A unique city Abu Dhabi that offers endless things to do and see. Skyscrapers, shopping malls, glitz and extreme luxury on an expanse of desert overlooking the sea. This is Abu Dhabi, where the modernity of the West blends with the religiosity of the East, where 100-storey high buildings alternate with mosques. The capital of the Arab Emirates is made of fierce contrasts, of a unique skyline that leaves the visitor fascinated and amazed. And that does not bore him with so many things to see and do.
Once here people lived on sheep farming and fishing, but the discovery of oil has radically changed the shape and life of Abu Dhabi. Black gold has enriched the Emirates, leading to the construction of luxury hotels, futuristic airports and, of course, the symbol of opulence, namely, huge skyscrapers. Abu Dhabi contends with its neighbor Dubai for the scepter of the richest and most opulent city in the country, in a rivalry which is played out on the height of the buildings and the sumptuous beauty of the shopping malls.
What to see and do in Abu Dhabi
Although not full of attractions, Abu Dhabi will not make you bored among its many things to see and do. The city is a continuous construction site and every year new places of culture and modernity are built, including unbridled luxury and opulence.
The Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi, with its over 400 stores and baroque interiors of lights and mirrors, is probably the most luxurious mega center in the Emirates. The Emirates Palace, on the other hand, is a magnificent seven-star hotel, a destination for celebrities and footballers. Its prices are obviously out of budget for ordinary mortals, but you can let yourself be enveloped by its opulent charm by booking a table for an afternoon tea.
Don’t miss a stroll along the Corniche, Abu Dhabi’s coastline, amidst well-kept gardens and gushing fountains. Stop on the beach to relax at 30th Street where you will find the Public beach: the sand is very white and the sea is always calm and very clean. You can stop in one of the many bars along the beach, but beware of ordering alcohol: only fruit juices and coffee. You can also choose to rent a bike and ride along the bike path along the sea.
All around you big cars race on the three-lane highways, while luxury spas and resorts, fine restaurants, and world-famous designer stores attract the attention of wealthy passers-by.
Not only skyscrapers, though. The ancient palaces and mosques, which remind us that we are in the East and not in Manhattan, are important testimonies that deserve a visit. Splendid and overflowing with precious things is the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, also known as the Grand Mosque: among marble domes and columns, Swarovski crystal chandeliers with precious stones and 24-carat gold and handmade Persian carpets stand out. The mosque is located about ten kilometers from the center and is well connected by bus and cab. Entrance is free and non-Muslims are allowed Saturday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., excluding prayer times.
The past is also present at Heritage Village, near the Marina Mall. Here the traditional Bedouin lifestyle has been reproduced with a goatskin tent, camels and artisans showing their skills. Not far from town is the Al Jahil Fort. Built in 1891 by Sheikh Zayed to defend Abu Dhabi from enemy attacks, it has long been the residence of the royal family. It is now open to the public and hosts various art exhibitions.
Then take a walk along Hamdan Street and take a trip to the Souq at Central Market for some shopping. It is part of the World Trade Center complex, designed by Norman Foster and you will find the perfect blend of tradition and modern style.
Impossible not to visit the fascinating desert that surrounds Abu Dhabi. Not only for the natural beauty of the place, but also because many excursions take place among the millennial dunes. The inhabitants of Abu Dhabi themselves love to spend hours in the desert to try out their off-road vehicles, to enjoy the art of falconry, camel racing or snowboarding on the sand. A desert safari with a visit to a Bedouin camp is an adventure not to be missed.