World's largest indoor theme park
From the sky, it looks like a red amoebic blob. Get closer and it metamorphoses into a red eagle, striking against the desert canvas. Get little closer and the prancing black horse comes into view, the world's largest Scuderai Ferrari emblem. The huge red blob splashed across the landscape is actually the roof of the new Ferrari Theme Park - due to open on November 4 - Ferrari's first and the world's largest indoor theme park in Abu Dhabi's Yas Island.
Perhaps 'largest' is an understatement - at 65x45 metres, the Ferrari logo is large enough to house seven basketball courts. The 2.15 million sq ft roof which replicates the classic double-curve body shell of a Ferrari GT car is about the length of seven Statues of Liberty if they were laid head to toe.
If you tried turning the Ferrari Theme Park upright, it would be the world's tallest manmade structure at 300 floors!
Even before I could take the elevator to step into 86,000 sq mts of indoor space, I got caught in the semantics of superlatives. Everything in this theme park seemed largest, tallest, biggest even fastest. Like the Formula Rossa roller coaster that soars 52 metres into the sky and touches a speed of 240 kmph in less than five seconds.
The world's fastest roller coaster flies through chicanes and is obviously not for the faint-hearted with its 20,800 hp.
And if this wasn't enough, there's the Ferrari F430 Spider for the Fiorano GT Challenge, a coaster laden with hairpin bends and twisted parallel tracks
Or, the G-Force that shoots one through the roof to the highest point in the island. And no, this is not boxy like an elevator; it is a crystal-glazed funnel that seems to hold the weight of the roof on its million metal nodes. I looked at the funnel and baulked. I was ready for a ride, but I was spoilt for choices. Should I try the state-of-the-art simulators? Journey into the heart of a 12-cylinder Ferrari 599 engine and rush on to the flume ride through giant pistons, inner chambers, maze of passageways and tight squeezes? Or see the making of a Ferrari in Made in Maranello factory tour?
I was ready to queue up for the V12 Ride, when the sound of the muscular Ferrari engine distracted me. Did someone rev up the red Ferrari that was perched precariously on a vertical track? I looked around. The muscular engines roared harder tearing through the chaos of the Paddock and the Pit Wall. The coasters were silent and the concept cars in the carousel were sitting languorously on their concrete tracks.
Bella Italia is a miniature Italy where historic landscapes, famous landmarks and racing venues have been recreated painstakingly. I hopped into a beige 1958 Ferrari 250 California car that rattled on the automated iron tracks for a leisurely drive through picturesque Portofino and Amalfi coast, the Monza racetrack flanked by rugged brown Alps and 40,000 hand-planted miniature trees. The buildings in Bella Italia are a 1:20 scale replica of the original.
Then it was time to keep my date with the dapper Enzo Ferrari at Cinema Maranello. I had heard stories of the mule-shoer in the Italian army, who loved to grind the gears and scatter the gravel in 'the race'; of the man who adopted the prancing horse emblem in 1923 and in 1947 started making cars bearing his name. Enzo rarely granted interviews, but everyday at the Ferrari Theme Park, his story unfolds in the film Coppa di Sicilia on a screen that is nearly double the size of an ordinary one.
It has taken nearly three years to build the Ferrari Theme Park. I am told it has taken 100,000 cubic metres of concrete and 12,370 tonnes of steel (the Eiffel Tower only needed 7,000 tonnes). At the end of it, superlatives seem superfluous, as everything here is larger than life. I had sore feet, wobbly knees and too much of an adrenaline rush. At the Ristornate Cavalino, named after the first restaurant that was opened next to the Ferrari factory, a pizza is about as close as one can get to the ordinary world.
Getting there: Etihad Airways operates a non-stop flight from Delhi to Abu Dhabi. Other options are also available.
Stay options: Rotanna Hotel; Park Inn, Abu Dhabi; Radisson Blu; Cantro; The Yas Hotel (all on Yas Island).
What to eat: Hediard (French patisserie & chocolatier); Al Dhafra (Emirati food); Automatic Restaurant (Lebanese); Finz (seafood); India Palace; restaurants in the Ferrari Theme Park
What to see/do: Sheikh Zayed Al Grand Mosque; Manarat Al Saadiyat; Yellow Boat tour; Desert safari
Currency: 100 Indian Rupees = 8.25 UAE Dirham Ferrari Theme Park
Timings: 12 noon to 10 pm (Sunday through Tuesday) and 12 noon to midnight ( Thursday through Saturday), closed on Mondays
Entry fee: General admission: 225 dirhams, Premium admission: 375 dirhams.
Location: The Theme Park is 10 minutes from the Abu Dhabi International Airport and a 50-minute drive from the Dubai Marina.
Formula Rossa: At 240 km per hour, this is the world's fastest rollercoaster.
G-Force Experience is an adrenaline-pumping ride over 62 metres through the roof.
Racing simulators which are state-of-the-art.
An aerial view of Bella Italia, a mini Italy.
Flume ride journey through the heart of a Ferrari 599 engine.
Nuts & bolts
Rides: Jack Rouse Associates
Building: Benoy Architects
Owner: Aldar Properties
Management: Farah Leisure Parks Management.Preeti Verma Lal is a Delhi-based freelance writer.