a project for the future looking at the past
Abu Dhabi is not a city, it is a project for the future, but among skyscrapers, major works and glittering hotels you can still find authentic experiences, you can still visit one of the most beautiful islamic monuments and you can still enjoy an amazing sea.
Abu Dhabi has everything and has nothing, it depends on you and on what you are looking for, thus a weekend can be too much if you are looking for a city where to stroll in nice alleys and neighborhoods; it can be not enough if you want to relax on white beaches, if you like modern architecture or if you want to experience the thrill of speed on a Formula One circuit.
If you are wondering about what to see in Abu Dhabi, here you can find a list of the things that struck us and that we strongly recommend.
abu dhabi - Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The main attraction in Abu Dhabi is surely the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque , an amazing place, a majestic opera that will enchant you at any hour. There are non entrance fees and there are free "Walk in" tours that let you visit this islamic monument with a local guide. In order to entere the mosque you must cover your legs, shoulders and also your hair ( only for women ). But don't worry, because you can freely rent an appropriate dress at the entrance of the mosque if you don't want to bring long clothes with you.
Below you can find the link to the website of the Sheikh Zayed Grande Mosque of Abu Dhabi, where you can find more information about running hours and tours.
Don't miss this amazing jewel in Abu Dhabi, because it is one of the best monuments we have ever visited.
abu dhabi - Saadiyat Island
If the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is surely Abu Dhabi main attraction, at Saadiyat Island you will find the best beaches and the best sea in the whole country. Relax at Saadiyat Public Beach, where the entrance fee is AED 25 ( € 6 ) and the wonderful and well organized white sandy beach is one of the best places in Abu Dhabi where you can spend the hottest hours during the day. In the morning the water is simply amazing, crystal clear, moving across all the different shades of blue. Unfortunately in the afternoon at Saadyiat Island the tide gets higher and the sea tends to ripple.
On the beach there's a small café and an ice-cream parlor but you won't find a real restaurant nearby because the neighborhood is an open construction site.
Actually Saadyiat Island is not only an amazing place for your relax, but, above all, it is also the future Abu Dhabi. A new city is growing here with an incredible cultural district that will include the Louvre Museum and the Guggenheim Museum ( estimated openings in 2017 ), with a great residential area and new shopping neighborhood all around then Zayed National Museum. If you want to imagine what the future looks like, you can visit the Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadyiat Island cultural center that hosts a free, interesting and permanent exhibition about the project for the island.
If you want to know more about Saadyiat Island in Abu Dhabi, you can find below the link of the website.
abu dhabi - the Corniche
What is the Corniche ? It is Abu Dhabi 8 kilometers long boardwalk. It is provided with a cycling and jogging path with gardens that separate beach from skyscrapers. Rent a bike if you want to explore Abu Dhabi Corniche and keep in mind that during the hottest hours the best thing you can do is to take advantage of the beach and to enjoy the sea.
Honestly we were not impressed by the Corniche, it is a nice boardwalk, but that's it. Abu Dhabi has more to offer.
Abu Dhabi - Heritage Village
If you want to vaguely understand what life in Abu Dhabi should have been before oil, then visit the Abu Dhabi Heritage Village. This free open-air museum is organized as an old fort that includes: a small traditional souq, the reconstruction of a bedouin camp, some craft stores, an old mosque and some traditional boats on the beach. This place is not sensational, but it is worth a visit in order to have a quick glance on the history of this city and of its people.
abu dhabi - Emirates Palace
Close to the Abu Dhabi Heritage Village, Emirates Palace and Ethiad Towers are Abu Dhabi centre of modernity and luxury. The first one is a luxury hotel that looks like an imperial palace for its decorations and architecture. You can visit it in order to admire its exterior, made of gardens and fountains, and its amazing interior where you can find art galleries and elegant tea rooms.
... On the other side of the street: the glittering Ethiad Towers.
abu dhabi - AL mina souqs
If you are looking for a less luxurious but more authentic experience, then visit Al Mina tradiranno souqs, where the most important one is surely the Fish Souq, a well supplied market where you'll find only local buyers. At the fish market there are also some restaurants frequented by fishermen and market employees where you can eat a good and fresh fish at a very good price. This is a place that is substance over flash!
Nearby there is also a fruit and vegetables souk that is described as a colorful place full of different scents. We visited it almost at noon and maybe this is the reason why we found almost no one. Try to visit it when the heat is less intense.
abu dhabi - other attractions
Abu Dhabi offers interesting attractions for Formula One fans, such as then Yas Marina Circuit with the distinctive Viceroy Hotel and the Ferrari World. In Yas Island you will find the water park Yas Waterworld for kids and for anyone who wants more than white sandy beaches.
If you want to know more about bedouin culture then visit the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital where you will learn the importance of falcons in bedouin life.