Opting to visit Abu Dhabi as a day trip from Dubai was not a good choice. Abu Dhabi is a city worthy of its own visit of days, maybe weeks. With only a day including the two hour travel time each way, we had to do an express visit.
It was enough time to fall in love with the capital city of the United Arab Emirates and add it the list of places I want to return.
Our first stop was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – the largest mosque in the Emirates (and one of the world’s largest with capacity for 40,000 worshipers). Like most active religious destinations, it is a place of respect. There is a dress code. Men cannot wear shorts. Women are directed to a changing room and provided with a traditional robe (abaya) and headscarf (shayla) if needed.
Next stop – the seven-star Emirates Palace Hotel.
Then on to a bit of culture at Heritage Village:
And finally, we went to one of the oldest restaurants in the city for a traditional Emirati dinner. Most of the food was really delicious, but we loved the adventure.
Nearby at the fishing port were up to 100 wooden fishing boats, all rafted up one next to the other. The crew would walk from one to the next to get out to where they wanted to be. :
More Abu Dhabi facts:
- Prior to oil and tourism, the economy was based around pearl diving, fishing and date palms.
- Abu Dhabi means “Father of the Gazelle” in Arabic.
- Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven Emirates, as well as the capital city of the UAE.
- The population of the Abu Dhabi emirate is 1.6 million including 80% expats.
- Arabic is the official language.
- Islam is the official religion.
Here’s why driving to Abu Dhabi was not our best plan:
When we were planning this trip we agreed we would not drive in the Middle East. After a few taxi rides that took us out of the way to increase the fare and a bit of looking around for tours only to find them shockingly overpriced, we decided to rent a car yesterday, just for the day trip to Abu Dhabi from Dubai, where we were staying.
Here’s what we discovered:
- Most streets on the map don’t have names, and the few that do are in Arabic.
- The roads seem quite random in their placement, and often have very long entrance and exit ramps, that turn you around.
- Did you ever see National Lampoon’s European Vacation with Chevy Chase? Remember the scene where he drives in circles around the round-a-bout and can’t get off . . . that is the scene that popped into my head as we tried to find the entrance to the mosque. Eventually, a heavily armed, yet friendly guard gave us directions.
- Speed limits are very high, as is the accident rate. Fortunately, we had no issues.
All photos on this page © Rhonda Albom 2012
Have you been to Abu Dhabi? Did you drive there?
Travel Counter: We are in week 5 of our 250-day overseas adventure.