The capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is the name of not only the largest city in the UAE, but also its largest emirate. Located on the Persian Gulf in the middle of the UAE’s northern coast, Abu Dhabi is an important political, commercial and tourism hub for the region. While Abu Dhabi’s wealth is chiefly derived from oil revenues, an increasingly larger percentage is coming from the tourism sector, with Abu Dhabi, in addition to nearby Dubai, steadily improving its international reputation as a rewarding holiday and business travel destination.
Situated on its own island and thereby separated from the mainland, Abu Dhabi is well laid out, with plenty of expanses of greenery, clean modern buildings and historic sites. Despite the Middle East region’s security issues for Western travellers in particular, the city is regarded as being very safe. An added bonus for visitors to Abu Dhabi is its reliable sunny weather, meaning that no matter what time of year you visit, you can be assured of blue skies, although during the summer months the sun can be unrelentingly hot.
Where to go in Abu Dhabi
Far from being a barren desert wasteland, Abu Dhabi has a wide range of enthralling attractions. Choose from historic sites such as Qasr Al-Hosn or the oasis towns of Al Ain and Liwa, modern edutainment venues such as the Cultural Foundation and Heritage Village, or participate in thrilling adventure sports such as wadi-bashing or scuba diving. Many of Abu Dhabi’s attractions are located near the city’s Corniche and Breakwater district, which is itself a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Nature lovers can go on four-wheel drive safaris or island cruises to observe some of the region’s endangered wildlife such as Arabian oryx and many species of birds.
Abu Dhabi is a shopper’s delight, with dozens of air-conditioned shopping malls mixing it with traditional souk markets. Goods range from the latest in designer labels and electronics to antiques and textiles. Best buys include carpets, tapestries, jewellery and handicrafts. Both local and international cuisine can easily be found in Abu Dhabi, with hotels offering unsurpassed service and quality, while souk vendors provide unmatched price and quantity.
Abu Dhabi Culture
An intriguing mix of Bedouin nomadic traditions and Islamic cultures, the people of Abu Dhabi are proud of their heritage and expect visitors to show sensitivity to their customs and beliefs, particularly when in public. Despite this, the Arabs of Abu Dhabi go to great lengths to make their guests feel at home, which is why hotels are allowed to cater to Western comforts.
The women of Abu Dhabi are free from certain restrictions that are placed on women in more conservative Arab states, so women visitors can dress as they would do at home, although modestly. Islamic culture doesn’t permit the wearing of bikinis and other revealing clothing, so care should be taken not to cause offence when doing outdoor activities. Friday is the Islamic holy day of the week, therefore Thursday and Friday are considered as making up the weekend.