When we visited Abu Dhabi a couple of weeks ago, we had the incredible opportunity to stay at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, and it was one of the most unique cultural experiences we have ever had. Before we planned our trip, we were unaware that part of our time in the Middle East would overlap with the month long Muslim holiday of Ramadan. When we heard we wouldn’t be able to eat or drink in public during the daylight hours, we were honestly a little nervous. Mostly because I can barely make it a few hours without needing a snack, haha. However, it turned into one of our favorite experiences and something we would highly recommend to everyone.
Since one of our favorite parts about traveling is getting completely immersed in different cultures, traveling to the Middle East during Ramadan gave us exactly that experience. Ramadan is a Muslim holiday where practicing individuals fast from the hours between sunrise and sunset every day for a month. They don’t eat food or drink water during that time period. They also make an extra effort to be more conservative than during other months of the year. For example, there should be no public displays of affection and even tourists are expected to cover their arms and ankles in public. Ryan and I did feel a little awkward standing so far apart from each other while we were taking pictures, but it was honestly incredibly moving to witness these faithful individuals dedicate themselves to their beliefs and make a concentrated effort to spiritually cleanse themselves and start fresh. One of our guides told us that it is a time to make new goals and start over, which reminded me of the way we celebrate the New Year.
Staying at The Ritz Carlton definitely added to our Ramadan experience. It was completely decorated for Ramadan, which really made us feel like we were getting the full experience. And our favorite part about our stay at The Ritz Carlton during this holiday was that we were able to participate in a traditional Iftar meal, which is when Muslims come together to break their fast after sunset. At the end of each night during Ramadan, those who are participating in fasting break their fast with different flavored dates from around the world and then have a feast together with their family. We loved being able to be a part of such a traditional and cultural meal.
The meal at The Ritz Carlton was out of this world. They had a large buffet with traditional Arabic, Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, and American food, and it was all so delicious. One of the most unique (and delicious) things we tried was camel’s milk chocolate ice cream. I honestly need to find it in the States, because it was so smooth and light and chocolatey and delicious.
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal is very ornate and well-designed. There are stunning chandeliers everywhere, and because the hotel sits on the Grand Canal, it is decorated with beautiful old photographs of the canals in Venice, Italy. The 5-star hotel has 447 rooms and 85 villas, some of which people even live in. We’re not sure how they got that set up, but we’re kind of jealous. There is also a spa and a wellness center with a full 24-hour gym, which we absolutely loved taking advantage of. Despite the grandeur of the hotel, the staff really made us feel at home there. We definitely did not want to leave.
The Ritz Carlton went above and beyond to make us feel welcome and help us create lasting memories of our time there. For example, the pastry chef created a unique chocolate mosque and had it delivered to our room. I don’t have a picture of it, because we ate it too fast, but it was absolutely adorable, and filled with chocolate dates and the most delicious macarons, so basically, it was my idea of heaven. They also brought us a fruit basket to our room with bananas and apples and oranges and all sorts of delicious fruits that were perfect to snack on throughout the day. The hotel took good care of us, making sure we were aware of all the restaurants that were open for us to eat at during the day since we weren’t fasting.
Since June is a seriously hot month in Abu Dhabi, we spent a lot of time by the pool and swimming off the private beach front. The pool was fabulous and big enough that it felt like there was room for everyone to swim and relax. It even had nice shelves where you could sit in the water to stay cool while still enjoying the sun.
We stayed in a club suite, which meant our room felt like home. There was a full living room area with a table and couch and television, the bed was so comfortable it was hard for us to ever want to leave it, and the bathroom had a free standing tub that was basically as if all of my dreams had come true. I’m not sure when I became so obsessed with bathtubs, but for some reason nothing seems more relaxing to me. They also left milk and dark chocolate squares on our pillows each night at turn down service, and if chocolate isn’t the way to my heart, I’m not sure what is.
Because we stayed in a club suite, we had access to the Club Lounge. The Club Lounge has snacks available all day long in addition to light meals. I’m a little bit obsessed with hummus, and hummus from the Middle East is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before. It is seriously my favorite, and I loved being able to snack on hummus and pita there every night. In the Club Lounge, there is also an incredible view of the pool and beach front and plenty of comfortable couches to sit on and relax or get some work done.
The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi is literally in the perfect location. It is right across the street from Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and has an absolutely stunning view of the mosque. The hotel also provides a complimentary shuttle to the mosque everyday, except Friday when the mosque is closed to visitors.
I probably could’ve dedicated an entire blog post to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Ever since I saw the mosque for the first time on Instagram, I’ve been dying to make it there and see it for myself in person. Luckily, it lived up to all of my expectations and more! I could not stop staring at every little detail. It was honestly the most incredible building I have ever been in. As I was walking around snapping pictures left and right with a giant smile on my face, Ryan told me he’d never seen me so obsessed with one place and he was totally right. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so in awe of one building. But the unique designs and bright white stone with detailed flowers all over had me swooning.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is seriously beautiful. It reminded me a lot of the Taj Mahal in India, and (fun fact) it was actually built using the same marble! It was designed taking materials and designs from different countries around the world as a symbol of uniting the world. There is so much culture and attention to detail in the building that I could’ve stayed there staring at it for hours. We probably would have if it hadn’t been so hot. The stone that was used to build the Mosque actually reflects the sunlight, so the white stone never gets hot. The carpet inside of the building was handwoven and is over 60,000 square feet making it the largest carpet in the world. The chandeliers are made with Swarovski crystals that are cleaned regularly so the shine is brilliant all the time. The largest chandelier inside the mosque is the third largest in the world! Seriously the building is incredible. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to put into words how much I loved being able to see that building with my own eyes.
Tip: Make sure to check the tour schedule before you go and go on a tour, so you are able to see the whole thing without being restricted to roped off areas or having to fight giant crowds.
During our time in Abu Dhabi, we also did a camel trekking sunset safari through the desert. Our tour took us to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, but you could also go to a desert area closer to Abu Dhabi. We recommend visiting the Dubai Conservation Reserve from Dubai, as visiting it from Abu Dhabi adds another couple of hours to your journey. Despite it being incredibly hot, it was beautiful to see the sand dunes and explore this part of nature. Riding a camel is definitely not the most comfortable experience in the world, but it was fun to be able to get a feel for what it would be like to be stuck in the desert. Spoiler alert: I probably wouldn’t survive for more than an hour.
Abu Dhabi is a magical and underrated city. It’s only an hour away from Dubai, so if you’re traveling there, make sure to at least spend one day in Abu Dhabi. We rented a car from the Dubai airport and drove to Abu Dhabi, and we loved having the freedom to drive around the city.
If Abu Dhabi isn’t on your list of places to visit yet, be sure to add it now. We promise you will not regret it.
Thanks again Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi for hosting our stay and helping us create unforgettable RC Memories!
book your stay at The ritz carlton abu dhabi here