De Sjeik Zayed-moskee is de grootste moskee in de Verenigde Arabische Emiraten en de 8ste ter wereld. De moskee torent hoog boven Abu Dhabi uit en is de centrale plek voor aanbidding voor inwoners van het emiraat. Het grote witte gebouw kan ongeveer 40.000 mensen herbergen en heeft het grootste marmeren mozaïek ter wereld op het binnenplein, en het grootste tapijt ter wereld in de grootste gebedszaal.
Duizenden werknemers van bijna 40 bouwbedrijven werkten aan de bouw van de moskee. Het is dan ook de duurste ter wereld geworden. Wit marmer werd uit maar liefst 28 verschillende landen geïmporteerd om de moskee te kunnen afbouwen. Daarnaast kwamen er kandelaars uit Europa, de duurste ter wereld, en tapijten uit Iran.
De moskee is gratis toegankelijk. Bezoekers moeten loshangende kleding dragen, met een lange rok of broek en shirts met lange mouwen. Vrouwen dienen een hoofddoek te dragen. Neem er één mee, want ze zijn bij de moskee zelf niet verkrijgbaar.
Een extravagante stad als Abu Dhabi hoort natuurlijk een bijpassend themapark te hebben. Dat is Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. Het themapark over raceauto’s heeft 20 attracties. Deze variëren van een kindvriendelijke draaimolen met Ferrari ’s tot moderne racesimulatoren voor de oudere kinderen en tieners.
Dit grootste overdekte themapark ter wereld heeft ook de grootste achtbaan ter wereld. In de Formula Rossa, een bloedstollende attractie aangedreven door hydrauliek, ga je in een Ferrari-achtig karretje naar snelheden tot wel 240 kilometer per uur.
Autoliefhebbers mogen de ode uit de jaren 20 aan het Italiaanse racen in de Cinema Maranello niet overslaan. Ook de tentoonstelling Racing Legends, met de belangrijkste momenten uit de geschiedenis van het racen door Ferrari, is de moeite waard. Uiteraard serveert het restaurant de bekendste Italiaanse gerechten.
Not to be outdone by Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, Abu Dhabi opened its own seven-star hotel in 2005. The Emirates Palace, managed by the Kempinski Group, sits just outside the city on its own private stretch of white sand beach. The domed, sand-colored palace is dotted with verdant gardens, water fountains and sparkling pools.
The 302 rooms and 92 suites—many finished in gold and marble—feature state-of-the-art entertainment systems paired with Arabian furnishings fit for a sheik. Here’s an idea of just how extravagant the 3 billion dollar property really is: 11 pounds (5 kilograms) of pure edible gold gets incorporated into the hotel’s desserts each year—desserts made in 128 kitchens. The marble in the hotel comes from 13 different countries and 1,002 chandeliers provide the light. Visitors who don’t want to splurge on a room can experience the property with a meal at one of 10 restaurants, a drink at one of the four bars or a rejuvenating treatment at the Anantara Spa.
Located on the Corniche Breakwater, the Emirates Heritage Club runs a reconstructed traditional village demonstrating the lifestyles and traditions of the cultures native to the Arabian Peninsula. If you’ve ever wondered what Abu Dhabi was like before the discovery of oil transformed it into a pocket of extreme wealth, you’ll get a glimpse here. Come in the morning before it gets too hot to explore the open-air museum. Enter a traditional goats’ hair tent and learn about the ancient falaj irrigation system that allowed desert dwellers to begin cultivating crops. Local craftsworkers conduct workshops in traditional metalwork, pottery, spinning and weaving. The traditional mosque is a far cry from the palatial white marble Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, demonstrating just how far the United Arab Emirates have come. Be sure to stop by the gift shop during your visit. You’ll be able to pick up local herbs and spices as well as items made by the local artisans working in the village.
The Abu Dhabi Corniche stretches along the northwestern shore of the island city, a popular spot for beachside recreation. The 5-mile (8-kilometer) stretch of attractive waterfront includes walking paths, cafes, playgrounds and bicycle rentals, and no matter what you decide to do along the coast, you’ll have an excellent view of Abu Dhabi’s skyline. In the evenings, the promenade is the perfect place for a stroll.
The Corniche’s crowning jewel is its public white sand beach. With numerous lifeguards on duty during swimming hours and floating fences keeping swimmers within 130 feet (40 meters), the Corniche Beach is great for families traveling with children. Come on a weekday, and you’ll usually find an umbrella.
With 45 rides and slides Yas Waterworld is the ideal destination for thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies, active families and daredevil day-trippers. Adventurous visitors can navigate the high-speed Bubble Barrel atop of an aquatic skateboard, spiral down the terrifying Dawwama, or soar along the notorious Rush Rider. Yas’ jaw-dropping waterslides, like the Liwa Loop, Jebel Drop and Hamlool’s Humps tempt travelers with speeds that are found only at one of the world’s wildest adventure parks.
Newbies will also find plenty of fun at Yas Waterworld, where Falcon’s Falaj, Sebagand, and a handful of floating rivers provide a training ground for some of the park’s big attractions. Even the little ones can enjoy splish slashing in the Marah Fortress or cruising down the slopes of Yas’ tiny Yehal. Whether it’s high-speed adventure or laid back family fun, Yas Waterworld has the wet and wild set completely covered.
The residential, commercial and leisure area known as Saadiyat Island sits just off the coast of Abu Dhabi. While the project is still under development and set to be completed in 2020, visitors can get a glimpse of what the island will eventually be like by visiting the Manarat Al Saadiyat, a visitor center with an exhibit on the Saadiyat Island development, as well as space for several temporary exhibitions.
The UAE Pavilion from the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai has been relocated to the island as well, now serving as a major events venue for the city. Visitors can also play a round of golf at the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, designed by Gary Player, or enjoy the beach at the two resorts already opened for business. Over the next several years, architects from around the globe including Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid, will be working on Abu Dhabi installations of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums, as well as a performing arts center, maritime museum, marina and promenade.
Usually, it’s bad news when your vacation includes a trip to the hospital, but that’s not always the case in Abu Dhabi. The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is one of the city’s more bizarre yet fascinating attractions. The world’s first and largest hospital dedicated to the predatory bird opened in 1999 under the direction of a prominent German veterinary surgeon.
About 6,000 birds pass through each year, occupying the 200 air-conditioned treatment rooms. This might seem strange until you understand that the sport of falconry has deep roots in the city. The sport is so popular that falcons are even issued passports and the prized animals can cost tens of thousands of dollars. If a falcon loses even one strand of feather, they can experience balance issues in flight so their owners bring them to the hospital for checkups, treatments and feather substitutions regularly.
In the heart of Al Ain, a garden-filled city located 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of Abu Dhabi, you’ll find the Al Ain Oasis. The largest green space in the emirate of Abu Dhabi offers a welcome respite from the clamor and heat of the country’s fourth largest city. Locals and visitors alike come here to wander the shady, palm-lined paths past the water channels of the ancient irrigation system that once brought water to local farmers.
As you explore the 3,000-acre (1,200-hectare) space, you’ll be shaded by more than 100 varieties of date palms--nearly 150,000 of them. Rent a bike or throw on some walking shoes and give yourself a few hours to enjoy the winding brick-paved trails.
Towering skyscrapers, modern high rises and brilliant flashing lights greet travelers who dock at this urban port. Abu Dhabi, the largest and wealthiest of the emirates, is ripe with ornate royal palaces, high-end shopping and even a Ferrari World theme park, but travelers looking to experience old-world wonder can get it by going beyond city limits.
These streets aren’t made for walking and public buses, though readily available and inexpensive, can be somewhat uncomfortable. Visitors can hire taxis for cheap, including pink cars that signal to tourists they are for females only. It’s also possible to rent a car in the cruise terminal. Signs in English and Arabic make roads easy to navigate, although parking can be a headache.