United Arab Emirates
Emerging from the desert’s sands like a mirage, Abu Dhabi's bold, brash and brilliant skyline continues to reach new heights. The extravagance on show can be dizzying at times, but it’s counterpointed by authentic history and culture, and majestic religious statements. You’ll shrink before the scale of the 50 exquisite, pearl-white domes of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, which is the UAE's largest and most revered religious space.
A healthy pearl trade, and strategic location, brought prosperity in the 19th century, before the discovery of rich oil reserves propelled the city giddily skywards in the latter half of the 20th century. Nowadays, palatial hotels tower above dazzling ocean and white sands, while ever-reliable weather and remarkable extravagances, make Abu Dhabi a location of unbridled opulence and intrigue. The city's cultural scene is also burgeoning, with a stunning Louvre outpost recently opening for business.
Find your bearings by ascending 300 metres to the heights of the Etihad Towers' viewing platform - where you can butter scones while enjoying a 'high tea' in every sense. The relentlessly glorious weather makes the coral-blue sea's sparkle ever-tempting, and at Saadiyat Public Beach you’ll find clear blue waves lapping soft, sugar-white sand. Wade out to enjoy bath-like temperatures of 30 degrees. The Corniche, meanwhile, is a sweeping coastal walkway, stretching for eight kilometres and offering rich views of the coral-blue ocean back-dropped by jagged skyscrapers.