Abu Dhabi sounds like “abacadabra” to me and the city itself, appropriately, features a lot of acadabra architecture, the most striking and jarring of which is the leaning tower of Arabia. Called “world’s most leaning building”, the Capital Gate leans more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Not just “more”, actually, but FOUR TIMES more. Unlike Pisa, it is designed to lean, with staggered floor plates beginning at the twelfth floor of this thirty five story building. It is not a straight lean, but a curving lean more like a cyclone or a funnel cloud, designed to resemble a swirling spiral of sand. The “splash” or curved canopy on the exterior is designed to evoke waves, indicating Abu Dhabi’s connection with the water (Abu Dhabi is actually an assortment of islands connected to one another and to the mainland by a series of bridges).
I have written before that Dubai is the City of Superlatives – the biggest, the fastest, the best – and its brother city Abu Dhabi follows suit. In addition to the most leaning building (which leans FOUR TIMES more than Pisa, do not forget), there is the world’s widest (horizontally speaking) hotel, Emirates Palace. Which in truth does not look that long when you arrive. The building spreads out below grade along the waterfront (which, by the way, you cannot visit if you are not staying in the hotel and hence we have no pictures from the beachfront). It is easy to get in and out to see The Emirates Palace (although if you self park, there is somewhat of a walk and stairs involved) so definitely stop in for lunch or a drink while you are in Abu Dhabi.
Then to round off our day in Abu Dhabi, a look at the world’s LARGEST (of course!) coin shaped building. The shape is achieved through a grid system known as a structural “diagrid”. The building is round head on, but not a sphere (hence “coin shaped”). The architects (MZ Architects) explain that the building is a “clam shell”. A common building description here will often relate to sand or sea for obvious reasons…
And finally, a look at the Norman Foster designed U.A.E. Pavilion which (forgive me) looks like a large cardboard brassiere. When created for the Shanghai expo, the building had a shiny gold covering – perhaps now it just needs a good cleaning. (The shape is not designed to resemble a brassiere, of course, but instead rolling sand dunes.) Google tells me the building is “permanently closed” but it purportedly does open on occasion for travelling exhibitions. It sits next door to the Manarat Al Saadiyat (‘place of enlightenment’) building which currently hosts only popular movies, but in the future will host a permanent exhibit about Abu Dhabi’s coming cultural district, which will include a Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim.