Things To Do in Abu Dhabi
SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
Clad in Macedonian marble, the beautiful and absolutely mammoth Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is Abu Dhabi’s landmark building. The mosque fuses Mameluke, Ottoman and Fatamid design elements to create a harmonious and thoroughly modern mosque that celebrates Islamic architecture. Artisans utilised glass-work, mosaic tiling and intricate carvings to spectacular effect on both the interior and exterior. It was opened in 2007 after nearly 20 years of construction and holds up to a capacity of 40,000 worshippers, it is the biggest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and, like the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Fujairah, is dedicated to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan. Non-Muslims are allowed into all areas of the mosque (including the vast library), and there are also guided tours available.
What the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is to the vertical, the Emirates Palace is to the horizontal, with audacious domed gatehouses and flying ramps to the foyer, 114 domes and a 1.3km private beach. Built at a cost of Dh11 billion, this is the big hotel in the Gulf, with 1002 crystal chandeliers and 400 luxury rooms and suites. You don’t have to check in to check out the Emirates Palace, as it doubles as a cultural hub of the city.
Hosting opera and renowned orchestras during the Abu Dhabi Classics concert season, and showing screenings during the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, the Emirates Palace has played its part in the cultural expansion of the capital.
SIR BANY YAS ISLAND
A nature-based destination alive with wildlife and adventure activities, a 5-star boutique hotel, luxury villas, purpose-built stables and historical sites, Sir Bani Yas Island is one of the eight which make up the Desert Islands in Al Gharbia.
Recently awarded the ‘World’s Leading Sustainable Tourism Destination’, more than half the island is made up of the Arabian Wildlife Park, one of region’s largest wildlife reserves, which is home to more than 10,000 free roaming animals including Arabian Oryx, gazelles and giraffes, hyenas and cheetahs. Guests can take a 4x4 Nature & Wildlife Drive of the park in specially made vehicles accompanied by expert guides. The island is also home to UAE's only discovered Christian monastery, which can be visited during a Desert Islands Resort & Spa Culture Tour. Believed to have been built around 600 AD, and abandoned in 750 AD, the monastery was initially discovered during excavations in 1992. The island can be reached via flights or a speedboat.
Abu Dhabi’s Heritage Village is an authentic replica of a typical Bedouin encampment that gives an idea of typical Emirati life before the oil boom. It’s located in a pretty beach area of the city, which is a pleasant place to wander after a visit. There are exhibits featuring traditional day-to-day objects, as well as introducing local agriculture and the pearl diving trade.
AL HOSN PALACE OR WHITE PALACE
Also known as the Old Fort or the White Fort, Al Hosn Palace is the oldest building in Abu Dhabi. The palace was built in 1793 as the residence of the ruling family and the seat of government. The interior of the Al Hosn Palace has been renovated and modernized, and is now used by the Cultural Foundation to house the Centre for Documentation and Research, which holds a collection of documents on the heritage and history of the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf region. The courtyard and the magnificent tile work over the main northern gate are notable features. Within the palace is a museum of traditional artifacts and historical photographs. Displays include a natural history section featuring animal life from the desert, and a historical section with displays of the history of Abu Dhabi.
ABU DHABI FALCON HOSPITAL
EASTERN MANGROVE LAGOON NATIONAL PARK
Stretching for five miles along Eastern Ring Road in Abu Dhabi, the Eastern Mangroves Lagoon National Park provides the habitat for 200 fish and 50 bird species. Venture into this wild frontier beyond the city with a kayak excursion with a local guide taking you around the mangroves and even throw in a few facts on local wildlife.