For years there wasn’t much for tourists to appreciate in Abu Dhabi, the seat of government in the United Arab Emirates. However, the city began to undergo radical changes after a new Sheikh assumed power in 2004, and now it’s every bit as glitzy and exciting as its neighbours in Dubai. If you’re planning a visit to the capital of the emirates, be sure not to miss these sights and activities:
Like many of the Middle East’s more upmarket destinations, Abu Dhabi is a shopper’s dream: over a dozen separate shopping malls can be found around the city, and that’s before you even get to the traditional markets and souks. The air-conditioned malls provide a welcome escape from the summer heat, as well as a place to browse through all the latest fashions. The Avenue at Etihad Towers is perhaps the city’s most prestigious shopping centre, with boutiques and outlets from Hermes, Burberry, Rolex and Stefano Ricci. For something a little lighter on the wallet, try the Abu Dhabi Mall in the Tourist Club area, which offers a more mid-range shopping experience.
While some of the sumptuous hotels in Abu Dhabi, such as the Kempinski Emirates Palace feel like destinations in themselves, there’s no shortage of impressive spots to visit. The Sheikh Zaye Mosque, the sixth-largest mosque in the world, is big enough for more than 40,000 worshippers, and its white domes and minarets are truly awe-inspiring. Another spot not to be missed is the Abu Dhabi Corniche, an eight-kilometre stretch of waterfront that features sandy beaches, children’s play areas and little parks. The entire beachfront has Blue Flag status, so it’s the perfect place to go bathing and cool down a little. Or explore Khalifa Park, a beautiful green space with its own aquarium, museum and play facilities.
Located off the coast, about 20km from Abu Dhabi city centre, this island is famously home to the Yas Island Circuit where the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has taken place since 2009. It’s a motorhead’s dream, with the circuit itself – designed by Hermann Tilke – considered to be the “Arabian Monaco”. It’s open to the public, with venue tours operating daily – you will need a valid UAE drivers’ licence if you want to drive a car on the track, but anyone can burn rubber on the go-karts!