At Abu Dhabi Hotel, a Racetrack Runs Through It
The Yas Viceroy is surrounded by the buzz of F-1 cars.
YAS ISLAND, Abu Dhabi Sept. 24, 2013— -- Bathrobe? Check. Slippers? Check. Twenty-four hour room service? Check.
The roar of 800-horsepower engines whizzing by as you sit in your tub?
Leave it to Abu Dhabi, the more opulent but less in-your-face sister of neighboring Dubai, to come up with a racing experience unlike any other. When designers of its F1 racetrack sought to build a marquee resort to host throngs of racing fans, they did something that had never been done.
They built the resort on top of the racetrack.
"It's exhilarating," said Julie Audette, manager of public relations at the Yas Viceroy. "We're at the epicenter. We're the only hotel in the world built on a racetrack."
On the inside, the hotel is a blend of vibes, marrying the sleek, ultra-chic pastel whites so common in new Gulf resorts with the smooth curves and rounded corners you'd find on a racetrack. And with computer consoles built into its curved walls, it can almost feel Star Trekkian – like walking through the halls of the Starship Enterprise. The end result is a property that feels tied to a speed theme, but with enough modern luxury to avoid feeling gimmicky.
Several of the rooms have views directly over the racetrack, and on race weekend, the roar of F1 engines reverberates throughout the property. It's the only place in the world you can watch the beginning of a race in your pajamas, have breakfast, and make it down to track level before the race reaches its halfway mark. This year, Jay-Z and Depeche Mode have already been confirmed for post-race concerts in October. In previous years, Beyonce and Eminem performed.
But it's not just the racetrack that draws tourists here.
Down the road, barely a mile away, sits another high-adrenaline experience. Only here, you can actually drive.
Ferrari World officially opened in 2010. At roughly 200,000 square meters, it's said to be the biggest indoor theme park in the world. One of its biggest attractions, Formula Rossa, is the fastest roller coaster in the world, taking riders from 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in less than two seconds. The end result is a 4.8 G-Force rating, or more than an astronaut feels during a space shuttle's takeoff.
"It's buzzing," Jason Mawdsley, a street performer, says of the energy inside the cavernous structure, built in the shape of a massive Ferrari logo.
Despite the high adrenaline nature of the park, Mawdsley says he has no problems drawing crowds to his magic show. It's a welcome break from the frenetic pace of the park.
"There's a really beautiful energy that just permeates the place," he says.
That same racing vibe can be felt at the island's other big attraction, Yas Waterworld. Opened in January, the water park is spread over 2,900 square feet (or 15 hectares), with expansion plans already in the works. It boasts 43 rides, including the Liwa Loop, the world's first looping waterslide, and Dawwama, the first hydro-magnetic tornado slide in the world.
All of this is part of a concerted effort by the Abu Dhabi government to turn Yas Island into a magnet for leisure travelers. On weekends, even during the scorching summer season where temperatures routinely hit above 100-degrees Fahrenheit, it's common to find Arab families visiting from all over the Gulf.
"If you look at the D-N-A of Yas Island," Audette says, "there's nowhere else in the world like it."