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Ferrari World Abu Dhabi Is a Massive Disappointment

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author photo by Doug DeMuro November 2017

I recently had the chance to go to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, which is a giant Ferrari theme park that, from the air, looks like a giant, bright red cow's skull. You know the ones you're always seeing in movies to emphasize they're really out in the desert? Well, Ferrari World looks like that. And it's really out in the desert.

Actually, it's in a shopping mall called the "Yas Mall," which is on Yas Island, near the Yas Circuit (Abu Dhabi's Formula 1 track) and several other things called Yas. I still do not know how to pronounce "Yas." Is it like "yass"? Or "yaws"? Or "yeahs"? We may never know. What we do know is that Ferrari World is a disappointment.

I say this to you as an avid fan of Ferrari in the sense that I can tell the difference between a 308 and a 328 when I see them only in passing. Avid fans of Ferrari have this gift. Mere peons, such as yourself -- fans of a lesser brand, perhaps, like Lincoln -- cannot. So I went into this place with high expectations, and boy, were they stifled.

First, it's important to point out that the mere entry fee to Ferrari World is something like $90. This gets you passes to go ride like four rides and play a couple of video games. You have to buy the top-level pass, which costs like $150, to get free access to all the rides; with the $90 pass, you merely walk inside, get the crappy rides, and then you can pay extra to ride the cool rides when you're inside.

But let me stop right there, because the rides aren't really the main attraction here. Yes, they have a couple of cool ones, including one very fast roller coaster that simulates the experience of riding in a Ferrari Formula 1 car, if that Formula 1 car was driving flat-out over the hills of San Francisco. But really, the main attraction is "Ferrari," and they know that, and so they've branded everything. And I mean everything. I kept a Ferrari-branded napkin, which I preserved instead of wiping my mouth as I was eating french fries from a Ferrari-branded french-fry container.

Ferrari Fries

The vast overbranding of the whole place is depressing. Seriously, if European and American Ferrari fans and owners visited this place, they'd renounce the brand entirely, as there's no end to what they've stuck the Ferrari logo on -- including a rock climbing wall and a playground, which, inexplicably, is called a "car wash" in a desperate attempt to tie everything to cars. The car wash's mascot is a camel named Khalil who wears a Ferrari shirt. I am not kidding.

I am also not kidding when I say the place was empty. EMPTY. When I visited, on what I assumed would be a busy weekend, I stood in no lines. I walked down entire corridors, lined with carnival games, where not a single other person was walking, or sitting, or standing. Bored employees stood around in Ferrari gear and looked at me. At one point, I entered the gift shop to purchase a $74 t-shirt featuring Khalil the Ferrari Camel (just kidding, I wish) and no one was manning the register, presumably because they didn't expect anyone to walk in that day. Fortunately, there are three other gift shops. One of them had a Ferrari-branded pacifier. Again, I am not kidding.

This isn't the most depressing bit. The most depressing bit is the fact that the entire place is inside -- which, I admit, makes complete sense in a city where everyone told me I came during the "cool season" even though it was 90 degrees outside, but which also means you're perpetually in a shadow as you walk around. Very little sunlight gets inside. There were moments where I wondered if I was actually in an abandoned section of the park, derelict and unused, shrouded in darkness, until I found myself at the "piazza" -- the central area of the whole thing -- during an "event," which they put on every hour or so, presumably in a (vain) attempt to keep children from falling asleep due to boredom. I assumed the event would be some cool demonstration of a Ferrari. Instead, there was a mime.

A mime.

Fourteen people were in the audience, watching him. He motioned for me to come sit down.

I kept walking.

I walked all the way to the fake Italian village, which is a group of sidewalks -- indoors, remember -- designed to remind you of Modena. It was actually kind of charming, and I had a nice little moment where I was looking at a fake Italian fountain, and gawking at some fake Italian windows, and musing over how much they'd have to pay me to don the Khalil the Camel suit and walk around this place. (I ended up settling on "not very much," because it's not like there's anyone in the park you'd have to entertain.)

I also walked to the go-kart tracks; there are two of them, and they seemed very cool, but I decided not to participate because no one else was present -- or, really, within sight -- and I'd just be racing against myself. Perhaps the highlight of the whole day for me was the Ferrari display area, where they showed off the early interior mock-ups of the GTC4Lusso, along with an early exterior model, complete with an interesting explanation of how the mock-ups were built and how changes are made to cars early in production using prototypes like the ones shown.

There were also some other good things: To use the driving simulators, you sat in real Ferraris, and they were a blast to experience, as they tilted and pitched, and steered, and it made you feel almost like you were actually driving a car. And although I didn't ride it, that roller coaster got rave reviews from everyone I spoke to -- meaning it may be worth a trip if you're a roller-coaster fan. So with all the drawbacks of Ferrari World, those really were some memorable highlights.

Leaving was another.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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Used 2017 Ferrari 488 GTB
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi Is a Massive Disappointment - Autotrader