Top 10 Things to do in Abu Dhabi


Our Top Ten things to do in Abu Dhabi - Don't leave until you've experienced the best Abu Dhabi has to offer

Like many of the big cities of the Gulf States, you’d expect Abu Dhabi to be all luxury hotels and shopping malls but unlike Dubai, Abu Dhabi has a more prominent older part. Here you can go to the races late at night when the air cools, wander the traditional fish market as the fishermen land their catches or journey out of town to experience the desert. We’d recommend you to try some of these fascinating experiences and see just how enticing Abu Dhabi can be.
1 Watch Camel Racing At Al Wathba Camel Track
Watch Camel Racing At Al Wathba Camel Track
So, not your usual Derby or Grand National here. I’m not sure what a camel would look like over the fences either! The camel racing season runs from October until March whilst the weather is cooler for animal, jockey and crowd and these hotly-contested races are not so much an entertainment but part of traditional Bedouin life. There are many racetracks across the Emirate but the best races are run at the Al Wathba racetrack on Thursday and Friday evenings. About half an hour out of town and free entry you’ve just got to go.

2 Al Ain Oasis And Take ‘The World’s Best Driving Road’
Al Ain Oasis And Take ‘The World’s Best Driving Road’
Out into the desert from Abu Dhabi you’ll find the oasis settlement of Al Ain which has been a stop on the trade routes across Arabia for thousands of years and the region’s largest oasis town. There’s a very atmospheric fort and on certain days in the year you can watch the traders but and sell young and old camels.  Leaving the settlement and heading towards Jebel Hafeet, the highest peak in the Emirate you’ll come to what’s been described by a friend of mine as the best motorbiking road in the world. Perfect asphalt stretches for over 7 miles, climbing some 1,200 metres and winding round some 60 corners. There are spectacular views if you can take your eyes off the road!

3 Marvel At The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Marvel At The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque was named after the founder and first president of the UAE and as you’ll guess by standing by it, is one of the world’s largest mosques. It has 82 domes and four minarets and cost about $545m to build. The Emirates are a very devout region and this is the only mosque in the UAE open to non-Muslims. Excellent tour guides will take you around the huge complex, which has room for 40,000 worshippers. The prayer hall alone holds around 9,000 people and the mosque also holds the record for the world’s largest carpet, a staggering 5,000 square metre piece of art, hand-made by more than 200 craftsmen.

4 Visit The Arabian Saluki Centre
Visit The Arabian Saluki Centre
The saluki gazelle hound is thought to have been the first domesticated dog and is closely related to the wolf. It has been used for hunting by the Bedouin for millennia. These highly-prized dogs are known for their exceptional intelligence, loyalty and stamina but unfortunately the changing way of life for desert dwellers means that the breed is now threatened. The Saluki Centre was established in 2001 to help preserve the breed and a visit lets you come face to face with these beautiful, graceful, yet powerful dogs.

5 Go On A Rug Crawl
Go On A Rug Crawl
Part of any visit to the Middle East is being dragged around carpet factories and stores by seemingly desperate owners. Often people end up buying poor quality carpets they didn’t want because of the pressure from the salesman. Here in Abu Dhabi, the quality and value for money on carpets and rugs is excellent but if you intend to buy one, employ an expert guide who will take you around the best ones and can advise you on cost and quality. Again, haggling is expected over a juice or black tea and make sure you only buy what you really want. Many of the traders will arrange shipping to your home too.

6 Relax Over An Arabian Dinner Cruise
Relax Over An Arabian Dinner Cruise
The Corniche is the stretch of land along the coast that is seemingly under full time development of hotels, office blocks and malls. The best time to see it is at night when it begins to look like a mini Manhattan and the best place to see it from one of the many cruise ships that offer dinner and an Abu Dhabi by night experience. Traditional music accompanies a buffet of local delicacies for a magical evening.

7 Spend A Night At The Races
Spend A Night At The Races
More traditional horse racing here where huge sums are bet on the outcomes. The evening takes place at the exclusive Abu Dhabi Golf and Equestrian Club. Entry is reasonably priced and you can sit by the starting boxes and feast on a delicious barbecue available all evening as the races take place under floodlights.

8 Camp Overnight In The Desert
Camp Overnight In The Desert
There’s little in the world more magical that lying on the sand in the middle of a desert looking up into the pure blackness of the sky at the millions of stars and galaxies. One of the best and safest ways to do this is to set out from the city in a 4WD and set up camp with the Bedouin. They’ll prepare a delicious meal for you, served in the traditional way, whilst you sit on huge cushions. Finish with an Arabic coffee under the stars before turning in to sleep in the absolute silence of the desert night.

9 Take An Architect’s Tour
Take An Architect’s Tour
The Gulf States are well known for trying to outdo each other (and the rest of the world too!) in architectural design and seemingly impossible buildings. Abu Dhabi was transformed from a small fishing village before oil was discovered in the 1958 into the stunning city of 850,000 inhabitants it is today. The best way to see how the old blends with the new is to join an architect’s tour of the city who will explain how some of the landmark buildings were designed and built.  Look out for the national museum, the maritime museum and the performing arts centre – all amazing!

10 Visit The Traditional Fish Market
Visit The Traditional Fish Market
Back now to what Abu Dhabi was once all about. Head down to Abu Dhabi’s Dhow Wharf and Fish Market to see the fishermen unload their catch. The boats come in day and night. Here you’ll see market traders and fishermen bustle around this traditional market buying and selling and it’s here you can get a real feel of the old Abu Dhabi. If you’re peckish, buy a fish straight from the boat, get it cleaned and have it charcoal grilled before your eyes for the freshest fish meal you’ve ever had.

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