In the UAE it seems like a new record is broken nearly every month. Whether it’s the world’s tallest building, the world’s biggest carpet, the world’s most expensive number plate (it was the number ‘1’), the world’s most valuable Christmas Tree, the world’s largest chocolate mosaic or the world’s first gold-dispensing ATM, between Dubai and Abu Dhabi everything is always bigger… and golder.
Avoid the crowds of Dubai and discover a more authentic Arabian experience with a holiday in Abu Dhabi. And to get you on your way, here’s our pick of the top things to do in the UAE’s capital city.
Buildings don’t get much more extravagant than the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The crown jewel of Abu Dhabi, this architectural triumph is the largest mosque in the UAE and is currently ranked #2 in TripAdvisor’s list of the Top 10 Landmarks in the World.
Shining under the desert sun, this white-marble structure features intricate wall decorations, colossal artworks and beautifully maintained gardens. Visitors can wander the gilded corridors and marvel at the world’s largest hand-woven carpet, while worshippers make use of a separate, private space.
Located in the heart of Abu Dhabi, the Emirates Palace is a major tourist attraction, a movie backdrop – Fast and Furious 7 was partly filmed here – and a luxury hotel by Kempinski.
The penthouse floor of the hotel is reserved exclusively for dignitaries, such as royalty, and the lobby features a gold-dispensing ATM where users can feed money in before selecting from 320 items ranging from gold bars, which weigh up to 10 grams, to customised gold coins. #onlyinAbuDhabi
If that’s not extravagant enough, the Palace also hosted the world’s largest bottle of cologne, the largest photo album and the most expensively decorated Christmas tree, valued at more than Dhs41 million ($14 million) and reaching 13.2 metres high, with 181 items of jewellery hanging on its branches.
Taking a break from the world’s biggest this and the world’s most expensive that, Abu Dhabi is also famed for its exhilarating desert safaris which take adventurers deep into the world’s biggest desert (just kidding, it’s part of the 4th biggest).
There are plenty of tour groups in Abu Dhabi offering 4×4 tours of the sand dunes followed by camel safaris and sand boarding.
Did you know that both Emirates and Etihad Airways allow passengers to bring their pet falcon along on the flight for the bargain price of three times the normal excess baggage rate? Provided all the necessary documents have been submitted, of course.
With their love of falcons, it’s no surprise that the locals of Abu Dhabi have set up a Falcon Hospital where poorly birds can receive some medical attention. Tours of the hospital are popular and visitors can enjoy a special meet and greet with these majestic creatures.
Abu Dhabi has spent big on the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi, so it’s definitely worth a visit. The numbers: US$600m on the construction, US$525m to use the Louvre name and US$747m for art loans, special exhibitions and management advice.
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