We’re living in mega times…

In the past few years we’ve seen some huge new leisure projects launch in Abu Dhabi, we’re looking at the WB hotel; The Yas Bay Waterfront; The National Aquarium and other alluring attractions within Al Qana; Mamsha Al Saadiyat has proliferated into a thrilling little foodie district; and The Al Wathba Fossil Dune Protected Area headlines our pick of the thoroughly engaging heritage projects.

But there is a huge amount still to come in the coming months and years. Here’s just a little taste of what’s in the Abu Dhabi engineering wizardry pipeline.

Surf Abu Dhabi

Surf Abu Dhabi is will be “the biggest and most advanced artificial wave facility in the world”, according to WAM, the Emirates News Agency. Set to open in early 2024, it’s just one crest of an expansive Modon masterplan for Hudayriyat Island which also includes a regional first velodrome, and the biggest urban park in Abu Dhabi (more on those below. After a deep dive on the Surf Abu Dhabi specifications, the What’s On board sport correspondent has described the upcoming attraction as “a gnarly corduroy monster factory”. Which is good, apparently. It’s been designed in partnership with an organisation fronted by pro surfing royalty (and World Surf League champion a record 11 times) – the Kelly Slater Wave Co. With the potential to host big tour competitions and offering up the artificial surfing world’s longest ride, biggest barrel, as well as the largest man-made wave pool, this truly is radical class water sporting. But it’s not just for seasoned surf bros, the facility will also offer thrills for newbies and aspiring Point Breakers with literally zero chance of you getting mangled on a sand bar. All of which will undoubtedly make this one of the best places for surfing in the UAE.

Velodrome Abu Dhabi

On track for a 2025 opening, Velodrome Abu Dhabi will apparently roll out the first UCI Category 1 indoor cycling track in the region. This makes it capable of hosting international championships, and peddling all sorts of track based tournaments. Vital statistics and stand out features include a rooftop track, with a 600-meter cycling incline rising up along the external walls, showing off a picturesque 360 degree view of Hudayriyat and the jagged Abu Dhabi skyscraper skyline beyond.

Hudayriyat urban park

And if you prefer your alfresco activities paced a little more leisurely, there’ll be plenty of that on offer with a 2.25 million square meter urban park, the largest of its sort in the emirate. It’ll get you right up in the furry face of nature and feature such facilities as an elevated cycling track and mangrove walk. Hikers and bikers will also find an eco-farming space, food and beverage outlets, playgrounds, and an events valley. The final Hudayriyat product will include luxe residential properties sitting on and around two hill communities, offering lush elevated desert island views. The city will also get a beachy boost with an additional 53.5 kilometers of manicured coastline, a full 16kms of that devoted to new beaches.

Nammos Hotels & Resorts

Nammos has become one of the biggest names on the global beach club scene. But now the Mykonos-born hotspot is expanding into hotels, with the launch of Nammos Hotels & Resorts. And best of all, there’s a stunning Nammos Hotel coming to Abu Dhabi. Although the location of Nammos’ Abu Dhabi is yet to be confirmed, we do know the hotel will open in 2025, as per its website. We’re already packing our bags. An extension of the brand’s refined, fun-loving beachside dining experience, guests checking-in to Nammos Hotel & Resorts, can expect the same style and sophistication at the resort iteration. According to the announcement, Nammos Hotels & Resorts will ‘provide an unrivalled and genuine hospitality experience that mirrors elements of the existing Nammos offerings, whilst evoking a true sense of laid-back luxury.’ ammoshotels.com/abudhabi

Ramhan Island

The latest island confirmed to receive the mega project treatment is — Ramhan Island in Abu Dhabi. It’s located just to the east of Jubail Island, which is undergoing something of a dramatic cosmetic transformation itself. It will likely be connected to the mainland either directly by bridge, or via Jubail (or perhaps both) as the stated driving time to Yas Island is 10 minutes (Abu Dhabi Aiport will be 15 minutes away, Saadiyat will be 18 minutes). The team behind the Ramhan iOSland update is Eagle Hills, a real estate company from EMAAR mastermind Mohamed Ali Alabbar. The island’s vital statistics include plans for 1,800 villas; a 120-key luxury hotel; 900 marina apartment residencies; a 1.7km retail store parade; 120 marina berths; there will be a wellness hub, restaurants, a beach bar on the community beach; green spaces; running tracks; nursery; mosque; school and more. Ramhan Island will offer some pretty incredible villa options with the top end serving up features like your own stretch of private beach. The residential component of the project will be divided into four communities — Marine, Breeze, Cove and Views. Then there are those ‘floating villas’ we mentioned — overwater living, with open sea views and adjacent sand bar. In addition to all the luxury amenities near by (including an infinity pool, wellness centre and fine dining options) — it’ll all still sit just an energetic stone’s throw away from the mainland of Abu Dhabi.

Mondrian Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi’s luxury hotel scene is getting a sprinkling of design-led excellence, as Mondrian Hotels is set to open a stunning property in the capital. The Mondrian Abu Dhabi, officially announced I n March, will open on the canal front in Downtown Abu Dhabi. Mondrian Hotels are known for their dazzling design and local-first approach, which is exactly what you can expect from this jaw-dropping waterfront property. Although we’ll have to wait until next year to check-in to Mondrian Abu Dhabi, it’s set to be worth the wait, with a visually breathtaking collection of rooms and suites, and mouthwatering selection of restaurants. According to reports, it’ll open in 2024.

Liwa Hotel, Autograph Collection, Abu Dhabi

Found within the fertile hem of Liwa’s majestic oasis, the Liwa hotel exudes secluded luxury. Autograph Collection Hotels are of course classy like that, with structural nods to the future as well as the region’s past. When it opens in 2024 (fingers crossed), this desert gem will include 66 rooms and suites (with some huge three-bedroom villas on the way too), there’ll also be three dining venues, a spa, fitness centre, swimming pool and a kids club.

Nobu Hotel and Beach Club

The iconic Nobu brand is coming to Abu Dhabi. But residents of the UAE capital can look forward to a little more than fine Japanese fare. As alongside a Nobu restaurant, a beach club, luxurious hotel and chic branded residences will all open in Abu Dhabi in 2026. The Nobu Hospitality concepts will open in collaboration with Aldar properties on the scenic Mamsha beach on Saadiyat island, forming part of the cultural and culinary hub of Saadiyat Grove. Inside the breathtaking beachfront hotel, guests will be able to check-in to one of 165 upscale and modern guest rooms and suites, with a VIP experience awaiting guests staying in the rooftop Nobu Villa. In the hotel, guests will be able to dine on chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s acclaimed Japanese dishes at Abu Dhabi’s first Nobu restaurant, plus three more restaurants and bars, and get pampered at a next-level wellness centre and an array of swimming pools. Guests will also be able to enjoy a luxurious daytime clubbing experience at Abu Dhabi’s Nobu Beach Club. It will become the UAE’s second Nobu beach club after Nobu by the Beach.

Jubail Island Project

Nestled between Yas and Saadiyat, Jubail Island is already one of Abu Dhabi’s most idyllic islands, thanks to its lush, stretching mangroves. And now, Lead Development, is taking the *ahem* lead on shaping the future of Jubail, as part of the island’s Dhs10 billion redevelopment project. Their aim is to plant low-impact, luxurious yet sustainable living into the stunning natural beauty that surrounds the development so that the two worlds can live, and thrive, in harmony. Lead’s latest announcement for the future of Jubail, is The Souk. Once finished it will provide low-rise, low-density, luxurious residential properties and serve as a futuristic eco-friendly community hub for the six upcoming villages of the island complete with a dazzling collection of attractions. Visitors will be able to explore parks, swimming pools, sports facilities, play areas and restaurants; it will operate a mosque, include a nursery, a specialised clinic, a gym, supermarket; you’ll be able to meander through chic boutiques, compare menus at food and beverage pavilions, and set up shop in the designated commercial office space. The six villages of the Jubail project are: Souk Al Jubail will obviously house The Souk. There’s Marfaa Al Jubail — AKA The Marina, a waterfront strip with berths for bobbing yachts. Seef Al Jubail or ‘The Club’ filled with spas, wellness centres, beach clubs and luxury hotels. You’ll find schools and educational institutions in Nad Al Dhabi. And we know the other two communities are called Ain Al Maha and Bed’a Al Jubail, but we’ll have to wait to discover what treasures they hold.

LXR Hotels & Resorts

It’s not just Bond villains that enjoy an island lair, it’s a proven pick for sun chasing holiday makers too, which goes some distance to explain why LXR, the luxury indie arm of Hilton Hotels – has set its sights on Abu Dhabi’s Al Nawras Island with an ambition to transform the island into a one-stop leisuretropolis complete with its own golf course. Expected to pop at some point in 2023, this Al Nawras Island resort has been designed to draw inspiration from the destination, with 80 expansive villas set between the beach and the water’s edge. Other features include three swimming pools, tennis and padel courts, a spa, two signature restaurants, two bars, a beach club, a kids’ club and aquatic centre complete with splash pad.

Etihad Rail

For those with a heart that beats to the call of wanderlust, there’s something particularly romantic about the idea of rail travel, especially when it passes through the sort of big geography you find in the UAE. That feeling of crossing frontiers, powering towards the horizon with otherworldly plains flooding past the window. And it could be something we get to experience here sooner than you think, following a new update issued by the UAE Rail Programme. Yes, according to the latest projections, the UAE’s very own ‘Sanpiercer’ (not the official name) passenger service will link 11 cities across the seven emirates by the year 2030. From the beautiful renders above supplied by Etihad Rail, we can see that the sleek cone-nosed train cuts a very similar image to those of the other high speed networks across the world. It looks like there will be at least two classes of cabin to choo-choose from, spacious bathrooms, comfortable seats, and a kitchen area. There is literally no information in support of whether there are private suites aboard, but we dare to dream.

Saadiyat Grove

We now know that Saadiyat Grove will play a large part in the look and layout of Saadiyat Island island, a blended leisure, commercial and residential project that looks to be linking (or close enough) the individual culture mega projects and the beachfront entertainment district of Mamsha Al Saadiyat. The important numbers we have so far are that the launch date is set for some time in 2023. There’ll be a ‘Town Square’, more than 70 retail stores, a gym, cinema, offices, and 50,000 sqm of dining space. Aldar’s website describes some of the aesthetic experiences you can expect, saying “interactive artworks and digital murals surround you”. Louvre Abu Dhabi residences will also be part of the project. Once complete, there’ll be a residential complex of 400 apartments, with an iconic address, stunning ocean views and next-door-neighbour-status to one of the world’s most impressive collections of art and historical artefacts.

Natural History Museum

One of the biggest bits of cultural news so far this year, is the DCT’s confirmation that Abu Dhabi is getting a Natural History Museum. This will be the fourth museum of the Saadiyat Cultural District (after Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum, and the Guggenheim), and is due to open its doors on Saadiyat Island in 2025. In addition to engaging exhibits curated to illuminate the universe’s 13.8 billion years of origin story, the site will also include a scientific research centre ‘that will undertake studies in zoology, palaeontology, marine biology, molecular research and earth sciences’. The project was announced by Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed, and promises to ‘help find solutions for the future of our planet.’ We also have context confirmation on two of the flagship objets d’awe — Stan, a 67 million year old tyrannosaurus rex skeleton; and the seven billion year-old Murchison Meteorite (both of these specimens will be available to see at a special Manarat Al Saadiyat preview exhibition between April 6 and May 12 this year).

Mina Zayed redevelopment

Mina Zayed, named after the UAE’s founding father, is a 40-year-old port-side community that was instrumental in Abu Dhabi’s meteoric growth as a trading hub. The three million square metre glow-up project aims to create a blended housing, tourism and entertainment destination, in addition to building on the reputation of the area as a colourful commerce hub. When the project is completed, visitors will be able to enjoy enhanced shopping experiences, such as a brand new fish market, seasonal market and redeveloped plant souq. The redevelopment includes the involvement of both Modon Properties and Aldar Properties, which means the concept and execution of the new set-up is in the very best hands.

Traditional Souk

Abu Dhabi-based developers Al Qudra have unveiled plans to transform a 245,000 sqm stretch of Abu Dhabi’s W64 Zone overlooking the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, next door to the upcoming Al Qana project on the Khor Al Maqtaa, into a sophisticated blanched-wall leisure and entertainment complex. And looking at these Traditional Souk renders, the scale and quality of concept are giving us legitimate cause for awe. From the patchwork-shaded alleyways of the UAE heritage-style marketplace to the leafy open courtyards, waterfront hotel and vibrant new restaurant district — it’s a project that’s somehow both in synergy with the neighbourhood it joins, and yet something truly different.

Louvre Abu Dhabi Residences

Louvre Abu Dhabi represents the cultural epicentre of the emirate, but after a truly astounding piece of news announced by local master developers, Aldar — it might soon represent the epicentre of your living room too. Once complete, the Louvre Abu Dhabi Residences by Aldar will be a residential complex of 400 apartments, with an iconic address, stunning ocean views and next-door-neighbour-status to one of the world’s most impressive collections of art and historical artefacts. Included within the structure will be Le Salon Détente — a lounge for residents that will feature art curated in consultation with the experts at Louvre Abu Dhabi; a 12-seater Cinema Privé for private theatre experience; a wellness centre – Spa Bien-être which will of course feature a gym, sauna rooms, spaces for yoga and meditation; and there will also be an indoor kids’ playroom,  called, appropriately, the Creativité Room. It’s all part of Saadiyat Grove, a 242,000 square metre, Dhs10 billion development which will also include retail and entertainment attractions, other residential properties, two news hotels and co-working spaces.

Zayed National Museum

Once completed, the Zayed National Museum will stand as an architectural marvel, a fitting home for the inspiring story of our great nation and its visionary founder, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918–2004). Located on Saadiyat Island, the seat of so much cultural import, the breathtaking structure designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Lord Norman Foster, of Foster + Partners. The Zayed National Museum was conceived to exist as a blended-use space, a public and civic building — a hub for discussion and learning, celebrating the rich and tapestried heritage story of the UAE, and its connection to the wider world. Expect engaging exhibits tracing the UAE’s journey to becoming a nation of influence, from ecosystems forged over millions of years to the region’s first human settlers arriving around 200,000 years ago, and then on to the modern era — where trade, development and prosperity have paved the way to a uniquely bright future.

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

On track for completion in 2025, the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum will add a jagged smear of swoon to the Saadiyat Cultural District skyline. True to the spirit of Guggenheim (and conceived in collaboration with Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation), the plans for the building — cut a contemporary, unconventional, but singularly beautiful design. As outside, so within. Inside you’ll find 28 galleries across a 11,600 sqm expanse, there’s also an additional 23,000 sqm of exhibition spaces contained within the distinctive cones and terraces attached to the building. Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will exhibit a collection of modern and contemporary art with a special focus on pieces from the West Asia, North Africa, and South Asia (WANASA) region. The museum has been tasked with providing a platform for artists from the WANASA area, commissioning works from artists at the spear’s tip of creative innovation, and illuminating how “the interconnected histories and cultures” have helped shape our world. Speaking about the project, H.E. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi said: “The museum will also play a civic role through its mission to spark wider interest in global modern and contemporary art, fostering diversity and inclusion in a meaningful cultural exchange. As we move forward with our plans, it is crucial to recognise the impact of this museum in realising our vision for the Emirate’s culture and creative industries.”

Images: Provided/Instagram/What’s On Archive