Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) Flag Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)


Amusement Parks

Yas Island

جزيرة ياس‎

Abu Dhabi,

Just off the north coast from al-Hamra, Yas hosts amusement centers and high-adrenaline entertainment focusing on automotive excitement. Its full-sized Formula 1 circuit now hosts a professional event every year and the mind-blowing Ferrari World featuring the fastest rollercoaster in the world along with over 20 other world-class rides. Ferrari World is currently the largest indoor theme park on the globe and stretches over the core of the island in the shape of a scaled-up Ferrari logo. Those who like to take things a bit more slowly may prefer a round of golf on the PGA-standard links or a quiet drink on the veranda of one of the island's many high-end hotels.

Architectural Landmarks

Etisalat Towers

Intersection of Zayed the First St and Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed St
Abu Dhabi,
Tel: (2) 633 3111
Website: www.etisalat.ae

These dynamic twin towers follow a stepped cladding blueprint and are both capped by giant, golf ball-like domes that uniquely define the Abu Dhabi skyline. Architect Arthur Erickson completed Tower 1 in 1992 at a height of 100 meters (328 ft), and Shankland Cox completed Tower 2 in 2007 at a height of 185 meters (607 ft). These days, both rank among the top five tallest structures in the city and are terrific examples of postmodern style. Etisalat, the United Arab Emirates' national telecom company, has its headquarters in Tower 2's pinnacle. The company has also constructed similar-looking skyscrapers in Sharjah and al-Ain.

Historic Sites

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

جامع الشيخ زايد الكبير
Off al-Khaleej al-Arabi Street
Abu Dhabi,
Tel: (2) 280 05555
Website: www.szgmc.ae

This, the United Arab Emirates' largest mosque, opened during Ramadan 2007. Its grandiose Turkish, Moorish, and Moghul-inspired architecture and 57 domes have stunned and inspired visitors ever since. Gold, crystals, and semi-precious stones feature elsewhere in the construction. Forty thousand of the faithful can be accommodated at any one time in the marble-paved prayer rooms within. You'll find the world's largest carpet (designed by the Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi) and the world's largest chandelier here as well. Eight-thousand square meters (86 111 ft2) of tiled pools and mosaic-decorated courtyards surround the structure. To gain entry to Sheikh Zayed Mosque you must wear respectful and modest clothing such as long sleeves, trousers, and ankle-length skirts.

Al-Hosn Fort and Palace

قصر الحصن
Sheikh Zayed the First Street
Abu Dhabi,

Built in 1761 as a single turret to defend Abu Dhabi's water supply, this building is the oldest standing structure in Abu Dhabi. In 1793, it was converted into a small fort and palace for the ruling sheikh (Arab ruler) of Abu Dhabi and named Qasr al-Hosn, meaning "the palace fort." It evolved over centuries into a white fortress complex that housed both the seat of the United Arab Emirates' government and the main residence of the Sheikh until 1966. Further expansions funded by the oil boom have made it the home of various administrative offices and the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation. During the palace's renovation between 1976 and 1983, the stone construction, noted for its fine tilework over the main gate, was painted white.

Al Maqta Tower

Near al-Maqta Bridge
Abu Dhabi,

This ashen, semi-ruined turret rises up out of the water in startling contrast with the very new al-Maqta Bridge before it. Take care with photographing this site, as it is near a military zone that has reason to be suspicious of spies. This attraction began life as a fort that guarded against pirates and bandits back in the 19th century, when visitors to the city had to wade across the strait at low tide. Today it contains a handy Abu Dhabi Tourism Association advisory service where you can gather information, arrange tours, and book hotels.

Emirates Heritage Village

Al-Kasser Breakwater
Marina Village
Abu Dhabi,
Tel: (2) 268 14455

Before its 20th-century explosion of development, Abu Dhabi was not much more than a modest Bedouin village. This attraction will give you an excellent idea of how that place must have looked and sounded. Here, traditional craftspeople work in the streets outside atmospheric huts and tents selling everything from cardamom perfume to local confectioneries to ceramics and leather goods. Tour the museum, peruse a mock-up of a souq, and marvel at the tallest flagpole in the world, if you're looking for oddities. Lovely parkland stretches all the way down to the sea. Admission is free, which is a nice feature in such an expensive city. Opening hours are Saturday to Thursday, 9am-1pm and 5pm-9pm, and Friday, 5pm-9pm

Hotels and Casinos

Emirates Palace Hotel

قصر الإمارات
West Cornice Road
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi,
Tel: (2) 690 9000
Website: www.emiratespalace.com

With its ornate 42-meter-tall (138-ft) dome and Islamic doorways, the Emirates Palace Hotel has become a landmark of Abu Dhabi. You don't need to stay here to admire its gorgeous sculpted gardens, lounge around on its private beach, or go inside to one of its fifteen restaurants and bars-amongst which you'll find a Michelin-starred Chinese bistro-for a cool drink and to enjoy the thousand-odd chandeliers. The gold-leaf decor and silk curtains of the finest suites will remind you of romantic palaces from The Arabian Nights. Organized tours of the premises are available and should be booked in advance.

Markets and Open Spaces

Iranian and Fish Souks

Near the Dhow Harbor and Zayed Port
Abu Dhabi,

Two of the city's most character-filled souqs stand adjacent to the Dhow Harbor. These canopied markets have been doing business for thousands of years. The Iranian Souq overflows with potted plants, rugs, tiles, and domestic goods imported from Iran on a regular basis. Sharpen your bargaining skills if you want to take home a first-rate souvenir. The lively but sometimes odiferous Fish Souq puts the very best of Abu Dhabi's seafood up for sale-cooked or uncooked-including prawns, oysters, lobsters, and tuna. Please don't be tempted to take any photos in this sensitive, government-overseen area.

Museums and Galleries

Umm an-Nar

Abu Dhabi,

The island of Umm an-Nar made a dramatic transformation from dull, functional oil refinery into first-class heritage attraction when archaeologists discovered a tomb dating back to the fourth century BCE in 1975. Currently, the al-Ain Museum exhibits such objects as urns, goblets, hairpins, and knives, as well as oddities like the tusk of a dugong that lived some 5,000 years ago. The island was a significant trading port of call for a number of great civilizations of the period, such as the Mesopotamians, who brought with them the distinctive designs of Uttar pottery.

Women's Handicraft Centre

Karamah Street, al-Mushrif
Abu Dhabi,
Tel: (2) 244 76645

This museum/workshop/gallery offers a truly fascinating insight into traditional arts and crafts and the role of women in Arabian industry. You can watch wizened elderly women weaving, embroidering, sewing, and applying henna in the various workshops, and the exhibition hall boasts fine displays of traditional clothing, camel satchels, and textiles. You can, of course, purchase samples. You can also enjoy a scale model of the city dating back to the 1950s. The cafe's tasty Emirati food makes it a good lunch option. Feel free to photograph the crafts on display, but keep the lens well away from the women at work. Guided tours are available if booked in advance. Open hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 8:30am-1pm

Natural Sites

The Corniche

Abu Dhabi,

This romantic beachside walkway stretches 6 kilometers (3.7 mi) around the city and was the brainchild of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan al-Nahyan, a lover of walking and big open spaces. Beautiful gardens and ornate water fountains surround the central Abu Dhabi section of the Corniche, making this a great spot for a picnic. The cooling sea breeze offers welcome respite from the harsh temperatures that characterize the inner city. Along the west coast, the Corniche boasts volleyball pitches, kids' playgrounds, vending machines, and designated swimming areas with lifeguard watchtowers and beach parasols. Cyclists will enjoy the biking route that runs parallel to the walkway.

The Dhow Harbor

Madenat Zayed
Abu Dhabi,

The traditional flat dhow boats fashioned by skilled craftsmen from single pieces of teak have to be one of the United Arab Emirates' truly distinguishing features. This ancient port, once the heart of the pearl- and fish-trading economy, makes for the best place to see these vessels race with one another or load up with intriguing cargoes for delivery to other Gulf nations. You'll see vintage oil tankers and tug boats. You can even go for a cruise on the al-Dhafra restaurant boat and eat a delicious Arabian meal while you sail the seas. Down the coast at al-Bateen Shipyard, you can watch the dhow construction process in all its edifying detail.

Other Points of Interest

Manarat al-Saadiyat Visitor Center

Saadiyat Island
Abu Dhabi,
Tel: (2) 690 8207
Website: www.artsabudhabi.ae

The brains behind Abu Dhabi are currently developing the small offshore island of Saadiyat into a cultural axis. This visitor center incorporates five galleries, a world-class theatre, art shops and dealers, and a five-star restaurant. An intriguing permanent exhibition tells the story of Saadiyat Island, which eerily mimics Abu Dhabi's, running from backwater obscurity to global preeminence through commerce, tourism, and technology. This is the perfect neighbor for the forthcoming Guggenheim Museum and a branch of the Louvre. Opening hours are Monday to Friday, 10 am-6pm and Saturday, 9am-8:30pm

Corniche Beach

Corniche Road West
Abu Dhabi,
Tel: (2) 288 8867

A relatively new development, this safe, gated beach features buoyant fences that stop swimmers from going too far out of their depth. Lifeguards roam the coast too, adding to your peace of mind. Almost two hundred umbrellas shade perfect spots for sunbathing and picnicking, and the more energetic visitor can play tennis or beach football and use the playground. A  car park offers a complimentary bus that will deliver you to the beach. Those youngsters interested in wakeboarding can receive lessons or just good sound advice for making the most of the surf at the Beginners' Park. Opening hours are 7:30am-12am

Urban Parks and Gardens

Khalifa Park

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Street
Abu Dhabi,
Tel: (2) 244 94303
Website: www.adm.gov.ae

Islamic horticultural traditions shine in Khalifa, a rolling, verdant expanse that is surely Abu Dhabi's standout park. Take a half day or even longer to explore the lakes, waterfalls, canals, and fountains scattered throughout the park. Kids can enjoy the adventure playground and the miniature railway that winds its way around the extremities of the park. Various entertainments occur at the open-air auditorium during the evenings. Picnic areas are provided in the shade of banyan and willow trees. Come here in the cooler months or in the less-scorching evenings.