Father of Deer, Emerging Emirates
As a final stop over on this trip, we decided to spend another 2 days in Dubai, and take the chance for visiting the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi. Indeed a great decision also in order to split such a long flight back from Southeast Asia, get back to usual time and try to avoid the bigger jet lag, well, at least in theory because in practice, it was not the case once back in London.
Reaching the city was once again fast and straightforward, especially when having a rental car. Basically you just follow the Sheikh Zayed Road which traverses the entire Dubai, and continue all the way southwest. Soon the desert will surround you, but notice how many trees have been planted in between the lanes of the road. Not only here, but at both sides of the road too. This is even more notorious when approaching the city, where you will get to see big fields of green grass, many trees and plants. This is one of the long term ideas of the Emirates, changing the harsh environment for something much easier to stand and coop, and nicer. Vegetation brings humidity and moisture, and after all, water; but it does also reduce the temperature. It felt much nicer in here than in scorching Dubai.
The city itself has not much to offer to the visitor, well especially when comparing it to Dubai, but still impresses anyone to see the grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the Emirates Palace or the shiny skyline by the Corniche. Also, the spectacular Guggenheim or the Louvre museums, or the Ferrari World or Formula 1 among other worldwide names.
As the capital of all the Emirates, it is also the richest, with vast majority reserves of oil, something that neighbouring Dubai ran out some years ago. Construction seemed to just kick off, not as in Dubai where everywhere you look there was a crane. I can imagine in few years time the enormous expansion of this city will also be well worth it, and diversification of the economy in order to just not depend on the petrol and gas exports, but in banking, financial, health, education and of course tourism.
Visiting Abu Dhabi is fast. This is now as big and expanded as Dubai, therefore everything is more concentrated and near each other, bearing the Grand Mosque and the equally distant Zaha Hadid’s designed Sheikh Zayed Bridge, both at the farthest east, although the Ferrari World and Formula 1 are even farther, near the airport.
For more information about the city check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. The United Arab Emirates currency is the Dirham (AED). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Abu Dhabi
- Ferrari World One of the major attractions in the city, an amusement part-museum dedicated to the carmaker.
- Formula 1 World Next door to the Ferrari World, now one of the world’s most important circuits.
- Saadiyat Island West from the Ferrari World along the E12 Motorway that heads directly towards the Corniche. It is being developed into a cultural heaven, home to the Louvre (already built and opened) and Guggenheim (under construction) among other world museums.
- Sheikh Zayed Bridge Carrying the E10 Motorway all the way from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, was designed by the genius architect Zaha Hadid before her death.
- Sheikh Zayed Mosque The 6th largest mosque in the world and perhaps the most luxurious of them all. You can get inside whenever it is not praying time. They will provide you with a white tunic to cover yourself, so don’t worry to come in your shorts and flip-flops. The carpet, made in Iran, is the largest ever to be done in a single piece in the world. And so are the enormous lamps covered in thousands of Swarovsky crystals. The finest white marble and mother of peal covers the entire building.
- Khalifa Park Off Al Salam Street (8th Street) north from the Grand Mosque right across the Al Bateen Executive Airport runway. Very nice landscaped park with monuments, fountains and History Museum and Aquarium.
- Corniche Abu Dhabi’s waterfront stretches for miles from the Breakwater near the Marina Shopping Mall all the way towards the Mina Zayed Port.
- Marina Mall Boasts a musical fountain and ceilings that thunder and rain. It is in the water breaker area near the Emirates Palace.
- Flagpole At 123m, this is among the world’s tallest flagpoles. On Marina Island, right across from Marina Mall.
- Emirates Palace Until the construction of the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, this was the most expensive hotel construction ever made in the world. You can go inside the lobby, but not in flip-flops. The fountains on the front are a nice spot for pictures with the hotel in the background.
The International Airport is one of the largest in the world and not just on size, but on air traffic. It’s an enormous link between the West and the East, home to one of the world’s best airline, Etihad. And considering neighbouring Dubai and Sharjah airports, the choice of destinations available is perhaps the greatest in the world when combining all these airports.
If arriving from Dubai overland, the bus company Emirates Express to/From Abu Dhabi operate every 40 minutes from 6.20am from both Dubai’s Al Ghubaibah bus station (opposite the Carrefour supermarket) and Abu Dhabi’s main bus terminal on the corner of Hazza bin Zayed the First (11th) Street and East (4th) Road. It costs 20AED from Dubai or in the opposite direction, 15AED from Abu Dhabi.
Within the city you can get a bus pass for the day for 3AED. But the best is to have a rental car and move freely. Public transportation is quite complicated and not the best, especially considering the high temperatures.
Although we cannot recommend any hotel in the city since we did not stay overnight, but our base back in Dubai, there is not much I can say other than something certainly; the selection is great! Not as big as in Dubai, but plentiful of any kind, especially the top luxurious properties. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo or Ebookers.
As for our experience in Dubai, it must be one of the few cities we’ve been with such a gigantic, vast and incredible choice. But be prepared for the high prices. 4 and 5 stars hotels are very expensive, unless a good deal becomes somehow available. In any case, a 3 stars hotel anywhere in the Emirates has the quality of what a 5 star would be in many European countries.
We can highly recommend the Hotel Centro Mall of the Emirates, Road 329, Al Barsha 1, PO Box 115060. A great property, beautiful design, comfortable, spotless, offering a fantastic breakfast, and having a splendid pool on the rooftop terrace which we could use every day, morning and night. Their opening times were the longest I’ve seen on any hotel, and we were actually told by the receptionist that soon would be 24h opened. Conveniently located near the Emirates Mall and the metro station, Sharaf DG.
October 2011 Trip album