Whilst Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE, it’s usually neighboring emirate Dubai that gets all the attention. Abu Dhabi is an ultra-modern city with large immaculate parks and gardens, tree lined boulevards, opulent skyscrapers, luxury brand hotel chains and lavish shopping malls. Yas Island hosts the Formula 1 Grand Prix races and is home to the new Ferrari themepark. Abu Dhabi is also in the midst of a construction boom with 28 billion USD being poured into the development of Saadiyat Island as a cultural center with the world famous Guggenheim Museum and Louvre Museum due to open in 2013. Consider laidback, quietly-sophisticated Abu Dhabi for your next Arabian adventure.
Explore the many mosques of Abu Dhabi
As you’d expect there are many impressive modern architectural wonders throughout Abu Dhabi, including many mosques. Varying in architectural style, it’s worth visiting a few different buildings to take in the sheer opulence of the structures.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is said to be the most impressive of all the mosques in Abu Dhabi. Opened in 2007 this mosque is constructed in Moorish and Mughal style and is the eighth largest mosque in the world – in fact it’s the size of 5 football pitches! There are 82 domes atop the magnificent structure of various heights and 4 minarets which can comfortably house 40,000 people. At a reputed construction cost of 545 million USD, this is one spectacular structure not to be missed. As this is a working mosque, entry for non-Muslims is limited to designated mornings; check before you travel.
Take afternoon tea at the Emirates Palace
The Emirates Places is a massive and impressive 7 star luxury hotel and conference center amidst lavish landscaped gardens of fountains and palm trees. Visitors can browse the gardens, shops, art gallery exhibits and restaurants, where afternoon tea is on offer. Build costs were 3.9 billion GBP making this the second most expensive hotel in the world (after Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Resort). If you can afford the stay you’ll be treated to 1.3 km of private beach, gold and marble decorated suites along with a host of sports facilities including tennis, cricket, rugby, football and a 6.4km on site jogging trail.
Try an adrenaline sport at Yas Island
Abu Dhabi has hosted the Formula 1 Grand Prix 4 times now from 2009 at the Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island. This is only the second F1 track in the Middle East, after Bahrain. Yas Island lies just off the Abu Dhabi coast and as well as being home to the world class racetrack also features the Ferrari themepark with racetrack and thrilling driving activities, a vast water park and an abundance of huge shopping malls.
Stroll the Corniche Promenade
The Corniche is the incredible waterfront area of Abu Dhabi which runs for miles from the Marina Shopping Mall right up to Mina Zayed port area. The entire promenade is a designated walkway stretching 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) with sandy beaches to stop off at along the way with various beach activities on offer such as go-carting, skateboarding and BMX biking. Take an evening walk along the Corniche, admire the backdrop of thousands of twining lights and enjoy the slightly cooler temperatures.
Spend a day at Khalifa Park
The most striking thing about Abu Dhabi is the sheer greenness of this emirate; think vast immaculate lawns, sprawling parks and impressive planting schemes. The Khalifa Park is is centrally located and is the perfect spot for a day of culture and leisure with an aquarium, museum and train on site.
Experience a Camel Race
Taking in a camel race whilst in Abu Dhabi is certainly one of the more unusual things to do in Abu Dhabi but makes for an interesting experience! During the winter races are held each Thursday and Friday and visitors can wander the paddocks to admire the camels prior to the thrilling races. Shweihan town hosts regular races and Liwa has an annual Camel Race event.
Try a spot of Dune Bashing
Isn’t there a saying; when in the desert try dune bashing? Well there should be because both a desert safari and dune bashing are enormous fun! You’ll explore the vast sandy expanse in an SUV vehicle with an expert driver who’ll give you a thrilling roller coaster journey over the dunes. Opt for a sunset trip to take in the magnificent views and consider hiring your own 4×4. These trips are not recommended for those with carsickness!
Shop, shop, shop
You can’t come to Abu Dhabi and not visit at least a few malls. Depending on your current exchange rate this could be the shopping experience of a lifetime. Marina Mall is home to a giant hypermarket, Al Wahda Mall has luxury shops and a giant foodcourt and international food is on offer at Khalidiya Mall. Local buys include tapestries and Indian antiques and bargaining is widely accepted at the independent stores.