groups guided walking tours, Arabic classes
and a taste of local cuisine.
Also attractive for groups is the current
30-day visa-on-arrival policy for citizens
from the U.S. and Canada.
“These travel regulations are designed
to boost tourism and trade,” Jakobsen said.
“We’ve witnessed a positive impact with
Russia and China following last year’s
relaxation of policies, resulting in a significant growth in the number of visitors in
Dubai will be on display later this year
when it hosts the 57th ICCA Congress,
which Jakobsen calls a “great opportunity
to showcase our progress as a world-class
city with unrivaled connectivity to key
industry bodies around the world.”
The city is expanding its hotel inventory
as well. The Mandarin Oriental-Dubai,
overlooking Jumeirah Beach, is in the works
for a September opening and will offer 200
rooms and suites, meeting rooms, and will
be close to both Dubai International Airport
and Dubai World Central–Al Maktoum In-
ternational Airport. W Dubai-The Palm will
open on Palm Jumeirah island in June with
350 rooms and suites, six dining outlets, a
private beach and meeting rooms.
Gevora, the world’s tallest hotel, opened
in Dubai’s Trade Center area earlier this year
with 528 rooms and a rooftop for events. Also
sporting a rooftop terrace will be the upcoming Stella Di Mare-Dubai Marina, with 369
rooms and a ballroom for 250 guests.
In the new Business Bay district on the
Dubai Canal, the Renaissance Downtown
Hotel, Dubai debuted in December. This
year the Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Waterfront is set to open with 432 rooms and
suites, a ballroom and 11 meeting rooms.
In the emirate’s westernmost region of Al
Dhafra, the Rub Al Khali, or Liwa Desert
(also known as the Empty Quarter), touted
as the world’s largest uninterrupted sand
mass, was the first filming location for Star
Wars: The Force Awakens.
Groups can visit the Qasr Al Sarab
(Mirage Palace) Desert Resort by Anantara,
located in the Liwa Desert, and take part
in desert walks, tours to the nearby Liwa
Oasis, dawn yoga amid the dunes, camel
trekking, desert drives and archery, among
Star Wars isn’t the only big name associated with arts and culture in Abu Dhabi.
The Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi
theme park is due to open on Yas Island
later this year as a complement to the
popular Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas
Waterworld already on the island.
“Abu Dhabi is one of the most promising
cultural hubs in the region,” said Mubarak Al
Shamsi, director of the Abu Dhabi Con-
vention Bureau. “Its growing number of
museums and galleries, both publicly and
privately owned, showcase the city, and
indeed the entire county, as an emerging
destination for contemporary art enthusi-
Many of those new and future museums
are based in the Saadiyat Cultural District,
including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, an art and
civilization museum that opened late last
year. Designed by Jean Nouvel and inspired
by the UAE’s palm groves, the museum
displays art, manuscripts and objects of
historical and cultural significance.
In the works for Saadiyat is the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry.
Its permanent collection will feature global
art dating from the 1960s to the present
day. Also in Saadiyat, Zayed National
Museum will be the UAE’s first national
museum and will highlight the life of the
founding president of the nation, Sheikh
Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The Jumeirah
at Saadiyat Island is set to open this year.
The Department of Culture and Tourism
recommends groups visit the Sheikh Zayed
Grand Mosque, one the world’s largest
mosques, with 82 domes and 24 carat
In addition, Abu Dhabi is home to
UNESCO World Heritage Site Al Ain, one of
the world's oldest permanently inhabited
settlements. Nearby is Al Ain National Mu-
seum and Al Ain Palace Museum, both of
which can host groups. In the Ain Al Fayda
district of Al Ain, the Qaryat Al Torath Her-
itage Village features 32 souq stalls offering
a variety of traditional handicraft goods. A
175-room Aloft Al Ain opened last year.
Groups can visit Emirates Heritage Club
to learn aspects of the desert way of life,
including a campfire and a goats’ hair tent.
There are workshops where craftsmen
demonstrate traditional skills, such as
metal work and pottery, while women sit
weaving and spinning.
Along with its traditions, Abu Dhabi is
setting an eye on the future.
“We recently launched our new compre-
hensive digital initiative, which acts as a
‘one-stop-shop’ for all cultural information
for the emirate of Abu Dhabi,” Al Shamsi
said. “The initiative, launched recently as
part of UAE Innovation Month and called
‘Abu Dhabi Culture’ , allows users to gain
instant access to all aspects of cultural life
There are also new properties in the
works, including a 428-room Grand Hyatt
Abu Dhabi, which is opening soon with
46,000 square feet of meeting space.
Jumeirah Al Wathba Desert Resort is slated to open in September. The Arabian-style
hotel will be located southeast of Abu
Dhabi city in the Al Wathba District and
will offer 90 rooms and 13 villas, a pool,
rooftop bars and spa, as well as conference
and meeting facilities.
ZAYED NATIONAL MUSEUM, ABU DHABI
ABU DHABI CONVENTION
ABU DHABI DEPARTMENT
OF CULTURE & TOURISM
DUBAI BUSINESS EVENTS/
DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM
AND COMMERCE MARKETING
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