The capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is the political and cultural force of the Emirati. Much like Dubai, it has rapidly evolved into a major global city and has an almost futuristic atmosphere. Located on an island within the Persian Gulf, Abu Dhabi has quickly cemented its position as one of the Middle East’s dominant urban metropolises.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque
The city’s largest mosque with an immense capacity of over 40,000, the Sheik Zayed Mosque is one of Abu Dhabi’s most impressive structures. Built over a decade-long period between 1996 and 2007, the Mosque is arguably the city’s most recognisable building. Known for its white exterior and lavish interior, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is an important cultural centre and a main gathering hub for the city’s people. It is also well-known for its extensive library, which specialises in Islamic history and culture, one of the best of its kind.
Often compared to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Emirates Palace epitomises the wealth and luxury often associated with the United Arab Emirates. Built for an estimated $3 billion, the Emirates Palace is well known for its lavish design. The hotel has also become an increasingly popular performance venue, with musicians such as Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera holding concerts there. The Emirates Palace has quickly become a defining image of the city’s identity.
One of the more unique amusement parks in the world, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is inspired by the Italian luxury vehicle brand of the same name and should appeal to families, petrolheads and adrenaline junkies alike. Indeed, the theme park is home to the world’s fastest rollercoaster-the Formula Rossa, which reaches a top speed of a neck bracing 150 MPH. Not for the faint-hearted!
Louvre Abu Dhabi
The world’s first and (so far) only $1 billion art gallery, the Louvre Abu Dhabi only opened its doors to the public at the end of 2017 but already seems poised to emerge as an international powerhouse in the art world. The museum’s main ethos is to overcome the gap between Western and Eastern art, and its collection features a plethora of works falling into both categories. The museum made headlines for its acquisition of Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Salvador Mundi’, the most expensively-bought artwork of all time-at over $450 million. The museum’s collection draws from several other well-known artists including Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse and more.
Etihad Antiques Gallery
A stark contrast to the immense Louvre, the Etihad Antiques Gallery is a long-time but lesser-known favourite of art enthusiasts passing through Abu Dhabi. The Antiques Gallery, and its adjacent museum specialising in contemporary art, offer an incredibly diverse range of Middle Eastern antiques and artworks ranging from Ottoman weaponry to Persian paintings. The gallery provides a refreshing insight into the region’s past, something that can be difficult to see in such a modern city as Abu Dhabi.
main image: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, image courtesy of Artur Malinowski, Flickr creative commons