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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 17 January 2021

Abu Dhabi’s dazzling new Al Qana entertainment complex to open after Ramadan

Families will soon be able to visit the Middle East’s largest aquarium and a variety of entertainment and sports attractions

Abu Dhabi's new waterfront entertainment complex – which has an enormous aquarium, an e-sports academy and adventure activities – is on schedule to open after Ramadan, its developer said.

The canal-side development, which stretches 2.6 kilometres through the heart of the Rabdan area overlooking Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, promises visitors a wealth of experiences.

“You can go to the aquarium, watch a movie at the cinema, train at the gym, register for a course at the virtual reality and e-sports academy or dine at a waterside eatery," Fouad Mashal, chief executive of developers Al Barakah International Investment, told The National on a site tour this week.

“There are a lot of things to do."

As of this week, the final phase of construction is under way, with about 90 per cent of the site complete.

Mr Mashal said Al Qana should be ready to receive visitors after Ramadan, about mid-May, before the UAE's hottest months arrive.

Among the main attractions is an e-sports and gaming centre called Pixel.

Visitors can either walk in to play a wide range of games or they can register for courses.

Next door is the Adrenaline adventure hub – which has been designed for parents and children to play without screens or devices.

“In contrast to Pixel, the adrenaline hub offers activities that are purely physical," Mr Mashal said. “This is to encourage physical activity; people must keep walking to see what lies ahead."

The buildings along Al Qana’s promenade are in a zigzag pattern, so visitors must keep walking and exploring to see what lies ahead.

The bridges from one side of the canal to the other are positioned on the top floor of each building.

"Visitors have to go up to the second floor of a building to cross; this is to give them a chance to see what is on the top floors and also to encourage them to move more," Mr Mashal said.

There will soon be a free canal-side running track.

“If you cross the bridge and run on the other side, that is 2.4km, and if you run back it will be a total of 4.8km," he said. “It is a very large project."

Physical activity at Al Qana does not end there. One building has a stand-alone gym with its own healthy-eating restaurant.

The development has its own marina with 100 berths. Overlooking the marina will be a series of restaurants and cafes, including a VIP dining area, which will include high-end restaurants and lounges.

National Aquarium of Abu Dhabi

Al Qana’s centrepiece will be the National Aquarium of Abu Dhabi, which will be home to more than 300 species and 45,000 creatures.

Although the most exotic inhabitants have yet to be unveiled, officials said the aquarium will include sand-tiger and hammerhead sharks.

The centre is split into 10 themes, starting with a national treasures lagoon that features native species and exciting discoveries. The chamber’s walls also feature an immersive digital experience.

Sea turtle rehab centre

The aquarium, working with Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, will provide a rehabilitation centre for all sea animals rescued in the emirate.

“We are the ‘go team’ when it comes to any kind of marine life emergencies. They will contact us in order to assist them and come up with a rescue plan and execute rehabilitation,” said Paul Hamilton, general manager of the aquarium.

“Recently, we have done things as big as rescue whale sharks and transport them 20km back into the sea, and things as small as rescuing a 10 centimetre sea turtle – it doesn’t matter if it is a big or small animal."

Visitors can see rescued creatures in their final stages of rehabilitation, before they are released back in the sea.

A sea turtle with a missing limb was swimming in the national treasures lagoon when The National visited on Wednesday.

“That is how that turtle arrived – with a missing limb, and it was in cold shock and had fluid in its lungs," Mr Hamilton said.

The creature has been healing and under observation at the aquarium for several months. It is hoped it will be released back into the wild by May.

There are currently about 60 turtles going through rehab and the centre receives up to 10 rescued turtles a day.

“Almost on a daily basis in winter we get a phone call that there is a tiny turtle on the beach somewhere, so we respond to that and bring them home here," Mr Hamilton said.

Updated: January 14, 2021 01:29 PM

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