Abu Dhabi

From rolling expanses of untouched desert to the warm, clear waters of the Gulf, the largest of the seven emirates is also the country’s capital. Translated to mean ‘Father of the Gazelle’, Abu Dhabi has been home to nomadic herders and fishermen since the 3rd millennium BC. The city, which is built on a T-shaped island and lies quarter a mile off the mainland, blossomed from a small village in the mid-20th century when the petrol dollar funded the development of what is now a bustling modern metropolis. Dotted with lush green parks and silhouetted by an impressive skyline, the city may be a far cry from the palm-hut village which stood here less than half a century ago, but for all of its soaring skyscrapers it retains a uniquely Arabian atmosphere.


Abu Dhabi’s centre, with its well-tended parks and wide boulevards, is a commercial hub which opens out onto the verdant promenade of the Corniche. Along this four mile stretch of park there are both public and private beaches as well as water-sport centres offering waterskiing, wakeboarding and jet-skiing.

The pink granite dome of the Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi’s seven star hotel, dominates the western skyline of the city. This opulent hostelry is the most expensive hotel ever to have been built and is the rest-stop of choice for visiting celebrities and heads of state alike.

Al Hosn Palace, commonly known as The White Fort, is the oldest building in Abu Dhabi and is now a museum displaying artefacts and photographs from the region. Next door is the Cultural Foundation, a modern arts and community centre which houses a library, a theatre and cinema and hosts regular local cultural events and groups as well as international exhibitions, concerts, workshops and film festivals throughout the year. Abu Dhabi also has two heritage sites, one overlooking the Corniche and one behind the International Exhibition Centre, which offer a fascinating insight into Emirati culture.


Abu Dhabi’s two main shopping centres, Marina Mall and Abu Dhabi Mall boast a wide range of international boutiques and outlets as well as a number of smaller independent stores. Abu Dhabi Mall is a vast complex with many perfume and jewellery stores and Marina Mall houses a number of exclusive international brands.

At the Madinat Zayed in the heart of the city you’ll find the Gold Souk in which numerous small vendors vie for attention with opulent window displays. The Iranian Souk and the fishmarket on the east side of the Corniche are also worth a visit.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Abu Dhabi city’s diverse restaurant scene makes eating out in the capital a lively prospect. Lining the Corniche are numerous cafés and restaurant-boats that offer great seafood and dazzling views. Evidence of the longstanding sub-continental community in the city is to be found in Abu Dhabi’s many excellent and reasonably priced Indian restaurants, of which many cater exclusively for vegetarians.

In the city’s major hotels all tastes are catered for with Mexican, Italian and Arabic restaurants often being housed under one roof. While Abu Dhabi’s buzzing malls are home to a wealth of well-known chain outlets, the small independent cafés and shisha bars which line the bustling streets of the city offer an authentic and cheap alternative to formal dining or fast food outlets.

Given the conservative nature of the Emirate, nightlife in Abu Dhabi is more sedate than in Dubai, with many of the city’s dedicated nightowls heading north to the neighbouring city to let their hair down. Despite this there a number of nightclubs in the city’s hotels which attract a respectable number of big-name DJs as well as English style bars and pubs where you’ll find a cosmopolitan mixture of the community. Clubs tend to shut at 3am.

Tourist Information

Abu Dhabi Tourism AuthorityPO Box94000Abu Dhabi UAETel +971 4440 4444Fax+ 971 4181 108


Abu Dhabi Airport is located 21km southeast of the city and is accessible by bus and taxi from the city centre. Etihad fly from Abu Dhabi to destinations across the globe.