Most people would be forgiven for thinking that Dubai is THE place to visit in the Middle East. That’s because they haven’t looked wider. In truth, it’s not Dubai but Abu Dhabi that’s the actual capital city of the United Arab Emirates. From Dubai, if you travel along the coast, Abu Dhabi is just a 90-minute drive away. Along the drive you’ll find many points of interest as well, so we’ll consider the drive to be an attraction too. Abu Dhabi is home to the biggest mosque in the world, and for the annual final Formula 1 race which takes place at the Yas Marina every November. Abu Dhabi is famous for a lot else too, as you’ll discover in this blog.
Some Basic Info on Abu Dhabi
When you visit the UAE, you should spend a few days at Abu Dhabi to check out its main attractions. Abu Dhabi has a fairly large international airport; the city’s home carrier is Etihad Airways. If you’re traveling from other parts of the UAE, you can get to Abu Dhabi by bus or car.
It’s definitely hot most of the time, so try and visit between November and March. From June to September, it gets as hot as 45 to 50°C, which is 113 to 122°F. You’ll also have to reckon with the drenching humidity. So travel during April and early May, or October and early November, when daytime temperatures peak around 35°C (95°F). Evenings are balmy but nice outside.
1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is made out of 15 kinds of white marble, sourced from a number of countries. The marble pillars and walls are richly ornamented with gem stones and gold inlays. The main dome is the largest in the world, measuring over 100 feet in diameter. The mosque contains a total of 40 domes other than the main dome. There are many German-made chandeliers within the mosque’s main hall, with the largest being 50 feet in height.
The central prayer hall is further enhanced with the world’s largest carpet, which is more than 60,000 square feet large. The carpet weighs in at 47 tons; more than 1,000 carpet workers worked continuously for two years to complete it.
When the sun goes down, this stunning piece of architecture glows with a beautiful blue light, shining like the moon. You can see it even from the plane as you are circling over the city. Entry is free of charge, and you can take advantage of free audio tours. Women must wear the black abaya, which is provided at the mosque, and men must cover their arms and legs.
2. Yas Island
Yas Island was just a stretch of sand in the early 2000s. Today it is the entertainment and excitement hub. It’s also an international tourism hub within Abu Dhabi. You can have tons of fun on Yas Island. Check these out!
- Yas Marina Circuit: Yas Marina Circuit is home to the Formula 1 racetrack that hosts the final race of Formula 1 seasons. If you’re lucky enough to be in Abu Dhabi during late November, you can enjoy the Formula 1 race that starts an hour before sunset and goes on till after dark.
- Yas Ferrari World: This is the world’s largest Ferrari-themed park for kids and grownups. This theme park offers many exciting rides, plus the world’s fastest roller coaster, the Formula Rossa, that comes with a top speed of 240 kph (150 mph). The Ferrari World has fun themed rides, interactive experiences, a kids’ race track, a go-kart track and many attractions for youngsters.
- Yas Water World: This is the biggest waterpark in the whole of the UAE. It’s the best place to cool down under the searing hear. Yas Water World offers some terrific and scary water rides that are geared towards people of all ages, from little ones to adults.
- Warner Bros. World: Warner Bros. World opened up in Yas Island, offering kids the world over a fantastic chance to explore Warner Bros. characters. This is the first Warner Bros. branded indoor theme park in the world as well.
3. Mangrove Kayaking
Do you think of mangroves when you consider the Arabian Peninsula? Quite likely you don’t. However, in Abu Dhabi, there are large areas of mangroves that thrive under the humid climate in the many shallow lagoons around the islands.
You can see some of them clearly, as they’re close to the city too. Sign up for a mangrove kayaking tour and explore the mangroves to your heart’s content. Explore the local flora and fauna and listen to audio commentary on the fragile environment.
4. The Corniche
The Corniche is a long boardwalk along Abu Dhabi’s pristine coast. It goes on for several kilometres and it’s the best place to people watch and to be seen. The Corniche is lined with some of the best architecture in Abu Dhabi. The Emirates Palace, the most expensive hotel building ever built in the whole world is right next to the Corniche. You’ll also see the Jumeirah Etihad Towers, the Capital Building and several other buildings of note. Many family-friendly beaches open off the Corniche. There are several little parks with picnic areas well.
5. Desert Safari
The desert is right at your doorstep at Abu Dhabi. A desert safari is the best way to experience this ancient landscape. At a typical desert safari, you can try out sand boarding, camel riding or dune bashing. You can also try your hand at quad biking on the rugged terrain. If you sign up for an evening or overnight desert safari Abu Dhabi, you’ll get to enjoy some cool cultural entertainment. There’ll be belly dancing, Tanura dancing and henna tattooing. There’ll also be a fantastic dinner as well. If you sign up for the overnight desert safari, you’ll also get to enjoy a lovely night under the stars. The desert safari is one of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi.
6. The Louvre
The Louvre is Abu Dhabi’s latest addition to its glittering monuments. The Louvre is located at the Saadiyat Cultural Island. This huge museum of art has signed a thirty-year agreement with French government to display major artworks from the Louvre Paris. The museum also displays great works of art from other world art museums as well. The Louvre is approximately 24,000 square metres large, with 8,000 square metres of galleries. It is, without question, the largest art museum in the Arabian Peninsula.
7. Saadiyat Island Beach
If you’re looking for the perfect beach in Abu Dhabi, don’t look further than Saadiyat Island Beach. The Park Hyatt and St. Regis resorts are located on this beach. For a small fee, you can enjoy unlimited access to the beach, steam room, sauna, jacuzzi, pool, and loungers at these two resorts for as long as you want.
Abu Dhabi is a paradise of wonders for first-time travellers. The best way to check out the city is to walk on the Corniche. You’ll get to see half the city this way. Be sure to explore the outlying islands such as Saadiyat Island and others for a thorough experience.