Immediately beyond downtown, on the far side of a narrow sea inlet, a cluster of dramatic skyscrapers announces the city’s new financial district, Al Maryah Island. Abu Dhabi’s biggest and most futuristic urban development, the island is still very much a work in progress but has already sprouted a modest crop of wacky skyscrapers whose outlandish outlines hint at the architectural madness yet to come.

Centrepiece of the development (and the only part more or less finished at present) is the dramatic Abu Dhabi Global Market Square (or Sowwah Square, as it was previously known, and is still often described), with four massive skyscrapers surrounding the distinctively anvil-shaped Abu Dhabi Global Market building. Beneath this, the very chic Galleria shopping mall (looking like some kind of postmodern armadillo) swoops down to water level, where an attractive new pedestrianized promenade, dotted with cafés and restaurants, stretches down along the water to the quirky Cleveland Clinic building, resembling a pile of haphazardly piled transparent Lego bricks.

Cosying up against the southeastern flank of Al Maryah, the larger Al Reem Island is also in the throes of massive transformation, with further skyscrapers mushrooming up on a seemingly daily basis. Even from a considerable distance you can’t fail to notice The Gate Towers at the centre of the island’s Shams Abu Dhabi development – a trio of colossal towers capped by a huge skybridge, like a very futuristic but slightly wonky wicket.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Dubai features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Burj Khalifa: is the world’s tallest building worth the hype?

Burj Khalifa: is the world’s tallest building worth the hype?

One of Dubai’s main attractions and currently the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa draws in hundreds of people daily to marvel at the views from i…

31 Jan 2017 • Lottie Gross insert_drive_file Article
Away from the skyscrapers: how to find the “other” Dubai

Away from the skyscrapers: how to find the “other” Dubai

It’s big, brash and lays claim to so many world records it might even have the world record for the number of world records. But beyond the superlatives, skys…

22 Nov 2016 • Lottie Gross insert_drive_file Article
12 of the most beautiful places in the Middle East

12 of the most beautiful places in the Middle East

The Middle East is a paradox. Located at the cultural crossroads between east and west, the region nowadays tends to make headlines for all the wrong reasons, b…

16 Nov 2016 • Gavin Thomas insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month