As part of my job, I was recently sent to Abu Dhabi to complete a rather long training program. During this stay, I was able to see and do all of the things that Abu Dhabi (& Dubai!) has to offer. I’ve finally taken the time to compile my favorite spots in and around the city! Yes, this post is rather long, but I’ve spent months there!!
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is absolutely magnificent. As the largest (& grandest) mosque in the UAE, it is an absolute must-see when in the Emirates. It is free to enter and proper dress for women is available upon arrival. Also, an underground ~air conditioned~ tunnel takes visitors from the entrance building to the mosque and back. When to visit? I recommend visiting during both day and night for two different experiences.
Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed St – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates
The Lourve Abu Dhabi is both a museum and an architectural masterpiece. The building itself is stunning, sits right on the water, and offers up views of the city. Its a bit out of the way as far as getting there is concerned, but it was one of my absolute favorite days spent in Abu Dhabi. The museum is closed on Mondays, but open otherwise from 10 am – 8 pm. Fun fact: I went on Christmas Day, as the country doesn’t celebrate. Admission costs 63 AED (roughly $17) or 31.5 AED (roughly $8.50) for students/military (The workers at the ticket desk didn’t even glance at my student ID long enough to realize it was out of date). While the museum is filled with wonderful exhibits, the main attraction is Leonardo Da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronniere. Even those who aren’t major art critics can appreciate this masterpiece. The museum also has a cafe, wifi, and countless incredible photo opportunities.
Saadiyat – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates
Yas Marina and Mall
Yas Marina and Mall became my second home throughout my stay in the Middle East. The Mall is massive, with floors upon floors of name brand designers, chain restaurants, and movie theaters. The Marina, located close by, is where all of the expensive yachts are kept. Along the marina, there are lots of restaurants, bars and clubs with both indoor and outdoor seating. My favorite spots in the Marina became Stars ‘n’ Bars (lame name, but good food and fun trivia nights) and Casa de Cuba (very fun Cuban theme club/bar). The Marina also is home to the Yas Marina Circuit where the infamous Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix takes place. When they aren’t racing there however, you can take a spin on the track (quite expensive) or go for a run on the open track days (Tuesdays and Sundays I believe).
Ferrari World/Yas Waterpark
Yas Island is home to three theme parks: Ferrari World, Yas Waterpark and Warner Bros World. Ferrari World is a car-themed indoor park most noted for the world’s fastest roller coaster – Formula Rossa. Formula Rossa accelerates from 0 to 239 km/h in 4 seconds. The park is also home to a few more roller coasters and attractions. I left this park quite nauseous from the two big coasters. Adrenaline junkies will love the World’s Fastest Coaster, but if you get motion sickness easily, I don’t recommend trying these attractions. A one-day pass costs 295 dirhams if you buy online in advance. However, if you want to also visit the Yas Waterpark or Warner Bros World, you can do so on the same day with the one-day/two-parks pass costing an additional 100 dirhams. I chose to opt out of the Waterpark/Warner Bros option, but my friends who visited the Waterpark had a great time! (I was told by friends that the Warner Bros World is not nearly as good as the other two parks) Also, I visited during the ~winter~ season (still 80°F during the day) and did not wait in line for a single ride.
Marina Mall/Emirates Palace
Marina Mall is right along the water and has more high-end stores than Yas Mall despite looking a little more run down. Right beside the mall is a ferris wheel with great views of the water and city. Emirates Palace is right next door and beautiful, however, because it is a luxury five-star hotel, they wouldn’t let my friends and I explore it as we were not meeting dress code (my guy friend was wearing shorts rather than pants). The area in general is very fun to explore, with beaches, views, and very cool buildings (beep below). It is also within walking distance of the best beach in Abu Dhabi – Corniche Beach. Corniche Beach is a great place to swim, or maybe just dip your toes in the Arabian Gulf (Yes, the country is very conservative, but you can still wear a normal swimsuit). The beach has a cute little board walk with a ton of restaurants and little shops. I was also lucky enough to catch the world’s largest fireworks displays there to ring in 2019.
Every once in a while, I’ll have a moment with traveling where I pinch myself. That being said, the desert safari was one of the most surreal experiences of my entire life. It was rather sketchy to book, as were given a phone number of the “desert safari guy” and called him up. We were able to book quite late, late as in the day before. We paid per van, which meant is was more cost effective to have eight people splitting the fee versus four. The two vans (old toyotas without seatbelts) picked us up at the hotel and we were off. First, we stopped to see a few camels, which again was a little weird/sketchy. After a short visit with the camels, we set out over the dunes – truly and incredible sight and experience. Yes, the driver handed me the aux cord, and it was awesome. We stopped for some pictures on the dunes before heading to the desert “camp.” At the camp, there was traditional gear to try on, henna tattoos, arabic coffee, sand boarding, camel riding, and four wheeling. Once everyone had done their activies, it was dinner and a show. There was a massive buffet of very unexpectedly good food and a belly dancing show that went on into the night. It did become rather cold towards the end of the night, so I recommend bringing a jacket of some sort. After the show, we piled back into our vans and headed home. 10000/10 experience
Thanks for reading!