Timeframe: when Yas Island was but a bridge and four roads

Fifteen years ago, today's buzzing, family-friendly destination was a construction site

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Cast your mind back 15 years, to when the UAE, now brimming with vast man-made islands, towering skyscrapers and entirely new cities, was unrecognisable when compared with today.

An agreement had only just been signed between the UAE and France to develop a satellite Louvre museum. What was then known as the Burj Dubai was a mere 150 storeys. In December, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque would open to the public for the first time.

And, in May that year, Yas Island was still a desert area with but four roads and a bridge.

Construction began that month on the Yas Marina Circuit, which would go on to hold the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. By August, an outline of the now world-famous track had begun to appear, as tractors dug up sand for what was to become a marina.

It was another 30 months before it would open, but it has since become known as one of the UAE's biggest attractions, attracting tens of thousands of tourists every year for the racing event.

Its home, Yas Island, has also become a major draw for travellers and families. This month, renowned American comedian Kevin Hart became its first chief island officer, promising “big things are coming”.

But anyone who's lived in the UAE for any length of time already knew that, judging by the sheer amount of development over the past 15 years.

Ferrari World, now home to the fastest roller coaster in the world, opened in 2010, the year after the circuit. Yas Waterworld, the UAE's first mega water park, opened in 2013. Popular shopping centre Yas Mall opened in 2014.

More recently, there has been the opening of Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi in 2018 and its themed hotel — a world first — only last year.

The world's tallest indoor climbing wall opened at Clymb Abu Dhabi in 2019, while the still-growing Yas Bay is poised to become the country's next biggest waterfront destination.

And that's only scraping the surface on what's there now — from restaurants to hotels and the Yas Links golf course — not to mention what's yet to come.

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Updated: May 20, 2022, 6:01 PM