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Five Things to Do and See in Abu Dhabi

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When I think about Abu Dhabi, several things immediately come to mind.

Stunning mosques. Gorgeous palaces. Tremendous hospitality. An ability to relax and not to worry about anything because somebody else has already carefully planned everything for you.

Abu Dhabi is an incredible place. You will fall in love with it at the first sight.

What makes Abu Dhabi so special?

Whether you travel there in winter or in summer, you are guaranteed to have a good time. You’ll have plenty of things to do. When the weather is pleasant, you can visit the beach and various amusement parks. If it’s very hot outside, you can visit various museums and palaces of amazing beauty, the national aquarium, or cool off in the numerous shopping centers and restaurants. You can also go to the pool- the water there is quite refreshing.

You can pay with the credit card pretty much everywhere. No need to carry cash. During my whole stay in Abu Dhabi, I didn’t use cash even once. All the payments go through momentarily and you can focus on enjoying things, not wasting your time on how to pay for them.

There are plenty of taxis. If you’re worried about getting around Abu Dhabi, relax. Getting from place to place in Abu Dhabi is very easy. Uber is one way to get around. Drivers are fast an reliable. Cars come within a few minutes. Cars are often quite luxurious (I was driven in a Lexus a few times). You can also grab a regular taxi pretty much anywhere. At tourist attractions, there are usually many taxis available. Prices are similar to Uber and sometimes slightly lower.

Everything is very, very beautiful. Also unique and tasteful. If you like beautiful things, Abu Dhabi is a place for you. For example, if you go to a museum, it’s not going to be an ordinary museum. It’s going to be a gorgeous museum with some story behind it. If you go to a palace, it won’t be just a palace. It will be the most incredible splendor which you didn’t even know existed. At some point, you just get used to all this beauty. But then it’s time to go home… Well, the good news is that you can always come back!

Qasr Al Watan

All the tourist attractions are very well organized. There are golf carts, buses, and all kinds of similar things to make your experience as enjoyable as possible. Everything is free. You don’t even need to ask- staff will offer help themselves. Everyone is very polite and caring.

Shuttle at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Flying Etihad Airways

Flying Etihad Airways is a very pleasant experience. There is a direct flight from Washington DC. You go to bed when the flight departs and you’re essentially in Abu Dhabi when you wake up, with friendly staff offering you a delicious breakfast. Business class is comfortable and cozy.

Coming back from Abu Dhabi to the US on Etihad Airways is a breeze. You go through all the formalities (e.g., passport control) prior to the flight. When the plane lands in DC, passengers are already cleared and don’t need to wait in any lines. They just pick up their bags and head home.

Magic of Abu Dhabi, hah?

Business class on Etihad Airways

Just a few examples of Abu Dhabi hospitality

Example 1: In the Louvre Abu Dhabi, they do not allow water bottles inside. The staff at the reception of the museum offered to safeguard my water bottle during the visit. They carefully placed a sticker with my name on the bottle and I picked it up when leaving the museum.

Example 2: When visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, I did not have a headscarf. I was also not sure if my clothes were okay. When I got out of the taxi, I discovered that there was a mall where tourists could buy any attire needed for entering the mosque (long gowns, headscarves etc.) Store staff were willing to look your outfit over and offer advice what clothes you needed to get. Check out my post about the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque for more details.

Example 3: As I was walking from the taxi to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, I didn’t have a hat. I briefly put up my hand to cover my face from the sun. A second later, an employee in a golf cart drove by me and offered to drive me to the museum.

Five Attractions to See in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is famous all over the world. Quite a few royals and celebrities have visited it over the years, notably Pope Francis, the late Queen Elizabeth, King Charles and Queen Camilla, India’s Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Paris Hilton, Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, Rihanna, and others.

As you approach the main entrance of the mosque, you will see a striking snow white architectural construction with reflecting pools stretching to left and right. The mosque projects not only incredible beauty and wealth, but, most importantly, peace and tranquility.

As you enter the gates, you will find yourself in the courtyard surrounded by gorgeous domes rising from all sides of the structure. These domes are covered by white Greek and Italian marble and topped by a golden spire. Four magnificent 107-meter-high minarets rise straight into the sky.

The floor of the courtyard is covered by marble of incredible beauty featuring an enormous floral design. This is the largest marble mosaic floor in the world.

The courtyard at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Inside the mosque, you will find magnificent chandeliers in the shape of an upturned palm tree which are 15.5 m high and weigh 12 tons. They are covered with gold plates and adorned with green, red and yellow Swarovski crystals. In order to decorate the chandeliers, nearly 40 million of crystal balls were used.

The National Aquarium

The National Aquarium of Abu Dhabi is the largest aquarium in the Middle East.

It’s a great place to visit on any day, but especially during the summer when the weather is over 40C. The cool and relaxing experience inside the aquarium is exactly what one needs.

The aquarium features over 330 unique species and houses more than 46,000 animals. They are spread along the 10 thematic zones, such as UAE National Treasures, Red Sea Wreck, Atlantic Cave, Frozen Ocean, and others. You can expect to see sting rays, sharks, fish of different kinds, corals, as well as different reptiles and birds.

Visitors can purchase general admission tickets, or opt for some additional experiences, such as glass bottom dhow tours, as well as animal encounters with various ocean species, puffins and freshwater rays. There is also an opportunity to get a behind the scenes tour and visit the turtle rehabilitation center where rescued sea turtles are receiving treatment.

All of the exhibits are very unique, making your experience at the aquarium very enjoyable. Even if you’ve seen the creatures on display before, you will definitely be impressed by the unusual design and presentation.

The jellyfish exhibit is a great example. It changes color, making you want to stand near it for a long time, admiring the view.

Corniche Road

Corniche Road is another important landmark in Abu Dhabi.

This 8 km road boasts a beautiful boardwalk, manicured lawns, a beach, children’s play areas, bicycle lanes, and cafes and restaurants. The Corniche beach, which features clear turquoise water and soft white sand, as well as the striking views of the Arabian Gulf, will not disappoint even the most demanding visitors. The entrance is free. There are plenty of parking spaces and you can also ride a bicycle along the promenade.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors in 2017 thanks to the cultural partnership between Abu Dhabi and France. As part of this collaboration, select masterpieces from the Louvre collection have been loaned to the museum in Abu Dhabi, thus bridging the gap between East and West. Thanks to this museum, many people are able to enjoy Louvre’s beautiful artwork without having to travel as far as France. Not surprisingly, Louvre Abu Dhabi welcomed over a million visitors in the first year after its opening, making it the most visited museum in the Arab world.

Louvre Abu Dhabi is the largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula. The building is extremely impressive, partly due to the unique style which combines elements of French design with the rich Arabic heritage. The permanent collection of the museum features about 600 pieces of art. The museum’s displays are also regularly updated with additional masterpieces from other collections around the world, which enables visitors to regularly discover new paintings and sculptures.

The museum features a number of quotes. The one I liked the most is as follows:

Art is the shortest path from man to man” (“L’art c’est le plus court chemin de l’homme a l’homme“) (Andre Malraux)

Overall, I found all the art pieces in the Louvre Abu Dhabi collection very impressive. But I was particularly happy to see the portrait of Marie Antoinette on display. She is one of my favorite characters in history. The tragic story of her life has always fascinated me. It was a pleasant surprise to see Marie Antoinette’s portrait in Abu Dhabi! During her lifetime, the queen mostly stayed at the Versailles palace and traveled very little (even to see her own country). No doubt, she’d be surprised to find out how far her portrait has traveled.

Queen Marie Antoinette seated, France, 1788

Qasr Al Watan

Qasr Al Watan (“palace of the nation” in Arabic) is a working Presidential palace in Abu Dhabi. Its construction was completed in 2017. The palace opened its doors to the public starting with 2019, although it still continues being used for official purposes.

By visiting this majestic landmark and walking down its hallways, you will gain a better understanding of the culture and history of the UAE, its traditions and values. Get ready to admire the incredible wealth and grandeur, rich ornamentation and bold mosaic patterns which will surround your from the first minute of your visit.

As you walk around Qasr Al Watan, you will undoubtedly see a magnificent golden sculpture by the famous Emirati artist Mattar bin Lahej. You cannot miss it! Many people take pictures inside it. This unique piece of art, which weighs 6 tons, is part of the series called Power of Words, featuring quotes attributed to the late Sheikh Zayed. The sculpture inside the palace displays the following quote: “Wealth is not money or oil; wealth lies in people and it is worthless if it is not dedicated to serve the people.” Two other sculptures in the series are made of silver and can be found in the garden.

Power of Words sculpture

The Final Word

Well, I hope that by now, you are ready to pack your bags and travel to Abu Dhabi. Whether it’s winter or summer, Abu Dhabi will keep you busy with its incredible cultural landmarks, great shopping opportunities, top restaurants and a fantastic beach experience.

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5 thoughts on “Five Things to Do and See in Abu Dhabi”

  1. When I went, the Louvre was not even built but I did enjoy the Grand Mosque and walking on the corniche. Excellent picks for Abu Dhabi.

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