Saadiyat Island, United Arab Emirates

Photo: Rotana Hotel Management Corporation

You’ve been spending more and more time in the Persian Gulf. Business trips keep bringing you back to Dubai, Doha, and, more recently, Abu Dhabi. The cities are new, modern, and incredibly wealthy. They’re also fast-paced, and it feels like the excitement never stops. That leaves you exhausted. So, for this trip, you planned some downtime once your meetings are finished.

The Emirate of Abu Dhabi is the largest of the United Arab Emirates’ seven emirates. Its capital, also called Abu Dhabi, has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. Its skyline is constantly changing as taller and more luxurious buildings are designed. But not every project is based on the business world. One island was planned around culture, history, and, in a place where it’s sometimes forgotten, nature.

Saadiyat (Happiness) Island is the sheikhs’ effort to invest in the emirate’s future when its petroleum resources eventually dry up. The 27-square-mile island, which is estimated to be completed in 2020, lies northeast of Abu Dhabi. The Saadiyat Cultural District will be home to eight museums, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, and the Zayed National Museum. It’s home to Abu Dhabi Art (an annual art fair) and a campus of New York University. Nineteen kilometers of beach line the Arabian Gulf; it’s protected as the nesting spot for hawksbill sea turtles. Plus five-star hotels sit just behind the white sand.

Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas is one of those hotels. The modern Arabic building just opened at the beginning of the year. The sprawling property features gorgeous pools, bars with views, and swaying palm trees. The spa has a Turkish hammam. Si Ristorante Italiano is the first Italian restaurant on the island. A lazy river in Aladdin’s Cave keeps the little ones entertained. While the neutral tones in your terrace suite keep the focus where it belongs: the sparkling water outside. You’ve already forgotten that Abu Dhabi is less than 10 minutes away.

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