Exclusive: Compton on the joys of the UAE

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My first visit to the UAE actually had nothing to do with cricket. After all, when I think of the Middle East I envisage a plethora of five-star hotels, golf courses and Gucci handbags – cricket didn’t even cross my mind.

That was 10 years ago when I was invited by a friend from university to visit his family for ten days. It was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had and I will never forget driving his dad’s Land Rover over 100m sand dunes; my very own Dakar Rally!

From off-road cars to high speed F1, my next visit was watching Lewis Hamilton win the 2014 World Championship at the Yas Marina Circuit. What an experience – this is as good as it gets!

I have to be honest and say that F1 isn’t something I follow religiously, but that weekend was everything I’d heard it would be and more.

A lot has changed since my first visit 10 years ago, and for the better. Dubai has got bigger and witnessing the growth of Abu Dhabi to become a global destination has been incredible.

My most recent visits have been for cricketing purposes and the facilities are really second to none. As an Englishman it’s very difficult to get warm idyllic cricketing conditions to train and practice in. Often we spend winters abroad in places like Australia or South Africa in order to avoid the freezing cold gyms and indoor school of wet and rainy London.

Having Abu Dhabi so close by is great, you get fantastic weather, you’re treated to luxury but you never feel too far from home at the same time. That luxury begins from when you step on the Etihad Airways flight, where they’ve got wifi on board so you can always stay connected to what’s going on in the outside world.

Oh, the thought of not having access to Facebook and Instagram is too much to take! Jokes aside, it’s quite strange, and the ultimate in luxury, to have internet access when you’re 43,000 ft. high.

Arriving in the Middle East at first, you’re always unsure of what you’re going to get. It’s hot and that is a fact but what to expect of the cricket and the time spent away from the field of play?

The answer is simple – it’s the best destination for holiday and work. Luxury hotels mixed with the chance to practice on loads of perfectly prepared wickets. As a cricketer, all you want are good facilities and good wickets. With the heat and helpful staff it makes it a dream.

Tours can be arduous and the last thing you want when spending hours working your craft is poor accommodation and poor service. But, in the UAE, there’s so much space – the service and facilities at the hotels are out of this world. I spent a lot of time at the marina and beaches relaxing in between our training sessions.

After work is all about spending great times in the incredible restaurants, world class pools and state of the art gyms. It makes a huge difference not having to trudge around unknown cities not knowing where to go or what to do.

I can’t wait for my next trip and hopefully driving one of those fast cars around the circuit next time!

Etihad Airways are the first ever official airline partner of the England Cricket teams. Encompassing England’s domestic international and overseas cricket tours, all England national teams fly with Etihad Airways as part of the partnership. Etihad Airways also have other partnerships including Manchester City Football Club, New York City Football Club, Melbourne City Football Club and F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, plus others. Etihad Airways began operations in 2003, and in 2014 carried 14.8 million passengers. www.etihad.com

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