Abu Dhabi Overview
Abu Dhabi is considered the more cultured, adult sibling of Dubai, offering refined polish as opposed to ostentatious bling. The focus of the culture in the city is less on glitzy showiness and more on delivering true, sophisticated luxury with a hint of Middle Eastern character and heritage thrown in. Culture remains at the heart of the Abu Dhabi holiday, with many of the main attractions in the area revolving around the city's heritage and culture. As the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi showcases a whole host of attractions and places of interest for holidaymakers of all ages.
Abu Dhabi is an ideal choice of holiday destination if you love your holiday weather to be very hot and sun-drenched, and is also a good choice for a shorter break with a real sense of exclusivity and luxury. Similar to Dubai, the city has been intensively restored over the past few years and now offers a wide range of modern amenities for all the family. One of the most distinctive and appealing things about Abu Dhabi for a holiday is the blend of modernity with places of historical interest and natural beauty, offering a very well-balanced destination.
Some of the outstanding attractions that Abu Dhabi has to offer include the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, an elaborately-decorated and majestic place of worship that accommodates 41,000 worshippers. If you're looking to splash the cash, head to the Mall to explore the 200 shops or catch a movie. The desert surrounding the city is known as something of an adult adventure playground as you can indulge in camel rides, 4x4 safaris and sand-dune surfing as well as romantic meals under the starry night skies.
Things to Do
Abu Dhabi is the premier destination in the Middle East for a captivating blend of world-class attractions and heritage, acting as a connection between the Eastern and Western worlds and ways of life. From historic attractions to modern malls, the city has it all.
Learn about Emirates culture
One of Abu Dhabi's most distinctive attractions is Al Ain Heritage Village, a spellbinding green oasis in the middle of the desert. Here you'll find traditional markets selling textiles, weaves and other handicrafts, a local camel market just a short drive away and the chance to meet (and haggle with) Emiratis to try and snap up some bargains. Another good option here is to visit the Falcon hospital, as the United Arab Emirates celebrates the falcon as its national symbol. This charming attraction lets you get up close and personal with these stunning birds of prey, learn about falconry as a desert sport and even get the chance to handle some of the majestic birds yourself.
For sports fans
Alongside the Formula 1 Grand Prix which takes place each year here, Abu Dhabi is fast becoming a world-renowned hotspot for upmarket sports and leisure activities. The city's immaculate landscape is dotted with pristine golf courses, desert and coastal views and world-class sports facilities. You can visit the city's Formula 1 track to pick up memorabilia or time your visit to catch some races, while water sports fans will love the wide range of water-based activities on offer here including kayaking, snorkelling and catamarans. When it comes to traditional sports, the United Arab Emirates is best known for its equestrian sports, so horse riding fans won't want to miss the Equestrian Club on a race night and to get a flutter watching a thrilling race.
It's easy to imagine Abu Dhabi's scenic desert landscapes, but what many tourists will be surprised at is the wide selection of wildlife. Visit Sir Bani Yas Island's Arabian Wildlife Park to see more than 10,000 freely-roaming animals, a huge natural reserve that takes up over half of the island.
No trip to Abu Dhabi would be complete without a trip to the Sheikj Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the largest and most splendid in the world. This marvel of modern architecture is decorated in pure whites and glimmering gold accents, giving the structure a regal and serene beauty that reflects its status as a holy place of worship as well as an impressive feat of design and modern engineering.
Jebel Hafeet is the second highest peak of the United Arab Emirates, rising to a majestic height of 1,240 metres. This rocky peak overlooks Al Ain and has a border with Oman, with a jagged limestone finish that has been weathered gradually over literally millions of years. There have been several significant fossil discoveries made in the area here, each of which form another piece of the puzzle of the rich heritage of the city. These include more than 500 ancient burial tombs that date back more than 5,000 years and that were discovered in the Jebel Hafeet Foothills.
Calendar of Events
The inhabitants of Abu Dhabi celebrate a multitude of diverse events and festivals throughout the year, many of which revolve around the Islamic faith such as Ramadan, Eid Al Adha and Eid ul Fitr. If you're visiting the city, it's worth checking the calendar of events for religious festivals as during this period Muslims abstain from food, drink and smoking, and visitors are also expected to follow this code of conduct in public places. In terms of non-religious events and festivals, Abu Dhabi has a wide selection of festivals encompassing sports, arts and cultural events, guaranteeing there's something for everybody.
- New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Each year on the night of December 31st into January 1st, Abu Dhabi celebrates New Year's Eve and New Year's Day with vibrant celebrations and festivities. These include luxurious gala dinner parties, dancing and elaborate firework displays. Many of the city's finest hotels host their own exclusive New Year's Eve parties, so you can toast the New Year in style.
- Music and Arts Festival. Each year the city welcomes one of the most important annual events, featuring a wide selection of entertainment and modern works of art.
- Sounds of Arabia Festival. In May each year the weather in Abu Dhabi is warming up and there's a real sense of romance and mystery in the air as summer approaches, creating the perfect setting for the annual six-night Sounds of Arabic Festival. This popular event features the best in contemporary music from the Arabic-speaking world and is celebrated with theatre, music and dance.
- Chess Festival. Whether you're a chess novice or a grand master, you'll have fun practising playing chess with world-class players from all corners of the globe at this thrilling event that takes place each August.