Below are suggestions for first-time visitors to Abu Dhabi:
- Take a trip out to the desert and experience life in the dunes for an afternoon and evening.
- Typically you are picked up at a designated hotel and you are driven into a desert area at least an hour away from the city.
- A hair-raising drive in the dunes is broken by a visit to a camel farm and you watch the sun set in the desert.
- After that you are taken to a camp in the desert where a BBQ dinner is prepared.
- There is a chance to take a short camel ride and there may also be sand-boards for sand-skiing.
- You may like to try smoking shisha (water pipe with fruit flavoured tobacco) or just gaze at the stars.
- A number of reputable tour companies offer this trip, sometimes referred to as a 'dune dinner'. All food and soft drinks are included in the all-in price.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
- First opened to the public in 2008, the mosque can be seen from both routes into the city of Abu Dhabi.
- It is a magnificent white structure with marble, domes, minarets and tiling that you would expect in the Middle East.
- A free guided tour is available at set times except on public holidays. Check the website for the grand mosque for the latest timetable.
- The mausoleum containing the remains of the late Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan is also on the site (but foreign visitors cannot usually get near).
- Photography is allowed and encouraged (except for the mausoleum and immediate surrounding area).
- Visitors should be dressed appropriately. Shorts are not allowed for men. Women should cover head, midriff, legs, shoulders and arms, so only feet, hands and face are showing. Further details are on the grand mosque website.
- Refer to http://www.szgmc.gov.ae/en/ for further information.
- Take a boat trip along the Corniche at sunset to provide you with a different perspective on the city - or take an Abu Dhabi island circumnavigation tour by motor boat.
- A number of companies operate boat trips for visitors including a traditional style dhow (e.g. from Al Dhafra fish restaurant, near the port).
- Some tour companies also provide sunset or dinner cruises.
- The gold shops are located in a separate mall, near the main post office. Don't forget to bargain over the price!
- To try your hand at bargaining, head for Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre (near the gold shops) and Hamdan Centre (next to the Novotel).
- Fake designer goods (watches, T-shirts and handbags in particular) used to be widely available but since there have been tighter controls in recent years they are less common. However the determined shopper can still find fake goods in some shops in Abu Dhabi. Fakes are usually hidden from public view so you need to ask if you are not approached.
- High-street and designer shops can be found in the main shopping malls (Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi Mall, Al Wahda Mall and Khalidya Mall). Galleria on Al Maryah Island is dedicated to designer shops.
- Souvenirs can be found at the Souk at Qaryat Al Beri (next to the Shangri-La) or Central Market (which is in fact a modern mall in the style of a souk).
- The cheapest souvenir shops can be found in the shops opposite Abu Dhabi Mall.
- The Iranian souq and carpet souq are worth a visit especially if you are after regional specialties. They are located near the port/mina.
- Have a coffee or meal with a view of the city at Al Fanar revolving restaurant at Le Royal Meridien Hotel or Ray's Bar at Etihad Towers
- Alternatively head to Marina Mall Tower to the Tiara Restaurant or Cafe Columbiano.
- Hotel beaches. Most of the larger hotels have beaches. Cost is free for hotel residents and for visitors from 100 Dhs per person per day. Facilities provided include changing rooms, toilets, towels, sun-loungers, sun-shades.
- Corniche public beach is the beach option for visitors without a hotel beach. There are changing and toilet facilities as well as some shaded areas and cafes. There is a charge of 10 AED for entry and young children are free of charge. A separate 'family' section is available for families and women (with or without children). A man is only allowed in the 'family' section if accompanied by a woman. Sun loungers and sun umbrellas are available at extra charge (starting from 20 AED per person per day but more expensive closer to the water). There is also a small section of beach free of charge in front the cafes (opposite the end of Khaleej Al Arabi Street - street no. 30).
- Lulu Island NOTE: Lulu Island is currently closed for refurbishment [since January 2009].
- Treat yourself to afternoon tea in the lobby of the Emirates Palace Hotel. While at this hotel, take a stroll around the fountains in the beautiful gardens.
- Visitors to Emirates Palace should be dressed appropriately, which means no shorts (for men or women).
- For a cheaper alternative, head to the Shangri-La hotel, which is located just off Abu Dhabi island - there are magnificent views across the water of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Formula One Track Visit
- Visit the Formula One track at Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island.
- A bus takes you to see the track and behind the scenes including the pits and garages, Race Control and the media facility.
- Tickets cost 120 AED for adults and 60 AED for children 14 years of age and under.
- Book in advance or arrive early to obtain your ticket.
- For further information refer to www.yasmarinacircuit.com.
- Take a bird's eye view of the city by boarding one of Falcon Aviation Services' helicopters
- Typically you are expected to be at the FAS terminal next to Marina Mall 30min prior to your flight .
- All passengers are advised to present an official ID prior to boarding.
- You can choose to book per seat or to charter the entire helicopter.
- All new developments are typically highlighted, depending if you choose a 10, 20 or 30 minute tour.
- Merchandise and souvenirs are for sale on location.
- Only one company offers this activity in Abu Dhabi, so check with your concierge or call +971 (0)2 444 0007.
Eco and Adventure Tours
- There is also an opportunity to see the natural environment of Abu Dhabi.
- Activities include kayaking, sailing and trail bikes.
- Check with your concierge or contact Sea Hawk Water Sports or Noukhada Adventure Company www.noukhada.ae which are the best-known companies offering this type of tour.
What to Wear
First-time visitors to Abu Dhabi may be unsure of what clothing to wear. There are varying ideas of the dress code, but bear in mind that the United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country and many of the expatriates living in the country also hold strong religious views. Traditional dress for men is a long white cotton shirt and head-dress secured by a leather rope. The traditional dress for women is a long black cloak over long loose clothing and a black headscarf. Some local women also cover their face in various ways (sometimes the face is completely covered).
Visitors are not expected to cover their heads or wear traditional clothing (except in mosques). However, it is advisable to wear long, loose clothing made from natural materials containing cotton or linen. It is one of the best ways to cope with the heat.
Skirts or pants/trousers should be knee-length or longer. Don't wear tight form-fitting clothes or expose thighs, cleavage, midriff or upper arms. Short sleeve tops are acceptable. It is a good idea to have a loose shirt/jacket or shawl with you at all times even in hot weather as mall, restaurant and cinema air conditioning can be extremely cold.
Beachwear - Shorts are only considered suitable for the beach (for men and women). Normal western-style swimsuits (one or two piece) are acceptable at all beaches. Topless or nude sunbathing is not allowed. Men and women should always wear a shirt when away from the beach.