Watch this Space: Zaya Nurai Island, Abu Dhabi
GPS 24° 36.880′, 54° 28.567′
Zaya Nurai Island, Abu Dhabi
Before visiting this über exclusive island we were told that it has been dubbed “The Maldives of Abu Dhabi”…but why categorize it as such? A unique getaway, in our opinion should work on developing its own identity, rather than comparing itself to other great travel destinations. Nevertheless, we were invited to experience Zaya Nurai Island, Abudhabi and discovered what the UAE had to offer.
Our Journey To The Island
Our journey took just over an hour from Downtown Dubai. Not wanting to make the long drive, we were extremely grateful for Careem, who sent a driver to bring us to the Welcome Center on Saadiyat Island. Fleets of speedboats that leave the mainland every half an hour provide direct access to Zaya Nurai. If visiting the island this month, be sure to arrive early to avoid a long wait period due to heavy brunch traffic. (We hope in the coming months they develop a booking system for speedboat transfers to avoid long waits for guests with reservations.)
Zaya Nurai can book Careem services for you directly upon placing a reservation.
Resort Concept and Inspiration
The name Zaya Nurai was derived from the Arabic word Noor, meaning light. We saw this concept displayed throughout the island, as the spacious designs allowed light to pervade every aspect of the guest areas and villas.
Zaya Nurai prides itself on “doing things differently,” as the staff (consisting of over 30 different nationalities) told me. It was apparent from speaking with the team as we toured the island via a buggy (no cars allowed!) that this is a concept the island truly encompasses.
Beach Retreat Villa (32 Rooms)
We were invited to stay in a Beach Retreat, a spacious designed villa with our own private infinity pool (temperature controlled 30 degrees) looking out onto a (semi) private white sand beach.
The 110 square meter space, we were told, was designed to blend into the landscape and reflect the surrounding beauty and tranquility of the environment. The interiors, designed by Etcetera Living, in cool grays and blues, did just that and matched perfectly with the color of the turquoise mangroves.
Fitted out with all of the latest technology, such as Bose surround sound entertainment systems (we danced around the room for hours) and luxury amenities by Aqua di Parma, the one thing the room did not have was a clock, allowing for a complete loss of time and relaxation.
Zaya Nurai hosts a unique culinary concept that we were truly impressed with. Head Chef Avinash informed us that cuisine at Zaya Nurai is all organic and healthy, using local products whenever possible. Imagine quail eggs from Sharjah, fresh produce from Abu Dhabi’s Ripe Market, fish caught straight from the sea and herbs grown on site.
For Breakfast, we dined at the Terrace, a French-style restaurant overlooking the Gulf, where we tasted the Spicy Shakshouka, Granola Encrusted Chocolate Brioche French Toast and Buttermilk Pancakes.
We were treated to a 7 course dinner at Olive, the island’s Mediterranean inspired fine dining space which included (our personal favourites) toasted Capellinni Pasta with Mushroom Carpaccio, Wayfu Beef Sirloin with a Peringueux sauce, and a White Chocolate Parfait garnished with angel hair, chocolate clay, and fresh berries.
Our 24-hour butler service was also extremely helpful, available to meet our every need. In-room dining was delivered promptly to our Villa where we ate poolside. We tried the Jumbo Prawns, Burrata Salad, Smoked Salmon Sandwich and Gourmet Burger from the Beach Burger Bar.
We recommend eating inside or covering your food due to some pesky flies/ bees living in the flowers around the pool. Before ordering, note that selection may vary, as all food must be brought in from the mainland and the full menu is not yet available.
Spa and Recreation
As the spa has still not opened, we had the option to have a Zayan wellbeing massage in our room and it was truly incredible. Our masseuse explained that Zaya Nurai takes a holistic and contemporary approach to wellness, lying in the attempt to strike a balance between physical, mental and emotional health. The island also offers private beach yoga sessions with their health guru Sanjeev.
Mark, the friendly and ever helpful Head of Water Sports at the 5 star PADI Diving Centre was happy to arrange an in pool scuba diving demo and even dove into the Gulf to fish us some shells. He told us that on site water sports are non-motorized in order to maintain the island’s tranquility. Activities currently offered include snorkeling; ocean kayaking, paddle boarding and open water scuba diving. In the coming months Zaya Nurai hopes to offer kite surfing (my favorite!), chartered fishing trips and para-sailing as well.
Beachfront Estates and Water Villa Homes
In addition to the Beach Retreat Villas, Zaya Nurai also hosts 12 -four bedroom Water Villas that overlook the sea. Ideal for larger families, these generous spaces provide the ultimate in comfort. If you are looking for something even more spacious, 6 bedroom Beach Estate Villas are dotting the perimeter of the island; each with its own private beach and undisturbed views of the Arabian Gulf.
Note: We were told that each 20 million dirham plus home has been purchased, with owners now working to customize their interior design elements.
Created as a sanctuary for “discerning” individuals, Zaya Nurai Island is slowly but surely blooming into an exclusive community of Beachfront Estates, Water Villa homes and the luxurious Boutique Resort, which we previewed.
Still in its soft launch, TJD recommends watching this space in the coming months, as Zaya Nurai further perfects the concept of “barefoot luxury.” With employee tee shirts reading “Dream Builders,” we are confident & hopeful the resort is well on its way to doing just that.
Would we return? I think Zaya Nurai is somewhere you would like to enjoy at least once in your life.
Here is a photo diary of our 24 hours on the island.
You can learn more about Zaya Nurai Island (here)
Travel Junkie Diary