Maarten Schäfer

One of Abu Dhabi’s most exciting projects is the development of a multi-billion dollar cultural district like no other in the Arab world. Construction is in full swing and by 2012 visitors will be able to marvel at masterpieces from the Guggenheim and the Louvre in spaces designed by world-class architects like Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel.

We’re not going to sit on the beach until 2012 though, so in the meantime we decide to visit the Yas Marina Circuit, where the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is held every year. Situated on a man-made island about 30 minutes from the city, the track is the Arabian version of Monaco, with several long straights and 21 corners.

We wander around the track’s backstage area where we meet Steve, a safety car pilot. “I can take you for a few laps if you’re up for it,” he says. He hands me a…

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