Abu Dhabi is a fantasy land, somewhat surreal with everything being ostentatious as can be expected in the richest city of the world. Yet side by side this display is the haunting muezzin’s call to prayers, sweeping deserts and a traditional and rustic way of life of the nomads.
At Abu Dhabi be prepared to be charmed by the lovely white domes of the mosques with their tall minarets, the relentless sweep of the golden desert sands and the feel of Arabian nights in the air. Alongside, you can also indulge in some great shopping, visit the most expensive hotel on earth and admire the Al Husn Palace.
After you have had your fill of the new Abu Dhabi with its flashy deluxe hotels and glittery malls it is time to succumb to the seductive charms of the old Abu Dhabi reflected in the timeless spice souks, swaying green palms, thirsty camels, flying falcons, and the dhows riding the swells of the gulf.
As you admire the immense vista of sweeping sands, you will be offered a chance to be a Bedouin nomad and ride a camel, feel like Arabian royalty and try your hand at falconry or dine under the canopy of stars like an Arabian Nights story.
If adventure is your forte, you can try sand skiing, dune bashing and gokarting, and if you succumb to the allure of the ocean breeze, then you can always charter a boat to spend a day in the blue waters. Whatever is your pleasure, you have a wide variety to choose from when you visit this richest desert city in the world.
Where is Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the United Arab Emirates and one of the richest and most modern cities in the world. It is on the Persian Gulf and is an enigmatic mix of glittering modernity and traditional way of life. From the blue waters of the Persian Gulf to the sweeping deserts of the mainland, Abu Dhabi is a traveller’s delight.
Getting to Abu Dhabi
The Abu Dhabi International Airport would be your port of entry while flying into Abu Dhabi. There are two terminals – 1 and 3 – and the airport is nice with some good duty-free shopping.
To travel form the airport to the city centre you can avail of the Al Ghazal Taxis that charge a set rate of around Dhs 75 and the ride is a little longer than half an hour. There are metered taxis available too and the taxi terminal is at the end of the walkway of the main terminal.
You can also travel by bus from the airport to the city centre. The buses ply 24/7 every 35 to 40 minutes and costs about Dhs 4.
Alternatively, you could also fly into Dubai International Airport and then take a metered taxi to Abu Dhabi which will set you back by about Dhs 300.
Attractions in Abu Dhabi
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is famous as the most expensive mosque of the world and as you stand on the world’s largest Persian carpet and admire the seven gold and Swarovski-crystal chandeliers overhead, you know why it is so called. You can tour the mosque barring Fridays. It is wise to remember that there is a strict dress code for visiting the mosque
After viewing the world’s most costly mosque, it is time to visit the world’s most expensive hotel, namely the Emirates Palace which looks like a fairy tale palace right out of the Arabian Nights, with its many water fountains that throw up misty rainbows in the air and secret gardens that perfume the air with their subtle scent. The gilt and gold of the opulent ballrooms, restaurants and drinking areas will leave you speechless as you wander about exploring this hotel.
Abu Dhabi also offers you the fastest rollercoaster in the world to ride and the world’s tallest flagpole to admire.
For art and culture you must visit the restored Al Bateen Shipyard for a peek into the maritime history of this city, the Qasr-al-Husn fort to look at how the royalty lived and the Al Ain Camel market which has remain unchanged over time. For modern and contemporary art there are also art galleries like the Gallery one and the Ghaf Art Gallery that you can visit. To catch a glimpse of Abu Dhabi prior to petro dollars, stroll through the Emirates Heritage Village that has recreated a traditional Bedouin camp, a mosque and even a souk.
If sports beckon, then you can try your hand at go-karting, camel racing, falconry, dune bashing and desert safaris too.
Shopping in Abu Dhabi
Shopping in Abu Dhabi is an eclectic mix of modern, eye-catching shopping malls boasting all the trendiest fashions and couture and bustling traditional markets or souks with their chaotic charm. The souks are ideal to pick up souvenirs to take home like a strand of pearls, some fragrant spices, traditional dresses and exotic footwear or even something as kitschy as alarm clock that looks like a mosque.
Malls like the Marina Mall or the Abu Dhabi Mall are impressive in their collection of designer shops and you can browse for hours in these malls to escape the stifling heat outside, especially during the afternoons.
Dining and Nightlife in Abu Dhabi
If you are in the deserts, what better than to do what the sheikhs do – dine out under the stars in a Bedouin tent. Try out the amazing Middle Eastern cuisine and puff away at a hookah while admiring the romantic desert night. There are a number of very good restaurants serving world cuisine but most bars are restricted to hotels only. One of the most popular bars is the Jazz Bar located at the Hilton.
Tours and Excursions in Abu Dhabi
From Abu Dhabi you can always visit Dubai, which is around two hours away by road, or the Al Ain oasis to experience a calm green getaway in the burning desert heat. The amazing Sahara sand dunes near the Liwa oasis is also within two hour’s driving distance from Abu Dhabi.
Travel Tips for Abu Dhabi
- It is wise to remember that Abu Dhabi being a Muslim country, dress restrictions might apply when you visit some places of religious significance.
- If you are visiting this city during the holy month of Ramadan, it is wise to remember that eating and drinking in public places during the day is strictly forbidden and tourists are heavily fined if they eat or even have a sip of water in public places. Also, all eateries and restaurants remain closed though the hotels keep one restaurant generally open to cater to the needs of the tourists.
Event Tourism in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi has been strengthening its place among the top cities to hold international congresses, conferences, symposiums, fairs and trade shows. The good quality hotels and venues that are able to meet all the necessities of international event attendees have got a big role in that rising fame. In addition, Abu Dhabi's unique aura provides the travelers a unique chance of discovery to this beautiful city.