Introduction Abu Dhabi
The emirate is the capital city of the UAE and occupies some 80% of the whole country with a population close to 1.5 million. The city which carries the same name is an island and connected with two bridges to the main land. The city is home to most of the federal ministries and embassies as well as the seat of the president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Oil was discovered back in 1958 and since then, the emirate has witnessed a gigantic growth which saw its transformation from a fisher village to a cosmopolitan metropolis. The name Abu Dhabi (Land of the Gazelle) was given to the island first and later on for the whole emirate.
Today, Abu Dhabi has put itself on the global map with plans to attract mega sporting events as well as international exhibitions. The government has invested a huge budget to develop many new projects which include: The Yas, Saadiyat and Reem islands.
Abu Dhabi Island main attractions and sight-seeing
The island is the site of a US$36 billion development project by Aldar Properties. It occupies a total land area of 2,500 hectares, of which 1,700 hectares will be claimed for development. The island holds the Yas Island Circuit, which hosts the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix since 2009. It will also feature attractions such as Warner Bros. Movie World, a movie theme park by Warner Bros, Ferrari World, hotels including Yas Marina Hotel, a water park, and Yas Mall, the Abu Dhabi destination retail development of 300,000 sq m retail area; links and parkland golf courses, lagoon hotels, marinas, polo clubs, apartments, villas and food and beverage outlets that will create a tourist destination. Yas Island was named the World’s leading tourism project at the World Travel Awards in November 2009. For more detailed information and schedule of events visit: http://www.yasisland.ae/
Ferrari world (02-4968001) www.ferrariworldabudhabi.com
Saadiyat (meaning lucky/happy) is a large, low lying island 500 meters (1,600 ft) off the Coast of Abu Dhabi Island. A mixed commercial, residential, and leisure project is currently under construction on the island, expected to be completed in 2020. According to government officials, Saadiyat Island is expected to become Abu Dhabi’s cultural center and these are the future projects planned on the island: The Saadiyat Island development has been described as an intention to create an “up-scale cultural district to enrich Abu Dhabi”. Many cultural projects have already been announced including the development of a Guggenheim Museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art. The Frank Gehry-designed building is due for completion in 2014 and will be the largest Guggenheim Museum at 42,000 square meters (450,000 square feet).A Louvre museum. Saadiyat Island will eventually house around 145,000 residents and will be connected to Abu Dhabi via a ten-lane causeway. Plans to build a world-class performing arts center and a concert hall are underway. New York University is opening a campus on the island, and construction has already commenced. A Gary Player designed 18 hole championship golf course and golf academy along the beach
For more detailed information and project progress visit: http://www.saadiyat.ae/en/about.html
Lulu meaning the Pearl in Arabic is a 1,050-acre (4.2 km2) man-made island off the Coast of Abu Dhabi Island. It stretches from the Abu Dhabi Breakwater to the Zayed Sea Port. Land reclamation was completed in 1992. After several plans which were subsequently dropped, the island is now being developed by Sorouh Real Estate as a mixed commercial and residential project. Arquitectonica was tasked with the development of the master plan. It was also rumored that Al Lulu Island was going to be a tourist destination for a Disney theme park during the mid-90. On 1 January 2009, the previous ferry service was abruptly stopped due to unspecified ‘renovations’ on the island. Access is now by private boat only. Al Lulu Island is currently closed to the public, its only access now being by private boat. There are now plans to dramatically redevelop the island, these plans include the construction of a new permanent bridge connecting the island to the mainland, as well as a 400 meters (1,300 ft)+ landmark tower known as Lulu Tower. The construction it currently tipped not to begin before 2013
The Dhow yard in Abu Dhabi is one of the few remaining in the UAE offering visitors a glimpse of this skillful shipbuilding art. Dhow is the generic name of a number of traditional sailing vessels with one or more masts with lateen sails used in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean region. Some historians believe the dhow was invented by Arabs but this is disputed by some others. Dhows typically weigh 300 to 500 tons, and have a long, thin hull design. They are trading vessels primarily used to carry heavy items, like fruit, fresh water or merchandises, along the coasts of the Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and East Africa. Larger dhows have crews of approximately thirty people, while smaller dhows typically have crews of around twelve. Even to the present day, dhows make commercial journeys between the Persian Gulf and East Africa using sails as their only means of propulsion. Their cargo is mostly dates and fish to East Africa and mangrove timber to the lands in the Persian Gulf. They often sail south with the monsoon in winter or early spring, and back again to Arabia in late spring or early summer.
The traditional use of teak wood is becoming less and less due to the world wide protection laws which prohibit the over use and export from its source, hence the import is very limited in the last few years. It has been observed that many artisans are using fiber glass to cover the hulls of the dhows. Some of the types of Dhows are; Baghla, Sambuk, Battil, Boom, Jalibut, Jahazi, Shui.
Emirates Palace – (tel. 02-6909000) www.emiratespalace.ae
The building was designed by renowned architect, John Elliott RIBA, who was Senior Vice President at Wimberley, Allison, Tong and Goo, an international firm specializing in Luxury Hotels. It opened in November 2005 and is owned by the Abu Dhabi government. The costs to build the hotel were 1.9 billion GBP or 11.02 billion AED. The Emirates Palace occupies 850,000m² of floor space. The hotel has its own marina and helipad. The Emirates Palace is the second most expensive hotel ever built; only surpassed by Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. The hotel is located on 1.3 km of private white sandy beach and surrounded by 85 hectares of beautifully landscaped gardens, with 114 domes that are 80 meters high. Many of the suites offered are furnished in gold and marble. The main central area houses an expansive marble floor, balconies and a large patterned dome above, picked out in gold. The topmost floor has six Rulers’ Suites which are reserved solely for Emirati royalty and dignitaries. The hotel also contains a large conference center. In December 2010, it boasted the world’s most expensive Christmas tree, valued at over 11 million dollars. Overall, the hotel has 302 rooms and 92 suites. But, the hotel has 16 Palace Suites on the sixth and seventh floors. 22 three-bedroom suites are reserved for hosting Heads of State or Government, recently for example, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Angela Merkel. The cost of staying begins at 400 USD per night for the Coral Room (floor space of 592 square feet) in the low season; and The Palace Grand Suite (7319 square feet) is the most expensive at 11,500 USD per night
Heritage Village (tel. 02-6814455) www.torath.ae
Run by the Emirates Heritage Club, this reconstruction of a 16000 square meters traditional oasis village provides an interesting glimpse into the emirate’s past. The village is divided into 10 sections showcasing the following Traditional aspects; a) The desert way of life, including a campfire with coffee pots, a goats’ hair tent “Shaar”, huts made out of palm fronds “Areesh” and Camel herding. b) The Oasis life including a falaj irrigation system and the various crops used by oasis dwellers. C) The Sea life including fishing and pearling as well as Dhow and boat constructions. D) The women’s handicraft center demonstrating products made from locally sourced material, such as the Tali work and carpets from palm leaves. E) Traditional souk where you can find some bargains and souvenirs. F) Workshops where craftsmen demonstrate traditional skills, such as metal work and pottery, while women sit weaving and spinning. The craftsmen are happy to share their skills, and may occasionally give you the chance to try them out. F) The Museum which is built in an old shape fort showcasing the old way of Bedouin lives and the tools used for hunting, fishing and pearl diving, a small section shows the archeological findings during Um al Nar area (3000 years old) Opening Times: Saturday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm, and Friday from 3.30pm to 9pm Location: near Marina Mall, Breakwater, Abu Dhabi city
Oil Museum (Tel. 02-4446900)
A visit to Abu Dhabi can’t be complete without visiting the Petroleum Museum. In the 1930s, as the pearl trade declined, interest grew in the oil possibilities of the region. On 5 January 1936, Petroleum Development (Trucial Coast) Ltd (PDTC), an associate company of the Iraq Petroleum Company, entered into a concession agreement with the ruler, Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan al Nahyan, to explore for oil. This was followed by a seventy-five-year concession signed in January 1939. However, owing to the desert terrain, inland exploration was fraught with difficulties. In 1953, D’Arcy Exploration Company, the exploration arm of British Petroleum, obtained an offshore concession which was then transferred to a company created to operate the concession: Abu Dhabi Marine Areas (ADMA) was a joint venture between BP and “Compagnie Française des Pétroles” (later Total). In 1958, using a marine drilling platform, the ADMA Enterprise, oil was struck in the Umm Shaif field at a depth of about 8,755 feet (2,669 m). This was followed in 1959 by PDTC’s onshore discovery well at Murban No.3. In 1962, the company discovered the Bu Hasa field and ADMA followed in 1965 with the discovery of the Zakum offshore field.
Cultural foundation (Tel.02-6215300) www.adach.ae
Formerly known as the Cultural Foundation, the Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage center is responsible for creating awareness of the Emirati culture as well as staging and delivering interesting performances and shows relating to Islamic art, opera and theatre. Learn about the progress of Abu Dhabi from what it was 30 years ago and its plans for the future. View artifacts and get involved with henna tattooing and watch Emirati ladies weave fabrics. Books and handicrafts are on sale and all proceeds are invested back into the Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage centre. Art classes are also offered at the Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage center such as painting, calligraphy and jewelry making. An extensive library with over 400,000 titles in Arabic and foreign languages are available to the public. Throughout the year events and performances take place at the Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage centre such as operas, theatre and cinema productions. This place is a must do especially if you are visiting Abu Dhabi for a long time or are in expat, as the classes offered are fun and performances are regularly updated. This wouldn’t normally feature on a top ten list, except for the effort that the Abu Dhabi cultural foundations are making to give a glimpse of the culture of Abu Dhabi.
The Iranian Souk is a network of small shops selling traditional items from handmade rugs to traditionally designed jewelry. It is the most authentic souk in the city and is very popular with tourists. There are many small shops that sell antiques, silver jewelry, beautifully carved jewelry boxes, shisha pipes, brass items, rugs, handmade baskets and wooden furniture. Take a stroll through the market and test your bargaining skills. As with many traditional markets, you are expected to barter on the price of each item.
Al Hisn Fort
Qasr Al Hisn the main historic landmark in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi symbolizes the political and historical development of the Emirate and its rulers since its construction in the eighteenth century. The story begins in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi around 1760, when the leader of the Bani Yas tribes, Sheikh Dhiyab Bin Isa built a watchtower to guard the precious water source against raiders. His son, Sheikh Shakhbut Bin Dhiyab (1793 – 1816) then transformed the simple tower into an impregnable fort. As Abu Dhabi’s role and status grew in importance and due to the strategic and political changes that required Bani Yas to move to the coast, Sheikh Shakhbut decided to transfer his ruling place of residence from Liwa Oases to the palace known as Qasr al Hisn in the heart of Abu Dhabi Island. Qasr Al Hisn was enlarged and fortified during Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Shakhbut rule (1818 – 1833). During his reign, Abu Dhabi grew from a small village of palm huts to a town of more than five thousand inhabitants. The fort was repaired and strengthened during Sheikh Khalifa Bin Shakhbut rule (1833 – 1845); it was regarded as the literal and symbolic seat of power in Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Sa’id Bin Tahnoon (1845 -1855) turned Qasr Al Hisn into an imposing fortress; he used both diplomacy and military might to make Abu Dhabi an increasingly dominant power in the region. Sheikh Zayed Bin Khalifa (1855-1909) Known as ‘Zayed the Great’, led Abu Dhabi during his rule through a period of great political, military and economic growth which was stimulated by the flourishing pearling industry. Under his leadership, Abu Dhabi became the paramount Emirate on the Gulf coast and Qasr al Hosn was again expanded reflecting this wealth and power. His achievements laid the foundations for the modern nation of the UAE. With the discovery of oil, the pace of change in Abu Dhabi accelerated; Sheikh Shakhbut Bin Sultan (1928 – 1966) signed the first oil exploration concessions in the 1930s and created work for many people by improving and enlarging Qasr al Hisn. While his brother, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1966-2004), the founder of the United Arab Emirate charted a vision for the future of his people and led the spectacular transformation in the UAE. Under his visionary leadership, the UAE became a model of stability and progress. Today, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces, lead the march of revitalizing Abu Dhabi and building its advance future with Qasr Al Hisn as its beating heart and living heritage. Qasr Al Hisn will always remain a spiritual symbol for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, combining its history, heritage, and civilization across the ages. It will be a place to honor its people and celebrate the emirate culture and identity.
Shk. Zayed Grand Mosquehttp://www.szgmc.ae/en/plan-your-visit www.abudhabitourim.com Contacts: 800555 / +971-2-4416444 Timings: 09:00 – 22:00 (Daily except Friday AM)
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was initiated by the late President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. His final resting place is located on the grounds beside the same mosque. As the country’s grand mosque, it is the key place of worship for Friday gathering and Eid prayers. It is the largest mosque in the UAE and can accommodate some forty thousand people. The library, located in the north/east minaret, serves the community with classic books and publications addressing a range of Islamic subjects: sciences, civilization, calligraphy, the arts, coins and includes some rare publications dating back more than 200 years. In reflection of the diversity of the Islamic world and the United Arab Emirates, the collection comprises material in a broad range of languages including Arabic, English, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Korean. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque’s design and construction ‘unites the world’, using artisans and materials from many countries including Italy, Germany, Morocco, India, Turkey, Malaysia, Iran, China, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Greece and United Arab Emirates. More than 3,000 workers and 38 renowned contracting companies took part in the construction of the Mosque. Natural materials were chosen for much of its design and construction due to their long-lasting qualities, including marble stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. The design of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque has been inspired by both Mughal and Moorish mosque architecture, particularly the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore and the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca being direct influences. The design of the Mosque can be best described as a fusion of Arab, Mughal and Moorish architecture. The mosque is large enough to accommodate over 40,000 worshipers. The main prayer hall can accommodate over 7,000 worshipers. There are two smaller prayer halls, with a 1,500-capacity each, one of which is the female prayer hall. There are four minarets on the four corners of the courtyard which rise about 107 m (351 ft) in height. The courtyard, with its floral design, measures about 17,000 m2 (180,000 sq. ft.), and is considered to be the largest example of marble mosaic in the world. Sivec from Prilep, Macedonia was used on the external cladding (115,119 square metres of cladding has been used on the mosque, including the minarets), Lasa from Italy was used in the internal elevations, Makrana from India was used in the annexes and offices, Aquabiana and Biano from Italy, East White and Ming Green from China.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has many special and unique elements: The carpet in the main prayer hall is considered to be the world’s largest carpet made by Iran’s Carpet Company and designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi. This carpet measures 5,627 m2 (60,570 sq. ft.), and was made by around 1,200-1,300 carpet knitters. The weight of this carpet is 35 ton and is predominantly made from wool (originating from New Zealand and Iran). There are 2,268,000,000 knots within the carpet and it took approximately two years to complete.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has seven imported chandeliers from Germany that incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals. The largest chandelier is the second largest known chandelier inside a mosque, the third largest in the world and has a 10 m (33 ft.) diameter and a 15 m (49 ft.) height. The pools along the arcades reflect the Mosque’s spectacular columns, which becomes even more glorious at night. The unique lightning system was designed by lightning architects Jonathon Speirs and Major to reflect the phases of the moon. Beautiful bluish gray clouds are projected in lights onto the external walls and get brighter and darker according to the phase of the moon. The 96 columns in the main prayer hall are clad with marble and inlaid with mother of pearl, one of the few places where you will see this craftsmanship. The 99 names (qualities or attributes) of Allah (God) are featured on the Qibla wall in traditional Kufi calligraphy, designed by the prominent UAE calligrapher – Mohammed Mandi Al Tamimi. The Qibla wall also features subtle fiber-optic lighting, which is integrated as part of the organic design.In total, three calligraphy styles – Naskhi, Thuloth and Kufi – are used throughout the mosque and were drafted by Mohammed Mandi Al Tamimi UAE, Farouk Haddad Syria and Mohammed Allam Jordan.
Women’s handicraft CenterContact: 02-5621918/4476645 Opening: 07:00-15:00 (Sun-Thu)
Location: Women’s Association Complex, Karama St, Al Mushrif (near the Immigration Office and the Royal Stables)
This creative initiative is run by the Abu Dhabi Women’s Association as a showcase for local arts and crafts. The project was pioneered by Sheikha Fatima (the wife of the previous ruler Shk. Zayed Al Nahyan) with the main aim to support single women (widowed and divorced) by providing an opportunity to work and earn money. The small museum within is the chance to examine and learn about local artists’ handiwork. There is also a shop on site. The round buildings near the museum are workshops where female artists display distinctive Arabian oils, handmade souvenirs, incense, local dress, silver thread work, and weaving. You should remove your shoes before entering each hut, and ask for photography permission. You can get a simple henna design painted on your hand, which will last about two weeks.
Situated along the northwestern shore of the capital, this lengthy stretch of beach (approx. 12 km) has always been a popular location for rest and recreation, as well as a signature destination for many high-profile entertainment and sporting events in recent years. Therefore, its depiction on the Dh 1,000 currency note is entirely appropriate. Presently, the Corniche is marked at one end by the breakwater that includes the Marina Mall and Abu Dhabi theatre, while the other tip is known for its traditional port and Iranian souq. Abu Dhabi’s pristine Corniche beachfront has been awarded coveted Blue Flag status – the internationally renowned eco-label for beaches and marinas that guarantees clean and safe bathing water. Some 30,000 to 50,000 visitors flock to the Corniche every month, enjoying three separate sections for families, singles and the general public. There are more than 1,100 free parking spaces with a five minute walk of the beach. Entry to the public beach is free. Various concerts and festivals also draw thousands to the Corniche annually, keeping the city alive till the wee hours of the morning. Among them, the free Yasalam concerts and workshops, part of the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that runs from October to November every year, feature international musical celebrities. In the spring, the World of Music, Art and Dance (WOMAD) makes the Corniche the hub of culture in Abu Dhabi, as international artistes highlight their traditions and arts.
Saluki CenterContact: +971-2-5755330 Timings: 09:00 – 15:00 (Sun-Thu)
This centre honors the desert traditions of hunting, training and breeding Salukis – a distinctive breed of dog found in desert regions. The centre invites visitors to learn more about the unique traits and care of this type of dog. The Arabian Saluki Centre, established in 2001 by Hamad Al Ghanem with the support of the Emirates Falconers’ Club, commits itself to both the preservation of the pure breed Arabian Saluki and the traditional way of the Arabian Hunting as an essential part of Cultural Heritage. Arabian Salukis are one of the world’s oldest breeds; history shows that they can be traced back almost 13,000 years. Originating from the Arabian Peninsula, these desert hounds, which are known for their exceptional stamina, intelligence and loyalty, were bred to assist man in chasing prey and catching it in the harsh desert climate. Arabian Salukis are highly prized by the Bedouins not only for the hunting purpose, but as a companion and a member of the family.
Falcon Hospitalwww.falconhospital.com Contacts: +971-2-5755155 / +971-50-6660739 (Mr Amer) Timings: 10:00 – 14:00 (advance booking required)
The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (ADFH), is the first public falcon hospital in the United Arab Emirates. Opened on 3rd of October, 1999, as affiliate of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) , it has become the largest falcon hospital in the UAE with a patient influx of more than 42,000 patients in the first eleven years of existence. Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital provides highest quality care, consistent with identifiable health care needs of falcons and other birds of prey, as well as pets and to spread the cultural heritage of falcons and falconry on worldwide level. Moreover, ADFH has highly successfully entered in the field of leisure tourism by continuous and tremendous increases in tourists who have visited and participated in Falcon World Tour year after year. Through its award-winning tourism program, ADFH had proven its importance as one of the major tourist attractions in the Emirate and continuously promoting Abu Dhabi as tourists destination.