I normally prefer flights with stopovers over direct flights because for one, they’re usually cheaper (I assume the extended travel time is deemed inconvenient.) However, stopovers also give you the opportunity to explore another destination that wasn’t really your main goal, and it opens your eyes to wonderful serendipitous experiences. Sometimes, if your stopover is long enough you can even receive benefits like visa-free entry (where you normally would need a visa), or possibly a free hotel or tour (depending on the airline.) Other times, as in the case of Etihad Airways, a Middle Eastern airline based in Abu Dhabi that’s consistently rated one of the best in the world, it’s possible to even score a luxury, 5-star hotel stay completely for FREE for your long stopover if you fly Business Class (or higher) with them.
(More photos below)
Although Etihad only offers regular rooms which cannot be upgraded to a bigger suite to accommodate over 3 guests in one room, as in our experience in January 2018, there is breakfast for all nonetheless. But the best part is having the option to select which of the 8 available luxury hotels listed on their website you’d like to stay with. (For first class flyers, it seems the default option is the Emirates Palace – operated by Kempinski Hotels – the best and most expensive one being offered.) The 8 hotel options for Business Class passengers on the Etihad website are as follows:
Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel and Spa
Intercontinental Abu Dhabi
Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
Rosewood Abu Dhabi
Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri
The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal
The St. Regis Abu Dhabi
Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi
As you can tell by the hotel chains, Etihad spared no expense and selected only the best hotel chains in Abu Dhabi to partner with them which only makes selecting one much more difficult. Which among Anantara, Intercontinental, Shangri-La, The Ritz Carlton or St. Regis should one choose?? (What a delightfully first world problem to have!) Luckily, I took my research seriously and came to the conclusion that the best option is hands down, Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri, and I have all the reasons and photo proofs to back up my claim:
7. Their room rates start at approximately USD 300 (including taxes), the most expensive one out of the 8 options above, tied with The St. Regis.
There are reasons their rooms are priced higher than their competitors, and I have stated those reasons below. Besides, who wouldn’t want to stay at a more expensive property?
6. Shangri-la is one of the nearest, if not the nearest out of the options above, from Abu Dhabi Airport being only a 15-minute taxi ride away.
Which is particularly helpful if you have an early morning flight like we did.
5. The hotel is part of a larger complex that includes another hotel (Traders) and some serviced apartments, and navigation thereof is made possible by taking abra boats through their internal waterways.
Who knew you could have a Venice experience in the middle of Abu Dhabi?
4. Shangri-la Hotel Abu Dhabi is connected to a souk (a traditional Arabian marketplace.)
It’s common for hotels to be connected to shopping malls, but how often is an Arabian souk accessible immediately from your hotel? Not very often. While The Souk at Qaryat Al Beri is far from a traditional souk compared to the outdoor ones in Dubai or the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, since it is indoors and fancy and all, it still gives you an authentic Arabian shopping experience.
3. Their rooms have traditional Arabian architecture and influences designed into them.
Staying in their rooms makes you feel like you really are in the exotic Middle East.
2. The hotel is not a regular hotel; it’s a cool hotel with a private beach and infinity pool.
It’s not a typical hotel that’s built from the ground up to 30 stories high. Shangri-la Abu Dhabi is built from a center expanding outward and thus has a resort feel to it. Similarly, so do Anantara and The Ritz Carlton (you can do a quick Google image search for them.) That being said, they would have been my second and third choices. But the unbeatable reason that sets them apart is…
1. The property is the only one with a -panoramic- view of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the grandiose place of worship / tourist attraction that is the paragon of Abu Dhabi City, being located directly across of it with only the canal separating them.
Some rooms, like one of ours, had a view of the mosque directly from the balcony so be sure to request for it at check in! (It is worth noting that The Ritz Carlton also has rooms with close-up views of the mosque, being located almost beside it.) Otherwise, enjoy the view from the beach or from the Pearls Bar on their rooftop.
Finally, I could not have described the experience of entering and being at Shangri-la Abu Dhabi better than what they had written on their pamphlet below. So even if you don’t fly Business Class or higher with Etihad Airways, perhaps you can still consider staying at the Shangri-la the next time you are in Abu Dhabi.
“Magnificent views enthrall as you enter. The grand golden-white main building reflects in the swimming pool by the entrance. Your senses are bewitched by the hotel’s impressive architecture, with its fine Arabic décor, full of warm tones and organic textures.
As you make your way around the large hotel complex, the fascination heightens. The hotel is connected by a winding waterway featuring traditional Arabic boats, known as abras. You like back, utterly relaxed, while the abra slowly meanders throughout the verdant garden sanctuary.”
(This is NOT a sponsored review.)
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