In 2014 I went to visit my best friend who had moved to Abu Dhabi a few years back. Up until this point, I had never really heard much about the city and I still wasn’t 100% sure if people roamed around the place on camels or if they actually had car’s… Anyway, after getting over my initial shock that Abu Dhabi was in fact pretty much an Arabic America, I decided I kinda liked the place and so a few weeks later, I moved there (as you do).
So, if you’re planning on visiting Abu Dhabi or are new to the city and want to get clued up on some nice interesting things to do, here are some of my recommendations:
The grand mosque a.k.a- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque- was initiated by the late president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and completed shortly after his death in 2004. It is said that he wanted to incorporate the cultural diversity of Islam whilst still maintaining modern values and art-that he certainly did. The mosque is beautifully and intricately designed with A LOT of gold detail. If you want to get some really amazing photos of this place, I would suggest you go at night when it is lit up in all its glory. The mosque is the city’s key place for worship on Fridays and during Eid prayers. If you decide to visit, do make sure you dress respectfully and not like you’re walking the swimwear catwalk as it is obviously a very sacred and religious spot. Visiting hours are from Saturday – Thursday 9am to 10pm and you can either walk around on your own or pay for a guided tour. If this sounds like the kind of place you’d want to visit then take a look here: grand mosque www.szgmc.ae/en/ . Heritage village is another spot that offers a more traditional and cultural view of Abu dhabi. Run by the Emirates Heritage Club, the attraction is a reconstruction of a traditional oasis village, providing a glimpse of how life in the desert really was way back when noone had heard of Caribou coffee. Workshops are run around the village by craftsmen who demonstrate traditional skills such as metal work and pottery, and you’ll see lots of women weaving clothes. There are also plenty of stalls selling everything from traditional souvenirs to dried herbs and handmade soaps. Opening times are from Saturday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm, and Friday from 3.30pm to 9pm and entry is free. Visit www.torath.ae for more information.
Despite being in the middle of the desert, Abu Dhabi DOES actually have sea (and quite a lot of it too) which means water-sports have become a popular activity in the city for locals and tourists alike. Watersports are not only really fun but are also a great way to stop yourself melting away in the blazing hot sun. Whether you just want to have a play around in the sea or you want to learn a new skill, there are plenty of places you can do so. Watercooled Club house is located at the Hilton’s Hiltonia Beach Club along the Corniche and offers an array of Watersports activities at competitive prices- I found them to be cheaper than most other places. The club offers everything from wake and paddle boarding, sailing, windsurfing, fishing amongst others. Visit www.watercooleddubai.com for more information. Yas water world also makes for a great day out with family or friends, with 43 rides, slides and attractions, prices start from 240 AED (around £40) for an all day pass. Take a look at yaswaterworld.com for more information. The park is open from 10-6 Monday to Friday although these times are subject to change during Ramadan.
If there is one thing us humans love to do, its eat. But Arabs take dining to a whole other level, which is probably why 33% of the population are now obese…. Nonetheless there are a whole host of amazing restaurants dotted all around the city serving up every type of cuisine from typical Arabic, Indian, Iranian, Pakistani, Philippine, German, the list goes on… One of my personal favourites is ‘Rosewater’ at Jumeirah Etihad towers which does an amazing International buffet and has won a number of certificates of excellence from TripAdvisor and Timeout magazine. And you’ll soon see why, not only is the food out of this world but if you can nab a table outside on a cool summer evening, the views alone are worth the nail-biting 200aed upwards bill. But we only live once and all that so check out www.jumeirah.com to book your table in advance. If you’re looking for a taste (and feel) of good old blighty then head to Abu dhabi city golf club which has a great selection of typical British grub for very reasonable prices. With a friendly atmosphere and regular events such as pub quizzes, sports shows and BBQ’s, this place quickly became a home from home for me. Visit adcitygolf.com to find out more. Flavours, Marakesh, Asia de Cuba, Lebanese Flower, Hakkasan, Chamas Churrascaria and Quest (which gives a great panoramic view of the city) are all also highly recommended to suit every budget.
Although predominantly a muslim country and thus consumption of alcohol is technically illegal, the city has loosened up a little on its strict no-drinking ban to cater for its vast increase in non-muslim expats. You will find alchohol served in almost every resturant/bar and on various nights throughout the week, women can drink for free between certain times (yes, you read that right). If you’re looking for a few quiet drinks in a swanky spot with an amazing view of the city then Rays bar at Etihad towers is the perfect spot for you. Visit www.jumeirah.com for more information on prices and offers. Mcgettigans at Al Raha Beach Hotel and Resort is also a great spot for a more culturally varied hang-out but I would advise arriving early on Thursdays (the first night of the weekend) as it gets seriously rammed with half of the UK and Ireland. If you’d prefer to go all out and get your finest glad rags on then Yacht club at Intercontinental hotel, Rush nightclub on Yas Island and People by Crystal at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort are definitely worth checking out.
Prefer a quieter night?
If attempting to navigate your way around a crowd of lairy drunkards in your 6 inch stilettos ‘aint your kinda thing (nope, me neither) then why not take a walk around the city’s centrepiece. The corniche is known as one of Abu Dhabi’s main attractions and meeting points and at night you’ll find it full of families and fitness fanatics galore. Ever seen a burka-clad woman complete a full military-style fitness regime without dropping a single tear or sweat? I hadn’t either until I walked along this place at night. Stretching across eight kilometres of beautiful waterfront full of both public and private beaches, parks, cafés and restaurants, this place is perfect for unwinding after a long day of doing all those touristy things. If your legs are too tired to walk then take a look at the numerous spots along the way where you can rent out a bike for 40 minutes +, a great, fast and cheap way to explore this beautiful sight. At the end of the Corniche you’ll find the brightly shining Emirates palace, a luxury 5 * hotel and landmark showcasing palatial yet traditional Arabic culture (the place is literally dripping in gold and even has an ATM which hands out gold). Surrounded by 85 hectares of blossoming gardens and lawns, 114 domes that are 80 meters high, the palace comprises 394 rooms and suites and various bars. See www.emiratespalace.ae for more details. Finally, if you just want to sit back and relax whilst still emerging yourself in the Arabian culture, then head on down to one of the cities many Shisha bars. Al bateen Marina has some great spots for low-priced shisha with a chilled out atmosphere and if you’re looking for some great views then try Skylite lounge, Maï Café, Stars ‘n’ bars and Ess lounge.
Handy tip: If you’re looking to explore the city on a bit of a budget then I would suggest picking up an ‘Entertainer booklet’ which offers discounts on various sites, restaurants and bars and is valid for one year. The full price of a booklet is AED 395.00 but with an estimated saving of AED 278,000, its a pretty savvy investment. See www.theentertainerme.com for more info. If 395.00 is a bit out of your budget then take a look on uae.dubizzle.com (which is similar to the UK site gumtree or craigslist) or various buy/sell Facebook pages then you can purchase individual vouchers for a cheaper price- You’re welcome 🙂