When you think about where you want to vacation, Abu Dhabi may not come immediately to mind, but it is one travel destination you will not soon forget. What should I know about Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is a small island located on the southern coast of the Persian Gulf. With rich oil fields and majestic views, it is the wealthiest of the seven Emirates that make up the UAE. It is also home to the third-largest mosque in the world, the Zayed Grand Mosque, and the world’s fastest rollercoaster.
If you are planning to travel to the UAE, understanding the climate, history, development, and the many entertainment options is essential. Keep reading to learn more.
Where Is Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi is an island located off the coast of the Persian Gulf, approximately 87 miles southwest of Dubai. As the capital of the seven emirates that form the UAE, it is the location of the government and one of the most populated cities in the country.
Abu Dhabi is a small, triangular-shaped island off the Persian Gulf that connects to the mainland by a short bridge. It is not unlike that of Manhattan when considering the state of New York in the United States.
With an international airport situated about 20 miles east of the city’s center and public buses and taxis an integral part of the public transportation system, travel within and outside of the city is simple, straightforward, and optimal.
Abu Dhabi is also the largest Emirate of the seven and is home to the second-largest population of the seven Emirates that make up the UAE.
Abu Dhabi Climate
The climate of Abu Dhabi consists of relatively high temperatures year-round, with incredibly hot and humid summers from June to August. Depending on exactly where you are in the Emirates, temperatures tend to range slightly from the coast to the hotter, more desert interior.
If you do travel to Abu Dhabi, you’ll want to be sure to bring those items necessary to stay both safe from the sun and as cool as feasibly possible. There will not likely be much rain to worry about as there is little rainfall in the region, though it does vary from one year to the next.
Landmarks in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is a sought-after tourist destination in the Middle East Region. With incredibly iconic cultural and historical landmarks, many from around the world have taken an interest in traveling to the area to take in its increasingly enticing reputation for the extreme — from architecture to adventure.
Below, you’ll find a list of just a few of the most famous landmarks in Abu Dhabi.
Zayed Grand Mosque
One of the most exquisite architectural masterpieces is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It is the third-largest mosque globally, covering over 30 acres with an ability to hold nearly 41,000 worshippers. It reflects a contemporary design utilizing only the most magnificent marble, stone, gold, and crystal.
If you have ever been a fan of Sesame Street and its iconic Cookie Monster character, you may want to stop at what some know as the “cookie building.” It has other nicknames, but the Aldar Headquarters building is the world’s first circular skyscraper and was voted the best in futuristic design two times.
The architectural masterpiece contains 23 floors and is, ironically, a rather simple office building for the Aldar HQ boasting recyclable materials and glass equipped with efficient lighting and water systems. While there, you’ll also experience majestic views of the city and canal.
If you are looking for another place to stay in Abu Dhabi, you may want to consider the Etihad Towers. The five-tower complex is open to travelers from around the world — a one-stop shop to stay, dine, peruse, and absorb the panoramic views of the city and gulf.
You will want to experience the Observation Deck at 300, located in the second tower on the 74th floor. Those who have visited left with little to say, except that you need to experience the stunning views for yourself.
The Capital Gate
Speaking of majestic views and uniquely shaped architecture, next on the list is what many refer to as the “leaning tower of Abu Dhabi.” As the Guinness World Record holder for the world’s furthest-leaning manmade tower, it inclines at an 18-degree angle toward the west (source).
There are 35 floors to explore, but you will not want to miss the 19th’ floor’s suspended pool that sits directly above the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center.
Al Bahr Towers
Perhaps Abu Dhabi is well known for its architectural beauty because of its uniqueness in design, construction, and detail. The Al Bahr Towers are unlike any other two towers and follow in the footsteps of other aptly-named architectural masterpieces in Abu Dhabi.
Some refer to these two towers as the “pineapple towers” or the “honeycombs” with a cylindrical design and geometric windows that, rather than absorbing sunlight, reflect it, providing shade and an eco-friendly design that reduces the need for energy-guzzling air conditioning.
While the towers are not open to the public, you can appreciate their beauty from the outside, and if you manage to catch them on a special occasion, you’ll find them displaying a spectacular show of lights.
Another impressive place to stay, the Emirates Palace will not disappoint, and you won’t find anything more extravagant. Imagine you are a top celebrity for a day. Live in luxury for a little bit in a hotel that is made up of more gold than you can likely fathom.
With multiple pools, world-renowned restaurants, beautiful beaches, and the Emirates Palace Spa, you’ll leave feeling like a million dollars, quite literally.
What Is Abu Dhabi Best Known For?
Whether it is the world’s tallest indoor climbing wall, fastest rollercoaster, the magnificent mosques, or the fact that the epic Star Wars films took place in Abu Dhabi, there’s much more to the island than you might expect.
If you have an adventurous spirit, your own climbing shoes, or just need a significant challenge before rest and relaxation, you may want to find your way to CLYMB Abu Dhabi. Its impressive indoor climbing wall is not only tall, it’s the world’s tallest.
And, if you’re not into climbing, give indoor skydiving a try with its world-renowned indoor skydiving flight chamber.
It matters little if you are a particularly religious or faith-based person to appreciate the magnificence, culture, and history of one of the modern wonders of the world, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
It bears mentioning a second time, given it is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in the world and certainly one of Abu Dhabi’s most sought-after places to worship or simply stand in awe.
And, if you happen to be a fan of the Star Wars movies, there’s one place you and everyone else will want to see with the same view as Luke Skywalker himself. If you step away from the bustling metropolis, you’ll find an open expanse of desert — more specifically, the very desert that became the backdrop for The Force Awakens.
Abu Dhabi entertainment
There are innumerable choices for entertainment in Abu Dhabi, some of which we’ve already mentioned. But, Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island is where you will find one of the world’s largest amusement and adventure parks, Ferrari World — an indoor Ferrari-themed park that boasts the world’s fastest rollercoaster.
The theme park is the first Ferrari-branded theme park, and if you’re a fan of the prestigious luxury car, you’ll certainly want to experience the thrill of driving top-down in your own Ferrari with a trained instructor. If you’re not sure you’re up to that kind of speed, you can also enjoy the ride as a passenger.
The theme park isn’t only for car enthusiasts, however. There’s a family zone that features rides for the younger ones, including a mini version of the Formula Rossa, the traditional being the fastest rollercoaster in the world. The mini version suits smaller children who can ride on their own or with an adult, depending on size.
Another exciting ride is the Turbo Track, a tower that tosses riders impressively high into the air to enjoy the astounding views before experiencing a zero-gravity fall. This one is not for the faint of heart.
No matter your proclivity for jaw-dropping and heart-racing rides, if you are traveling to Abu Dhabi, this amusement park is a thrill you won’t find anywhere else.
Development of Abu Dhabi Timeline
The discovery of rich oil both on and offshore in Abu Dhabi in 1958 completely changed the economic and political climate of the area, allowing for excess capital that resulted in massive urban development, though it was a slow process toward modernization.
Prior to 1966, the area was under the rule of Sheikh Shakhbout bin Sultan Al Nahyan. He was increasingly conservative in his views, though he did maintain a positive relationship with the United Kingdom and was able to avoid any attempt at annexation in a border dispute with Saudi Arabia.
He also supported oil exploration but did not necessarily agree that the capital gains should go toward schools or major urban development projects. So, the people removed him, favoring his younger, more progressive brother, who ultimately took his place.
Zayed bin Sultan began the expansion of major road networks and the development of infrastructure that catapulted the country toward modernization over the course of a five-year plan.
With electricity, a central sewage system, modern buildings, hotels and housing, running water, the construction of the Zayed Port, and an international airport at the south end of the island, Abu Dhabi soon became the national capital after achieving political independence from Britain in 1971 (source).
The establishment of the UAE, containing all seven emirates, began in 1971, with Abu Dhabi reigning over each of the seven.
Abu Dhabi Economic Development
The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) manages and controls the city’s business sector and economic development, proposing initiatives that both sustain and continue to grow the country’s economy (source).
As the wealthiest Emirate in the UAE, Abu Dhabi’s prosperity rests comfortably on the production of crude oil and, thus, plays a large role in the world economy in addition to sustaining its own (source).
Investing in international markets also supports Abu Dhabi’s wealth, and the revenue from both endeavors allows the country to continue large-scale development, construction, and the promotion of tourism. With this wealth, the country also supports less-prosperous, smaller surrounding Arab nations.
History of Abu Dhabi
Prior to its development, Abu Dhabi was a little-known, undeveloped piece of land absent any significant settlement. The area’s initial history is similar to that of the region as a whole, but its origin began with the rise of the tribal confederation, the Bani Yas, in the 18th century (source).
Prior to the discovery and investment into the oil industry, the area relied heavily on fishing and pearl diving off the coast as a source of income. This changed, however, as the cultured pearl industry grew and hardship ensued as the exportation of pearls lost its lucrative power.
Despite the discovery of oil in 1958, it took time for that income to significantly impact the economy and people of Abu Dhabi. It wasn’t until Zayed bin Sultan, the former Sheikh’s younger brother, realized oil’s potential to modernize and bring wealth to his beloved land.
When, in 1968, the United Kingdom conceded that it would withdraw from the Persian Gulf within a few short years, the country began to take ownership of its culture, income, and wealth.
Future of Abu Dhabi
The future of Abu Dhabi is well-planned with development in the fields of health, education, infrastructure, tourism, science, and continued commitment to sustainable development goals.
Some may say that Abu Dhabi is the world’s best-kept secret. Not many know of its treasures. But that will not be the case for long as its path to modernization has been carefully planned and curated.
The UAE has established a long-term goal to create the first habitable human settlement on Mars by 2117 (source).
Abu Dhabi Space Travel
Abu Dhabi space travel is the Emirate’s next focused initiative, already becoming the first Arab nation and fifth country to reach Mars.
Today, the UAE’s “Hope Probe” orbits Mars, collecting data about the planet’s atmosphere and sending it back to Earth, allowing scientists to begin work, in connection with the USA, to create the first completed depiction of the red planet’s atmosphere.
This feat will allow Abu Dhabi’s initiative to establish a human settlement on the planet to take shape. Leaders hope that this insurmountable project will plant a seed for future generations to benefit from.
And, despite the 100-year-long plan, its benefits are already part of the present-day reality of what makes Abu Dhabi so special. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
For an article on the difference between a country and a nation, please read “Country vs. Nation: Similarities and Differences.”
Whether you are planning travel or simply want to learn more about Abu Dhabi, there is much to explore. From the Zyed Grand Mosque to the world’s fastest roller coaster, there are certainly plenty of attractions and landmarks you don’t want to miss in one of the most beautiful locations in the world.