Not gonna lie, we’ve got ‘building anticipation’…

The UAE is a nation of shifting sands, the past 30 years have seen vast areas of desert erupt into pillars of futuristic urban decadence.

But what’s next? What marvellous architectural, leisure and entertainment creations are thundering down the construction pipeline in our beloved capital?

Here are some of our favourite projects, that are coming ‘soon’ (probably).

Yas Bay

Projects very rarely get more mega than this Dhs12 billion endeavour in the south of Yas Island. The area includes housing for 15,000 individuals, 19 parks, retail space, leisure and entertainment zones, a waterfront and pier with 37 food and beverage outlets, a new indoor arena (Etihad Arena), two hotels (The Hilton Yas Bay Hotel and another “lifestyle-oriented hotel brand”), a huge twofour54 creative hub and more.

ETA: We’re not sure. The developers report 75 per cent completion back in October 2019, but on a project of this magnitude, the pandemic will have cause significant delay. Bearing in mind the Etihad Arena was scheduled (and on track for) completion in April of this year, the first phase is likely to open up Q1 2021, perhaps even before.

Etihad Arena

So this huge sparkling new arena was already supposed to be open, Disney On Ice was booked in for April 15, 2020… but then Corona happened. The good news is that it’s pretty much finished now, though with the current restriction on events – we’re unlikely to see any big shows at the whopping 18,000 capacity venue in the immediate future.

ETA: We might have to wait for the post-pandemic era before we start seeing events on stage at the Etihad Arena.

The Hilton Yas Bay Hotel

Located in the new Yas Bay development (see above), this soon-to-launch 546 key resort puts it in the perfect location for exploring the island’s theme parks and adventure centres. The Hilton website promises an “outdoor pool complex with infinity pool, floating beach, and kid’s club” in addition to a huge chunk of event space. What’s a floating beach? Working on coffee-fuelled conjecture and a brief consultation of the renders it looks like an extravagant solution to this section of the island not having a beach, the resort seems to be creating an artificial one — on a floating platform, anchored to the hotel’s edge. Because that’s how we do in the UAE. There’ll be four restaurants and bars, one of which will be the resort’s all-day diner, another we know will be called Osmo Lounge and Bar, and there are industry whispers that one of the bars could be a name that’s ‘big in the Balearics’.
ETA: No firm date yet but the Miral has stated that as of September of this year, the hotel is 93 per cent complete. It’s listed on the Hilton Group’s website with a message stating “We’re opening soon but aren’t accepting reservations yet.

Al Qana

Abu Dhabi’s new dining and entertainment destination, Al Qana, was originally scheduled to open at the end of 2020. Located in the Khor Al Maqta region of the capital, the waterfront tourist destination will be home to a huge aquarium, cinema, VR zone, E-Sports arena, and now also a lifestyle wellness hub. The 8,000 square metre space, known as ‘The Bridge’, will have seven zones dedicated to different forms of health and wellness. Al Qana aims to re-establish Abu Dhabi’s community with activities such as running, cycling, group yoga, HIIT, pilates and more. The seven service tracks are called Move, Pause, Taste, Seek, Choose, Expand and Learn. Each one is designed to provide an ‘ethereal and customised individual journey’, spread across three levels of both indoor and outdoor space, including a rooftop garden lounge. You’ll also be able to discover a variety of dining facilities at The Bridge. Without giving much away, we’re told that you’ll be able to sample ‘some of the finest cuisine from all around the world’ from within the hub.

ETA: With the impact of the global pandemic, the original opening date of Q4 2020 now feels unlikely. We’re looking forward to strolling along the luxurious waterfront in 2021. 

The National Aquarium

Part of the aforementioned Al Qana project on Khor Al Maqta, the region’s largest aquarium will feature 10 aquatic zones spread over 5,000sqm, and work alongside the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) to create a ground-breaking rehabilitation scheme. It was “70 per cent complete” as of August 2019, which almost certainly puts it within diving distance now. In addition to showing off local marine life, there will be plenty of exotic creatures too, some friendly (which you’ll be able to swim with), others — very much less so. In all there will be around 250 species of fish, birds, amphibians, arachnids and reptiles, live underwater shows and a huge walk-through tunnel.

ETA: If it opens alongside the rest of the Al Qana, it could very well be 2021. If it gets a unique launch, it could just open its doors in 2020. 

Snow Abu Dhabi

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The enchanted-forest themed Snow Abu Dhabi was previously scheduled for completion in the last part of this year, and it’s being trailed as ‘the world’s largest snow park’. Construction is well underway at its location inside the USD1.2billon Reem Mall project, on Reem Island. The attraction will span across a huge 125,000 sq ft area, divided into distinct whimsical zones. We can look forward to themed-characters and 13 thrilling rides and attractions, including an enchanted tree, a snowflake garden, crystal carousel, ice labyrinth, tobogganing and a shovel-ton more. It doesn’t matter if the weather outside is frightful. The park will be kept at a rosy-nosed -2ºC, with a 500mm covering of snow (more than enough for beefy snowball building) offering a year-round chill spot in this, our beloved land of the eternal sun.

ETA: Whilst both Reem Mall and Snow Abu Dhabi were due to be opening in the last part of this year, impact from the pandemic has pushed that date back.   

Ikea Al Wahda

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There’s a new 23,000-square-foot Ikea coming to the capital’s Al Wahda Mall. It will be one of the brand’s growing ‘city store concept’ portfolio. July was little-yellow-pencilled in for the launch date, but then, well the global pandemic struck and like much else in 2020 – the snooze button was reluctantly pressed. But with construction and retail returning to a more consistent swing, the Scandinavian furnishing firm picked up the instructions again and are now on track for a November kick-off. Vinod Jayan, managing director of Al-Futtaim IKEA said of the upcoming launch, “We are delighted to open a new Ikea store at Al Wahda Mall, given the mall’s strategic and central location, we will be in the city centre closer to where the many people live”.

ETA: There are pretty strong vibes supporting a November opening.

Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers

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The instantly recognisable skyline hotel, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers is undergoing a rebrand as part of a management agreement between Hilton and His Highness Sheikh Suroor Bin Mohammed Al Nahyan. From October 1, the property will be known as Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers — making it the first Conrad in Abu Dhabi. The hotel occupies one of five towers which, together, make up the Etihad Towers complex. Luxurious facilities in the skyscraper include 12 restaurants and bars, the lavish Talise spa, a beautiful private beach club, and three outdoor swimming pools, equipped with poolside and swim-up bars. There are 576 guest rooms, including suites and residences, offering vertiginous views of the Arabian Gulf.

ETA: October 1, 2020

Fairmont Marina Abu Dhabi

It’s fair to say that the city has watched the giant pink arch of the Fairmont Marina Abu Dhabi hotel rise with curiosity. It achieved architectural Iconhood even prior to its launch, which was originally slated for March but has now been delayed until, well – we’re not sure. There are rumours, and they are just that at this stage, that management of the hotel has been passed to another big hotel chain, which may or may not also be part of the Accor group. And we appreciate that’s cryptic, but isn’t that befitting of this mysterious grand arch watching us from its waterfront perch.

ETA:???, 2021?

Images: What’s On Archive