Abu Dhabi is the capital and largest city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is also the country's center of government and a major cultural and commercial hub. One of the largest cities in the UAE, Abu Dhabi is actually an archipelago made up of over 200 islands, and surrounded by desert and ocean.
The city was founded in 1761 by Sheikh Dhabi bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was the ruler of what was then a small tribal state. Since then, Abu Dhabi has grown into a modern metropolis with a skyline that rivals that of any other city in the world. The city is home to some of the most iconic buildings and landmarks in the UAE, including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Abu Dhabi Formula One Circuit, and the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi hotel.
Abu Dhabi is a major tourist destination, with millions of visitors coming to experience its luxury hotels, shopping malls, and attractions each year. The city is also home to a growing number of expatriates, who have made it their home for its tax-free status.
On our final morning in Abu Dhabi, we set off on a city tour with Arabian Adventures. Unfortunately for us, it was a very foggy morning, typical of winter in the Emirate. However, the fog lifted gradually during the day and by midday, most of it had cleared up. The fog may have spoilt our photos but we still got to see Abu Dhabi's main attractions and landmarks.
Yassine from Arabian Adventures picked us up in a comfortable coach from the Royal Rose Hotel and we set off on the tour. Our co-passengers were from Canada and Germany. Yassine was originally from Tunisia, and he was quite an entertaining and informative guide. En route to our first stop, he told us about the history of the Emirates and its rulers.
The breath-taking Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest and most beautiful mosques in the world and can accommodate 40,000 worshippers. It is also Abu Dhabi’s most visited attraction. A magnificent sight in pristine white marble, the mosque has 82 domes, over 1000 columns, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers and giant floral marble inlays across the expansive courtyard. It also boasts the world’s largest hand-woven carpet and one of the largest chandeliers in the world. Yassine gave us an in-depth tour of the mosque, pointing out its main features, beautiful artwork and other interesting details.
Tip: Ensure that you are covered in loose, modest clothing or you will not be allowed in.
The Heritage Village is a replica of an Emirati village. It showcases the Bedouin lifestyle and heritage. Here you will see exhibits like Bedouin tents, clothing and arms, and traditional artisan workshops like carpet weaving and glass blowing. My daughter was given a chance to try her hand at carpet weaving and she enjoyed it. The village is built by the seaside and across the waters you can see the contrasting, modern Abu Dhabi skyline.
We made a quick stop at the date market where we were given different varieties of delicious dates to sample. Natural dates, dates covered in chocolate, dates filled with pistachio, date syrup and much more. Needless to say, we walked away with a few shopping bags.
The fish market was fascinating. We walked through the huge market where we saw all kinds of fish and crustaceans, including many varieties which we had not seen before. Here fresh fish is caught, cleaned, sold and purchased daily. There are fish cleaners on the side who will clean the fish you’ve purchased and there is a restaurant in the market that will cook and serve your fresh fish for you. One of the cleaners was an old gentleman who had been working there from before Sheikh Zayed became the ruler of the UAE (in 1971)!
The tour lasted for 5 hours. We drove through the city and along the Abu Dhabi Corniche. Yassine pointed out landmarks like the opulent Emirates Palace, the lavish Royal Palaces, the Capital Gate – the world’s most leaning building, and the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi. He told us interesting anecdotes along the way and gave us a better insight into Abu Dhabi.
We also visited the Louvre Abu Dhabi which officially opened in November 2017 after 10 years in the making. The museum is dominated by a stunning dome and contains original works by Leonardo Da Vinci, Picasso, Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin and many other legendary artists. A group of musicians performed a traditional folk song when we got there. I visited the Louvre in Paris many years ago. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is quite different.
All adrenalin junkies and thrill seekers should have the world's fastest roller coaster on their bucket list. Ferrari World is home to this speed exciting speed machine.
When in the United Arab Emirates, a desert safari is something that must be experienced. It typically combines dune-bashing in the desert, with desert activities like sand-boarding and quad-biking, followed by a Bedouin-style dinner in a desert camp with live entertainment. It certainly was one of the highlights of our trip. Book your desert safari here.
Al Ain is a fascinating city, and so different from Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It is much more traditional and authentic. It is the fourth largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and one of its oldest cities. It was once an important oasis for travellers on the caravan route between the UAE and Oman. It is also the birthplace of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family.
The Shangri La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri is an ultra-luxurious hotel located on a private beach. It boasts some of the best Arabian buffets in Abu Dhabi.
Arabian Adventures is part of The Emirates Group. They offer tours all over the UAE. Visit their website to find the perfect tour for you.
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What are your favourite things to do in Abu Dhabi ?