Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, chairman of Aldar Properties, once described Ferrari's contribution to the Abu Dhabi tourism as a perfect blend of "power and beauty". As that balance goes on display with the official opening of Ferrari World on Yas Island today, we can't help but see a reflection of Ferrari in the emirate's vision for its own future.
That Abu Dhabi teamed up with an Italian car maker best known for luxury and quality speaks to the emirate's ambitions. Abu Dhabi has always sought to burnish its reputation as an upmarket tourist destination, and the official arrival of Ferrari World firmly places the emirate at this market's doorstep. As Patrick Martinez, general manager of the Rotana Yas Island and Centro Yas Island hotels, told The National this week, opening the world's largest indoor amusement park in his backyard "is a great opportunity to map Abu Dhabi".
Today's opening arrives after years of planning and development of infrastructure. The hotels are ready for guests and the roads are ready to quickly deliver them to Yas Island. Even countries that have the money to build such ambitious projects are often at a disadvantage because they neglect the nuts and bolts that are essential to a visitor's experience. They leave a tangled mess of poorly connected highways, attractions, and lodging that detract from the quality of the overall project. Yas Island has not suffered this fate.
And in fact, while it is difficult to see this as individual projects are being constructed, they too are interconnected and not just by roadways. As each project comes on line additional pieces of a cultural mosaic are revealed. It is already an impressive picture though it is far from complete.
These projects are also part of the larger vision for the transition from a resource-based economic model to an innovative and knowledge-based alternative. Tourism is clearly a key component of this strategy. And like its namesake's most defining characteristics, we hope that Ferrari World provides one more step in a powerful - dare we say beautiful - race to the future.