Abu Dhabi is an exciting Middle Eastern city. It’s the capital and the second biggest city of the United Arab Emirates, after Dubai, with more than 1.5 million people including the President of the UAE.
You’ll find it sited on a T-shaped island extending into the Persian Gulf, joined to the mainland by three bridges. You may think it’s more quiet and conservative than flashy Dubai, 90 minutes to the north, but that’s part of its charm. Come here for beautiful mosques, stunning modern architecture, traditional markets and relaxing beaches.
Beaches and parks
You’ll discover more than 400km of coastline in Abu Dhabi. Your hotel may have its own private stretch of sand or you can check out the 10km of public beaches, many with Blue Flags to mark their safe and clean conditions. Take your towel to the Corniche or Saadiyat and Al Bateen Beaches. For a touch of luxury, splash out for a spot at the Hiltonia or Saadiyat Beach Clubs with sports facilities, pools and staff to bring food and drink to your comfy lounger.
Among all the concrete and glass of the skyscrapers, you’ll find a surprising amount of greenery in the city. Head for Heritage Park, Capital Gardens, Khalifa Park and Khalidiyah Garden to discover beautiful oases in what was once desert. You’ll enjoy fountains, lakes and kids’ play areas with swings and slides and even a miniature railway (in Khalifa). No wonder families flock here at the weekend for a picnic.
History and culture
An early spot for pearl diving, it was the discovery of oil which really brought wealth and development to Abu Dhabi 30 years ago. Now you’ll find the city a melting pot of cultures, with workers from Nepal, India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, the Philippines and the UK. That means you’ll hear plenty of languages spoken, from Urdu and Arabic to Tamil and Bengali, though most people understand English. You’ll find Christian churches, Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras alongside the Islamic mosques. Abu Dhabi is more tolerant than its neighbours Saudi Arabia, but be aware of the Islamic culture and dress modestly, with at least shoulders and knees covered, while visiting malls, parks or mosques. For a glimpse of a more traditional way of life, visit the Heritage Village where you can learn pottery and metalwork skills and haggle in the souk markets over Bedouin clothes and spices.
If you like life in the fast lane, you’ll love Abu Dhabi. Formula One fans won’t want to miss a visit to the Yas Marina Circuit where they hold the grand prix every year. If you’re a speed demon, get your heart racing on the world’s fastest rollercoaster at Ferrari World. You’ll reach 249km/h in just 4.9 seconds riding Formula Rosso, while Flying Aces has the world’s highest rollercoaster loop. Kids will love the karting and Speed of Magic 4D fantasy ride. Other thrilling adventures you can enjoy in Abu Dhabi include desert safaris, splashing in water parks, camel riding and sandboarding.