Known as the bridge that leads to nothing, the hanging bridge near Al Bateen beach, Abu Dhabi, will now finally reach to the first phase of Al Hudayriat Island, with the development’s entertainment area launching today.
The project, which has been years in the making since it was first announced in 2009, was partly launched and officially inaugurated by Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Sunday afternoon. Among the attractions are an undisturbed, 600-metre beach, running and cycling tracks, water sports, a bouncy castle and a children’s playground.
It is part of a new city development that will include housing for Emiratis and commercial attractions, advancing Abu Dhabi with cutting-edge ideas that will be put into action over the next 20 years. The ongoing cost of the works has not yet been announced, but an official hinted there are a lot of “mega projects” still to come.
As Sheikh Nahyan cut the ribbon, dozens of helium balloons and pigeons were released, flying towards the new beach.
“This project strengthens the status of Abu Dhabi, which is able to provide a package of attractions that serve the needs of visitors and residents,” said Falah Al Ahbabi, director of Abu Dhabi Municipality’s Urban Planning Council.
“The beach has been inaugurated during the Year of Zayed to encourage one of the [Founding Father’s] main values: sustainability,” he said. The UPC previously announced they will be looking for innovative ideas to make the island sustainable and a haven for ecotourism and marine wildlife.
A timeline for the future and completion of the island has not been announced yet. Yet the Abu Dhabi Sports Council have already laid out grand plans for athletes across the massive island – there are two loops of running and cycling tracks, one of 5 kilometres and another of 10km.
Set to Olympics-size standards, the island is also designed to host a world series of triatholons – “it’s a beautiful hub for that,” said an official from the council, who preferred not to be named.
”It has the largest space on the planet, that we know of, that is dedicated just to sports.”
While the beach appeared to be up and running with lifeguards in position and passers-by already enjoying a walk flanked by beautiful nature, it will only be open for swimming once the safety line is in place after Ramadan.
Other athletic attractions include five football fields, four basketball courts, four volleyball and four beach football courts.
Eissa Al Mazrouei, executive director of infrastructure at Abu Dhabi Municipality, said that the facilities will be free of charge, except for food and bike rentals.
This first phase makes up only one third of the island’s 3,000 acres, which Mr Al Mazrouei described as “a gift for the people who visit Abu Dhabi to have such a place to enjoy their time”.
“There will be food trucks on the beach to serve all the people who come here,” he said.
With a large number of island users expected, there will also be a camping area, zip line, kayaks, kite-surfing, land sailing, remote control stations to direct airplanes, and a mountain-bike course, said a sports council official.
Some eager Abu Dhabi residents had already found their way to the island, ahead of its inauguration: cyclist Ted Salvador and his two friends were out using the tracks on Sunday.
“We go cycling once a week at the Corniche, but today we decided to come here,” said the 40-year-old chef from the Philippines. “We started our ride from the Corniche and cycled up to here. It took less than an hour.”
Priyanka Yadav and her daughter, Sophia, 7, were also strolling along the beach, exploring the island on Sunday.
“We were not aware that today was the inauguration,” said the 34-year-old accountant from India. “This is my first time here. I heard from a friend that there is a nice and beautiful beach so I thought ‘I have to visit’.”
Ms Yadav has been living in Abu Dhabi for ten years, and said that Hudayriat Island is the most peaceful and relaxing place she has been to.
“I also brought my mother sitting over there, she is visiting from India, I will bring her regularly throughout her visit.”
Originally published on The National on 27/05/2018