Top Things to Do in Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the sixth largest mosque in the world, accommodating 41,000 worshippers. It can be seen from the bridges joining Abu Dhabi Island to the mainland and is one of the few regional mosques open to visitors.
It was planned and commissioned by the first president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed, and is the location of his grave. The Grand Mosque exhibits modern Islamic architecture, constructed using over 100,000 tonnes of pure white marble and decorated with intricate floral and geometric designs featuring semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli, amethyst and mother-of-pearl. There are over 1000 pillars holding up more than 80 marble domes. There are guided tours of the interior several times a day, but not during prayer times. Out of respect, there is a dress code which must be adhered to.
The Corniche – The Corniche is the name of the western waterfront of the main Abu Dhabi Island. The 6km stretch is equipped with pathways, cycle paths, fountains, restaurants and park areas. There are also certain sandy stretches which serve as public beaches. The backdrop of modern skyscrapers and architecture stands at the northern end, contrasting with the beautiful Emirates Palace Hotel marking the southern end. The area is always bustling with activity, especially in the evening. The pathway is also the location of the 120m flagpole, one of the tallest in the world, which flies an enormous UAE flag.
Qasr al-Hosn – Qasr al-Hosn fort (meaning Palace Fort) is the oldest stone building in Abu Dhabi. It was constructed in 1761 as a watchtower to defend the only freshwater well in Abu Dhabi Island. In 1793, the then ruler extended the tower into a fort to become his permanent residence. The revenues from Abu Dhabi’s first oil license enabled a major extension in the late-1930s to the building seen today. It remained the emir’s palace and official government building until 1966. Since then the fort is the location of historical, archaeological and architectural research. Today, sections are open for visitors and the site includes a museum displaying artefacts, weapons and pictures which display the region’s history.
Al Wathba – Located 45km away from the main city, the Al Wathba Camel Race Track provides an insight into a popular pastime in the UAE. There visitors can share in the enthusiasm and excitement of the owners and witness firsthand the surprising speeds that the seemingly awkward animals can reach. Races usually take place on weekend mornings and early arrival is recommended to experience the pre-race atmosphere.
Dune Bashing – Take a trip into the desert with specialist dune drivers who will take you on an adrenaline filled excursion over the high dunes and long sand valleys. Trips sometimes include an overnight stay which offers spectacular views of the sunset.