Though in many ways it represents the region’s ultra-modern face, the capital of the UAE is a little more in touch with its Arabian heritage that its Middle East metropolis companion Dubai and is a fascinating city to explore.
6 hours in... Abu Dhabi
With so much to see in this huge city, it’s always advisable to book an excursion which will be specifically tailored so you can take in as much as possible. On a city tour there are a number of landmarks not to be missed, though it’s also possible to spend most of your time in the coastal Corniche area for a different kind of city experience.
The opulent Emirates Palace is always close to the top of most visitors’ must-see lists, which you may think is surprising, considering that it’s actually a hotel. However, there are hotels and then there’s the Emirates Palace and its certainly worth visiting if only to see what a stunning piece of architecture it is or take a stroll in the beautiful gardens. Remember though, visitors are not always allowed inside, so if the palace is the focus of your visit make sure you check ahead. The other not-to-be missed building is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre, which above all things is of course a place of worship but also welcomes visitors. It really is an astounding piece of architecture and one of the most beautiful buildings you’re ever likely to see.
If you’re looking for the ultimate city view, don’t miss (and let’s be honest, you won’t be able to) the towering Observation Deck at 300 at the Etihad Towers, which offers an incredible Abu Dhabi panorama and the chance for afternoon tea, UAE-style. One part of the city you’ll enjoy an excellent view of is the coastal Corniche area. With its tree and plant-lined streets, it’s a great place for a stroll to take in the air and though it’s always busy, there are plenty of places to take a load off or enjoy a snack or a drink. If you love your coastal fun, there’s a good clean beach on the Corniche, while some excursions offer a memorable Dhow boat cruise along the coast.
If you’ve visited the city previously, you likely spent your time soaking up the ultra-modern sights and sounds but if you’re visiting again and looking for an entirely new experience, a desert safari tour is not to be missed. An exhilarating jeep ride is a great way to explore the dunes and soak up traditional Arabian cultures, with traditional food and belly dancing displays often included as part of the experience.
If you’re a sucker for theme parks or if you’re visiting the city with the kids, then you’ll certainly want to check out Ferrari World, which is home to the world’s fastest roller coaster, clearly the park’s centrepiece. Speaking of cars, the Emirates National Auto Museum is worth a visit if you were expecting to see more attractions of the four-wheeled variety at Ferrari World, and home to a wealth of both classic and modern vehicles. If however you prefer a water park over a theme park, then be sure to head to Yas Waterworld, which offers all the thrills and spills you could ever hope for.
Can’t keep away?
If Middle East cruises are clearly your thing and you’ve visited the city a number of times before, the Mushrif Central Park is a great place to escape the crowds, offering a leafy oasis of calm. Recently renovated, it also offers some eye-catching design and landscaping. Alternatively, if you really want to immerse yourself in flora, it’s possible to book and excursion from Abu Dhabi to the Al Ain. Also known as the Garden City, its part of the Abu Dhabi emirate and its leafy city centre Oasis is the perfect place to cool down.
Abu Dhabi is also a great place to shop, boasting more than its fair share of ultra-modern malls and if you find yourself visiting the city numerous times, indulging in some retail therapy is always a satisfying option. There are also a number of specialist outlets and more traditional markets to peruse if you’re in search of a more authentic haggle-centric experience.
Don’t even bother!
It is always important to dress appropriately in public places, which means always covering up when away from the beach. When visiting mosques, you should cover any bear arms and make sure leg wear comes below the knee. Light loose-fitting clothes will not only help you adhere to this, but are the best choice for coping with the heat.
If you’re visiting during Ramadan, many tourist attraction close by 2pm so if you wake up late, you won’t have time to explore. Always book an excursion which will be carefully planned and which will set off early to take this into account.