Region: Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi – Leading the way

Abu Dhabi is the Capital of the UAE, and the largest of the seven Emirates, constituting over 85% of the nation’s total land area. Abu Dhabi possesses 10% of the world’s oil, 5% of its gas reserves, and produces 90% of oil in the U.A.E. The generated income has been purposely invested to create a first class infrastructure and a thriving modern metropolis. At the same time great effort has been taken to protect Abu Dhabi’s natural scenic beauty and to preserve the real spirit of Arabia. Abu Dhabi offers its cosmopolitan population the chance to pursue a great lifestyle. One in which all the amenities and conveniences of modern living are available in the pleasant surroundings of a sun-kissed, waterfront city, with abundant parks and tree-lined boulevards. Lush and verdant with large gardens and parks it is known as the Green State whilst also being the location of the world’s largest sand dunes. In addition there are nearly 200 islands around Abu Dhabi, offering some of the most natural untouched beaches in the region. The city is a unique mix of traditional Arabian charm and cosmopolitan sophistication. Combined with its beautiful beaches, fantastic shopping and top international resorts Abu Dhabi City an ideal place to live, work or visit.His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is President of the UAE and the Ruler of Abu Dhabi.

A Brief History

The history of Abu Dhabi dates way back to the 3rd Millennium BC as some parts of this region were inhabited even at that time. In the mid-18th century, the rise of the British naval power in the Gulf coincided with the rise of two important tribal confederations along the coast of the lower Gulf, the Qawasims, whose descendants rule Sharjah and Ras – Al-Khaimah today and the Baniyas, whose descendants are the ruling families of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The modern city of Abu Dhabi originated in the late 18th century from the BaniYas tribal confederation.

Today we witness the remarkable transformation of Abu Dhabi from its earlier state to the archetypal petro dollar Arabian city. In the Abu Dhabi history, December 2, 1971 marked the advent of Abu Dhabi as the UAE capital. The capital is flourishing up to the present and is becoming known forits skyline architectures, arts and classic cultures. The Abu Dhabi history that started from humble beginnings has today become the centre of business and tourist spots.

Where to stay

Abu Dhabi has a mix of the traditional and the super-luxe when it comes to accommodation. The region is famed for its six- and seven-star hotels but there are other options that are to the liking of those on a more modest budget. These include the internationally well-known chains and the luxury desert resorts. As Abu Dhabi is a popular destination, it is advisable that bookings are made well ahead of any trip.

Top Hotels:

Kempinski Emirates Palace Hotel:

The Emirates Palace Hotel Abu Dhabi is an enchanting landmark that’s a wonder to behold for all who venture through its magnificent gates. Fairytales come to life as your senses are treated to an astonishing and unforgettable experience. Breathe the air of luxury that fills every corner of this serene paradise. Feel the promise of a royal experience fit for a king. The Palace boasts of 302 superior rooms and 92 magnificent suites each combining the ultimate in luxury with 22nd century technology.

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers:

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers is the first Jumeirah hotel to open in Abu Dhabi. Its dramatic sculptural form and spectacular design innovation set the new scale for luxury experiences. With a magnificent beachside setting, the Etihad Towers development is made up of 5 towers – 3 residential towers, 1 office tower and the hotel. This landmark hotel comprises of 382 rooms and suites, 199 serviced residences, exceptional leisure activities, unique venues for social events and outstanding conference and meeting facilities.

Desert Islands Resort and Spa by Anantara:

Fall under the spell of centuries of reminiscent Middle Eastern folklore. Take in panoramic views of the Arabian Gulf waters and explore an Island with hilltops, created between five and ten million years ago. Explore the diverse wildlife inhabiting one of the world’s most unique offshore wildlife sanctuaries. Revel in the history of an Island retreat, long known for its natural and rugged beauty.

Set on the verdant island haven of Sir BaniYas, just off the coast of Abu Dhabi, Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara offers intrepid travellers an unforgettable island escape in the glittering waters of the Arabian Gulf. Striking indigenous fabrics and original pieces of Middle Eastern art fill the space, evoking local colour and exotic arabesque traditions.

Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas:

Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel is an exclusive sanctuary for the discerning business and leisure travellers, located on a nine-kilometre stretch of environmentally protected beach on Saadiyat Island. The resort is adjacent to the famous Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, minutes from the city’s prime business district, the Abu Dhabi Corniche and 25 minutes from Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel in the UAE presents 306 spacious rooms, suites and private villas that are generously sized and offer exceptional views of Saadiyat Beach, the golf club or the hotel gardens; each features a separate balcony or terrace. The luxurious Atarmia Spa spread over two levels offers exclusive privacy for both ladies and gentlemen.

The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort:

The iconic St. Regis brand extends its legacy to Abu Dhabi, with the opening of The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi.

The hotel’s air of mystique is created by thoughtful Mediterranean architecture and a contemporary interior design, which is further enhanced by an intelligent use of natural products and elements. This calming ambience flows through the food and beverage outlets that provide sumptuous meals and refreshing drinks all the way to one of the largest function facilities in the region. The resort boasts lavish yet intimate spaces with superior rooms, universal access rooms, suites and the magnificent Royal Suite overlooking either Saadiyat’s pristine beach or the impressive Saadiyat Beach Golf Club designed by the golfing legend, Gary Player.

What to do:
Fun and Sport:

Balloon Ride:

Leave the glitz and glamour of the city behind and join a one hour balloon expedition into the heart of the desert. Enjoy a magical ride over giant red sand dunes, emerald green oases, gazelles and wandering camels. You will experience unlimited fun and memories for a lifetime! Balloon expeditions are from September to May.

Aerial Tour:

Get a bird’s eye view of the capital’s landmarks and heritage sites or experience the majestic Liwa Desert with a helicopter sightseeing tour. The 20 or 30-minute tours depart from Marina Mall daily.

The 90 minute Desert Experience tour offers breath-taking views of urban Abu Dhabi and its outer suburbs, surrounding farmland and the Liwa Desert and Oasis with a stay at Qasr Al Sarab for the evening before flying back to Abu Dhabi city the following morning.

Adrenaline Rush:

Experience the Yas Marina Circuit louder, faster and in person: if you are a motorsport fan, booking a track experience is a unique opportunity. Yas Racing offers a variety of options to suit all tastes. A series of track day packages are available, including ‘Driver Experiences’, ‘Passenger Experiences’, ‘Private Driving Tuition’ programs and ‘Racing License Courses’.
For more info, visit

A great way to stay healthy and explore Yas Islands is on a biking tour.
For more information visit

City Tour:

Famous for its traditional open top double decker red buses, The Big Bus Company has carefully designed tours which take visitors to all Abu Dhabi’s major landmarks.

The world-renowned hop-on, hop-off sightseeing offers a choice of eight digitally recorded languages: Arabic, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Mandarin and provides a fascinating insight into Abu Dhabi’s history and culture.

Desert Adventure:

The vast expanse of desert that lies outside the Liwa oasis in the Western Region is perfect for adrenaline fuelled off-road driving. With 300 meter dunes and long sand valley, you’ll never get bored of desert driving. Rent a four wheel drive from Abu Dhabi, get a good map and explore to your heart’s content – but never go out alone, always make sure there is more than one vehicle.
Plan an overnight trip to the desert or enjoy a desert safari with belly dancing and dune bashing with any of the leading desert adventure companies. With a sunrise to take your breath away, the trip ends with swift transport back to Abu Dhabi city.

Water Fun:

From kayaks to catamarans, from traditional dhow cruises to speedboats, Abu Dhabi’s waters are yours to discover. Check out leading tour companies for their offers.

Wadi Adventure:

Wadi Adventure at Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain is the Middle East’s first man-made facility to offer white water rafting, kayaking and surfing. Apart from the three world-class, white water rafting and kayaking which runs up to a combined length of 1,133 metres, the adventure park features a surf pool that generates three-metre high waves every 90 seconds. Located at a convenient distance from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Wadi Adventure enriches Jebel Hafeet’s offering for thrill seekers through its activities such as a challenging rope course, tough climbing wall and a zip line.

Camel Racing:

This is a spectacular sport and a trip to the races can be one of the most memorable highlights of a visit to Abu Dhabi. Cheer on the camels as they gallop around a specially made track, and marvel at how these seemingly ungainly creatures can reach such high speeds. Races normally take place on weekend mornings, with additional races on public holidays.

For a taste of this sport, head to the Al Wathba Camel Race Track (about 45km east of Abu Dhabi on the Al Ain Road), or to the Al Maqam Track near Al Ain. Try to get to the racetracks as early as possible to soak up the atmosphere. Entrance to the races is free.

More information from The Camel Racing Federation at Al Wathba, telephone: +971 2 583 9200.

Horse Racing:

Horses are of great heritage significance for Arabs and there is immense equestrian talent on display. The Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club is the home of horse racing in the capital with around 16 race meetings a year, usually held in the afternoons or evenings throughout the cooler season, and admission is free. The race night atmosphere is hard to beat, with six races per evening, starting at 30 minute intervals. There is no betting, but the Tri Cast Competition invites race goers to pick the first three finishers in each race, with prizes for the winners.

Art Attack:

Open daily from 10am until 10pm at Emirates Palace, the Saadiyat Island Cultural District Exhibition charts the plans for the renowned Saadiyat Island Cultural District. The exhibition traces plans for the Zayed National Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Louvre Abu Dhabi, a performing arts centre and maritime museum which, combined, will constitute the world’s largest single concentration of premier cultural institutions.

  • The Folklore Gallery: A great display of local pottery and art.
  • Al Ain National Museum: Presents the various aspects of life in UAE with a variety of objects.

  • Barakat Gallery:

    An extravagant exhibition of genuine antiquities from China, Egypt and Africa.


What to see:

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque:

This architectural work of art is one the world’s largest mosques, with a capacity for an astonishing 41,000 worshippers. It features 82 domes, over a 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers and the world’s largest hand knotted carpet. The main prayer hall is dominated by one of the world’s largest chandeliers. Reflective pools surround the mosque, amplifying its beauty. The striking white and gold colours shining in the sun are replaced at night by a unique lighting system which reflects the phases of the moon.
Book your tour online at

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

It’s fast and furious fun for all ages at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi – the world’s first Ferrari theme park and the largest attraction of its kind. The park tells the Ferrari story with passion and excitement through more than 20 exhilarating and educational rides and attractions, interactive shopping and authentic Italian dining experiences.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital:

Close to Abu Dhabi International Airport, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is the world’s largest, and most advanced, falcon hospital. Its highlight is a falcon display museum as well as a facility with free-flying falcons. Guided tours of this award-winning specialist hospital are available
Location: Near Abu Dhabi International Airport
Telephone: +971 2 575 5155

Hili Fun City

This flagship family entertainment destination in Al Ain has been a firm favourite since its opening in 1985, when it became the Gulf’s first theme park. Newly renovated, the park boasts 28 attractions for all ages, a family show amphitheatre, picnic and play areas.

Arabian Wildlife Park:

On Sir Baniyas Island, the Arabian Wildlife Park is home to more than 10,000 free roaming animals and takes up more than half of the island. Visitors can now get up close and personal, at eye-level, with the island’s giraffes from a purpose-built viewing platform made completely from recycled materials. There are many Arabian Oryx, gazelles and giraffes, along with hyenas and cheetahs.

Capital Gate

Drive down Khaleej Al Arabi Street and you will see a modern day challenger to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Capital Gate, developed by Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, has been certified as the ‘World’s Furthest Leaning Man Made Tower,’ by the Guinness World Records. It leans 18 degrees westwards – more than four times that of Pisa’s famous Leaning Tower. The 160 metre (524.9 ft), 35 storey tower is a postcard image of Abu Dhabi and makes a great holiday snap.

Emirates National Auto Museum

This museum is home to around 200 cars belonging to HH Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan. There is a vast collection of off-road vehicles and classic American cars, the Sheikh’s Mercedes rainbow collection and the world’s largest truck. Some of the collection was featured in the BBC television programme Top Gear.

Classic Cars Museum

Combining history and style, the Classic Cars Museum collects, preserves and exhibits vehicles and informative books related to the evolution of transportation in the UAE. The museum has something for everyone, from seasoned petrol-heads to those with only a fleeting interest in automobile antiquities.

Murjan Water Park

This entertaining destination in Khalifa Park features no less than seven water-based attractions, all for children up to the age of 12. Its main feature – the ‘Water Play Structure’ – is a shallow pool with four small waterslides, a giant tipping bucket, a crawl tunnel, water guns, a water umbrella, small tipping buckets, a water wheel, and water showers.

Emirates Park Zoo

With 660 animals, including a majestic pair of white tigers, a 31-year-old 300kg-plus Siberian bear, lions, cheetahs and dozens of zebras housed in the zoo’s ‘Predators’ and ‘Wild Animals’ enclosures. The Emirates Park Zoo in Al Bahia, a north-east suburb of the UAE capital features a park-wide ‘misting system’ which keeps animals and patrons cool in the summer months.

White Fort

One of the landmarks of Abu Dhabi, The Al Hosn Palace, commonly known as the White Fort, dates back over 200 years. Home of the former ruling family, it is the oldest building in Abu Dhabi. The Palace is also home to the Cultural Foundation where many interesting exhibits of traditional artefacts and photographs are displayed. The courtyard and tile work over the main gate are particularly beautiful.

Heritage Village

The village is situated in the middle of Abu Dhabi and is a living exhibition of the lifestyle and traditions of Bedouin and other culture’s. Hili Gardens are impressive ancient tombs, some more than 4000 years old.

Liwa Oasis

About two hours’ drive from the city of Abu Dhabi is Liwa, one of the largest oasis in Arabia and a gateway to Rub Al Khali or Empty Quarter. The place makes a refreshing change with freshwater pools and date plantations. It is also home to the Bedu people, known for their hospitality.

Jebel Hafit

Close to Al Ain, this is a craggy mountain rising steeply from the surrounding desert. An area noted for its flora and fauna (it is one of the last remaining habitats of the rare Arabian tahr). The mountain can be accessed by excellent roads which winds its way right up to the summit, providing a panoramic view of the Empty Quarter. Also of interest are the numerous caves, sites of archaeological excavations and Ain Al Fayda, a top health resort located over a natural hot spring.

Al Ain Museum

Located within the confines of Al Jahili fort, the nation’s largest museum is divided into ethnological and historical sections. Interesting displays include Bedouin artefacts, archaeological excavations of 2700 BC, 500 BC stone instruments and relics dug up from Fossil Valley.

Al Ain Zoo and Aquarium

The 1969 zoo houses an extremely large and varied collection of wildlife from all over the world. The zoo is also well known for its display of Arabia’s indigenous wildlife which includes the spectacular Arabian Oryx.

Qattarah Oasis

This small, beautiful sylvan oasis studded with date palms and fruit orchards and located on the edge of Al Ain is noted for its archaeological sites. Some of the ancient relics found here, including beautiful gold jewellery, have been displayed today in the Al Ain museum.

The Cultural Foundation

Located in the Khalidiya Street, the foundation houses a weekly art exhibition, library, theatre, auditoriumand lecture rooms. The centre is considered as the cultural heartbeat of the city.

The Corniche

A park-lined coastal boulevard that skirts the city, with a backdrop of modern buildings facing the sea, is one of the most picturesque sites in Abu Dhabi.

Parks and Gardens

Abu Dhabi has over 20 public gardens, together with hundreds of miles of well-laid roads. Abu Dhabi is also known as “The Garden City of the Gulf” and has turned the capital into a huge blooming garden, which invites to relax from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.

Handicraft Center

Craft Center of the UAE Women Association is where traditional local handicrafts are made such as the famous tali handwork. Workshops and the exhibition can be visited in the morning.

Abu Dhabi Shopping

  • The Souk at Central Market – A traditional Arabian souk offering an extensive range of traditional and regional goods.
  • Khalifa Centre – Treat family and friends to Iranian carpets in this ethnic mall.
  • Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre & Gold Centre – With more than 400 stores, the centre also includes a big textile market.
  • Abu Dhabi Mall – Discover Abu Dhabi’s high-end shopping scene with this modern complex.
  • Khalidiyah Mall – Experience the most unique shopping experience in this mall featuring distinctive Islamic architecture.
  • Al Wahda Mall is one of the most visible landmarks in Abu Dhabi and hosts the typical battery of upmarket shops and food court restaurants.
  • Marina Mall is a colossal, shiny place to escape the desert heat and experience a grand retail experience.
  • Mushrif Mall – Three-level complex offering a spectrum of subtle, clean, and eco-friendly features to cater to all levels of clients.

Top Eats:

Hakkasan (Emirates Palace) is one of several outstanding restaurants in the swanky, uber-luxe Emirates Palace. The menu features modern Chinese cuisine.
Mombasa Grille (SouqQaryat Al Beri, Bain al Jesrain) churns out wonderful market to table fare inspired by the rich cultural heritage of Kenya’s second city.
Finz (Beach Rotana Hotel) serves top-drawer fish and delectable seafood dishes.
Ushna (SouqQaryat Al Beri) is a great bet for superior Indian cuisine with soul.
Marrakesh (Al Marzakiyah Millennium Hotel) serves up a deliciously immersive Moroccan experience.

Major Events

Abu Dhabi’s cultural scene has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, as officials and civic leaders look to attract a more cosmopolitan brand of expat and tourist. The city now flaunts one of the most eclectic calendar of events in the entire Arabian Peninsula and Middle East.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit is one of the most popular stops in Formula 1, not just with drivers but with fans as well. The race is the sole event of the Grand Prix season to take place at night, under flood lights.

Abu Dhabi Film Festival promotes the growth of the regional film industry and features big international names as well.

Creamfields, the gigantic DJ and dance music festival takes place at Yas Arena on Yas Island.

Al Gharbia Festivals encompass a wide range of regional events and interests, from watersports and falconry, to date cultivation and camel races.

Liwa Date Festival is held every July, with aims to put Liwa and the Western Region of Abu Dhabi on the international tourism map.

Abu Dhabi International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition is a multifarious national festival with art competitions, traditional hunting and equestrian events, camel auctions and saluki beauty contests.

WOMAD, the most venerable world music festival, comes to the Abu Dhabi Corniche and Al Ain Fort every April, with a reliable line-up of superb global talent.

Abu Dhabi Classics features a first rate ensemble of concerts at Emirates Palace, open-air stages, theatres and desert milieus from October to May.

Abu Dhabi Festival is the most comprehensive classical arts festival in the U.A.E. and one of the best in the Middle East. The key player cements Abu Dhabi’s reputation as a pre-eminent platform for and nurturer of creative expression in the Arab world. world.

Gourmet Abu Dhabi is a supreme gastro-fest that pairs international celeb and Michelin-star chefs with local restaurants for two weeks every February.

Getting Around

Abu Dhabi, like the United Arab Emirates as a whole, is not made for pedestrians. Climate and the basic urban layout of the city both play a part in the blatant car culture. To get from point A to point B, rent a car from a reputable international company or flag down a silver cab.

For day trips to Dubai and other emirates, check out the long-distance taxi stand and main bus terminal on the corner of East Road and Haza’a bin Zayed Street.


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