Just seven minutes from downtown Abu Dhabi and 20 minutes from Abu Dhabi International Airport, the 27 square kilometre Saadiyat Island is undergoing a remarkable transformation into a world class leisure, residential, business and cultural hub of global proportions, housing the world’s largest single concentration of premier cultural assets. These will include the Zayed National Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi – all designed by Pritzker prize winners.
The island’s purpose built visitor centre – Manarat Al Saadiyat (which translates from Arabic as ‘a place of enlightenment’), brings Saadiyat’s vision to life, complemented perfectly by a permanently open-to-the-public exhibition: ‘The Saadiyat Story’ gives visitors an interactive narrative on the history and cultural vision behind the island.
Moved piece by piece from Shanghai, where it welcomed almost two million visitors to the UAE’s national exhibition during the World Expo 2010, the UAE Pavilion is emerging as a new landmark exhibition and events venue. Hosting some of the country’s most important cultural functions, the striking dune-shaped structure was designed by London’s acclaimed Foster + Partners.
Saadiyat Beach Golf Club is the region’s first ocean course; the Gary Player-designed masterpiece respectfully harnesses the natural beauty of Saadiyat Island’s magnificent, white sand beaches for a truly unique playing experience.
With two five star properties already opened – The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi and Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi – and more in the pipeline, the island’s leisure and hospitality offering is rapidly increasing. With its own distinctive style, the exclusive Saadiyat Beach Club celebrates the elegance and peacefulness of this unique island. Leisure services include an outdoor swimming pool, a workout room with fitness and wellness programmes, spa facilities, sauna and steam rooms, kids’ pool and playing areas, and private cabanas and loungers set on the stunning, white beach.
Set on the island’s serene natural shores, the 400-metre Saadiyat Public Beach is a great spot for a day out, and the perfect place to enjoy Abu Dhabi’s clean, warm turquoise waters. There are lounge chairs, showers, bathrooms, lockers, changing rooms, towels, umbrellas, ample parking and lifeguards are on duty throughout the day. The beach is open daily from 8am to 8pm, and entry is AED 25 (US$ 6.8) for adults and AED 15 (US$ 4.1) for children over six years old.
The original ‘guests’ of Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, the Hawksbill sea turtles, continue to nest on the destination’s sweeping beachfront. The nine kilometre Saadiyat Beach plays host to several Hawksbill turtle nests every year. The Hawksbill is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, as its population has declined by more than 80 per cent worldwide over the last three generations due to habitat destruction and poaching. Since master developer Tourism Development & Investment Company began its Hawksbill Turtle Conservation Programme in early 2010, getting the buy in of developers, contractors and now resort operators, some 650 eggs have hatched successfully on Saadiyat.