is Lulu Island by saying, “What’s the point in having a private Island that only plans to have a tower and Disneyland, “Sherkin, now that’s an island”. I distinctly referring to the development at the gateway to Reem Island, the hat project, and comparing same to the crannogs back in Ireland and boasting about the ingenious structures built in the twelfth century, made solely from timber, peat, clay, stone, random bushes and thistles. On my initial visit to Yas Island, I will admit to have been less than overwhelmed. I may have summarized the whole island as being “Just an IKEA and a few hotels”. In hindsight however, I stand corrected.
The awakening happened at Kylie. I believe that while I may not have been the only person to have a personal awakening at a Kyle concert, I surely must be in the minority. It was last week; Formula 1 had arrived in Abu Dhabi, on Yas Island. A fortunate acquaintance with a fluttering social butterfly saw this moth getting a Formula 1 ticket, a four day pass including three concerts. Racing each day and concerts by night, Friday night, Kylie and Saturday, Nickelback and Sunday, Eminem. Day one, I set off for Yas Island on Friday afternoon to do the pit walk on the grid and grab a bite before Kylie. (Even I marvel at how quickly I grew accustomed to being a F1 follower and an overnight Kylie fan). Swept away in the atmosphere of the Formula 1, I looked forward to Kylie. Not a fan of her music per se, but always a fan of experience.
Night fell, Yas Island began to look positively magical as the lighting glistening in the balmy winter’s night. Each hotel stood tall looking more luxurious than the next, the atmosphere was eclectic, as eclectic as it gets when the crowd are a bunch of middle aged expat Kylie fans.
The stage and was set, the lights were bright, Ferrari World reddened the sky overhead and the race-track lights were visible in the background. Ok I’ll admit, this was different to the crannogs, at least on par, the wheel was beginning to the turn, the lights dimmed, pint-sized Kylie came on the stage, I know she was pintsized because when I held up mine, it covered her. Even from a hundred meters back she was impressive, Yas Island was impressive, I just didn’t know what it was before, now I could see the whole island was a glorified stage, a forty billion dollar stage that lit up and preformed when a show came and lay dormant in the interim. Like a limp puppet, it had come to life, and it had a lot more offer than just the Swedish meatballs in IKEA. The perfect retro backing track, Do the Locomotion with Me, played as my appreciation for modern manmade attractions cemented. Even I, the quintessential Irish lass had to admit that this was a superior venue that a sodden field dressed up as a concert venue in Ireland. Hats off to Abu Dhabi.