United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi Travel Guide

Welcome to Abu Dhabi, where luxury and style are infused with traditional values of hospitality and respect. Where sunny weather, tranquil beaches, lush oases, vibrant city life, and a mixture of culture and traditions come together to create a holiday experience like no other. Explore the emirate’s old souqs, sip a fragrant Arabic coffee, ride the dunes on an exhilarating desert safari, or dive into a dazzling marine life – there is something for everyone in Abu Dhabi.

Year-round sunshine, pristine beaches, spectacular sand dunes and pulsating cosmopolitan lifestyle await every guest in Abu Dhabi. Such idyllic setting cuddles this emirate known around the world for its massive oil reserves and majestic mosques with towering minarets. These, combined with the distinct Arabic hospitality and mystique – and world-class infrastructure – make Abu Dhabi an excellent destination both for the experienced and novice traveler.

The famous Liwa oasis in the south is home to some of the largest and most beautiful sand dunes in the world. It is also the frontier that leads to the legendary Rub Al-Khali (Empty Quarter), a vast expanse of desert that extends through Saudi Arabia and Oman, which has been the object of many explorers’ conquest in the past.

Abu Dhabi city bursts with dazzling business-cum-leisure facilities ranging from state-of-the-art convention center, luxurious hotels, spas, designer golf courses, theaters and very soon, some of the world’s most famous museums particularly Guggenheim and Louvre. The palace-like shopping malls and indigenous souqs in Abu Dhabi make for a great shopping expedition, offering the best handicraft from local Bedouins to the best of Paris’ or Milan’s high street fashion brands, sans the ubiquitous sales tax. Gastronomic treats further abound from cool and sophisticated cafes, clubs and restaurants. For the fitness conscious, jogging and cycling (or even roller blading) are a welcome treat especially during the cooler months in the city’s charming corniche or beachfront, merely minutes away from the bustling city center.

Furthermore the garden city of Al Ain – lying near the Oman border – is home to one of the famous peaks of the majestic Hajar Mountain and the highest point in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (Jebel Hafeet), which rises about 1,340 meters. A world-class hotel (Grand Mercure) is nestled close to the mountain’s peak offering travelers a great relaxing stay and a panoramic view of the emirate.

Abu Dhabi is one of the most modern cities in the world. It is the center of government and business life in the UAE, headquarters of the emirates oil operating companies and embassies are based here. The architecture of its modern buildings and sky scrapers is the finest in the Middle East. Abu Dhabi’s oil wealth has been wisely utilized to encourage a healthy trade and commerce atmosphere apart from oil industries too. The promotion of tourism and various tourism-related projects will elevate Abu Dhabi to a Singaporean status in the region. Large gardens and parks, green boulevards lining all the streets and roads, sophisticated high-rise buildings, state-of-the-art communication services and transport, the presence of all the international luxury hotel chains, rich shopping malls, cultural centers and events provide tourists a one-of-a-kind experience all the year round.

Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven Emirates and the Federal capital of the UAE. Its long coastline – the shallow waters of the Southern Gulf, extending from the base of the Qatar Peninsula in the west to the border of the emirate of Dubai on the north east, was once the world’s best waters for pearling. When the pearling industry declined, oil discovery in the offshore oilfields of the Southern Gulf revived the economy of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi was also the first emirate to export oil from the Umm Shaif offshore field in 1962. On the land, it stretches south to the oases of Liwa where some of the world’s largest sand dunes can be found , and east to the ancient oasis of Al Ain. This makes Abu Dhabi the largest as well as the most populated of all the emirates.

Desert Heritage

The emirate was inhabited as far back as the third millennium BC, but the Abu Dhabi of today only truly came into existence in the latter half of the 18th century when it was first settled by the Bani Yas tribe in 1761.

In the early days of the 20th century the economy of Abu Dhabi was centered around camel herding, date oases, fishing and pearl diving.

The discovery of oil in 1958 and its subsequent export from 1962 produced a sudden upsurge in Abu Dhabi ‘s prosperity and laid the foundations of today’s modern society. Abu Dhabi was the first emirate to export oil and under the leadership of the late and much revered HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the subsequent revenues were wisely invested in the infrastructure of the emirate.

Traditions

Abu Dhabi’s progressive vision is tempered with a deep-seated respect for traditions and culture, and tucked away between modern towers are heritage locales that tell tales of Abu Dhabi’s past.

Priority has been given not only to future development but to rediscovering the past through archaeology, the restoration of buildings, museums, establishing indigenous wildlife parks and much more.

Traditional musicians, calligraphers, artists and craftsmen are encouraged to develop their skills and thereby prevent their ancient crafts from dying out. The artifacts and tools of pearl divers, fishermen and dhow builders are carefully preserved and displayed.

Especially honored is the Bedouin way of life. Even though nomadic societies leave little in the way of permanent structures, the people of Abu Dhabi aspire to the noble traditions and values of their desert ancestors.

Culture & lifestyle

The combination of international influences and a strong commitment to local heritage has created an intriguing mix of new and old.

Abu Dhabi’s culture is firmly rooted in Arabia’s Islamic traditions. Islam is more than a religion; it is a way of life that governs everyday events from what to wear to what to eat and drink. The UAE’s culture and heritage is inextricably linked to its religion, and it is a shining example of Islam’s true commitment to tolerance and hospitality.

Foreigners are free to practice their own religion and the dress code is liberal. Women are able to drive and walk around unescorted. Among the most highly prized virtues are courtesy and hospitality, and visitors are sure to be charmed by the genuine friendliness of the people. Despite the speed of economic development over the last 30 years, Abu Dhabi continues to promote traditional cultural and sporting events, such as falconry, camel racing and traditional dhow sailing.

National Dress

UAE nationals usually wear traditional dress in public. For men, this is the kandura – a white full length shirt-like garment, which is worn with a white or red checkered headdress, known as a ghutra. This is secured with a black cord (agal).

Sheikhs and important businessmen may also wear a thin, gold-trimmed robe (bisht) over their kandura at important events.

In public, women wear a long, loose black robe (abaya) that covers their normal clothes – plus a headscarf (sheyla).

The abaya is often of very sheer, flowing fabric with intricate embroidery and beadwork along the wrists and hemline.

Sheylas are also becoming more elaborate and a statement of individuality, particularly among the young. Head wear varies with some women wearing a thin black veil covering their face and others, generally older women, wearing a leather veil (burka), which covers the nose, brow, cheekbones and lips.

Photography

While normal tourist photography is acceptable, it is polite to ask permission before taking photos of people, particularly women. Photographs of government buildings, military installations and ports and airports should not be taken. Also, cameras may be banned in public areas designated for women and children only.

 

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