The capital city of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, is a shining jewel of the Middle East made up of a collection of nearly 200 islands found along the azure blue waters of the Arabian Gulf. In recent years, this city has transformed into one of the world’s finest travel destinations, blessed with year-round sunshine, pristine beaches and meticulously landscaped gardens.
Home to a multitude of breath-taking and majestic cultural sights like the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi exudes rich Arabian culture and heritage juxtaposed with modern high-end attractions such as the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.
A truly cosmopolitan and diverse city, Abu Dhabi offers a host of activities that cater to every traveller’s needs. The adventurous can uncover thrills among the rolling sand dunes or by cruising through the mangroves on jet skis. Shopping enthusiasts will feel at home in any of the many world-class malls and adrenalin seekers will enjoy the 43 slides, rides and attractions at the newly opened Yas Waterworld.
Throughout the year, this impressive city of architectural wonders also plays host to some of the world’s most prolific events including the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix, Red Bull Air Race and the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. The best time to visit the city is during the winter months between November and March when temperatures average 25°C during the day and can even get down to 13°C at night, making it the ideal temperature to stroll along the famous Corniche waterfront and explore the backstreets of this dynamic metropolis.
Without much ado, let’s start the full day itinerary!
08:00am: Start your day with a sumptuous feast at Selections, located on the third floor of InterContinental Abu Dhabi. Indulge in an enviable spread of local delicacies and international favourites as you take in sweeping views of the calm waters of the marina. Local must-tries include foul mudammas (a dish made with fava beans and cumin) and a variety of popular mezze such as hummus, muttabal (a smokey aubergine dip) and labneh (yoghurt cheese) spiked with lemon juice and parsley as well as a selection of delicious traditional stuffed pastries.
09:00am: Embark on a 20-minute scenic drive along Corniche Road to the Saadiyat Cultural District, a district of this 27 square kilometre island dedicated to arts and culture. Visit the contemporary Manarat Al Saadiyat, an arts and culture centre that houses international collections, exhibitions and educational programmes that change with the seasons. Saadiyat, which means ‘place of enlightenment’ in Arabic, will be home to a number of iconic arts and culture institutions like the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a performing arts centre and the Maritime Museum.
11.30am: Experience a unique marine eco-system by kayaking through a spectacular mangrove forest that weaves through the emirate’s many islands. A perfect activity to explore the city’s diverse coastal wildlife and scenery, ask your concierge at InterContinental to book you a guided kayaking adventure tour. Encounter and learn about a variety of land and marine life as you kayak through the meandering mangrove forests with Abu Dhabi’s magnificent skyline in the background.
01:00pm: After an activity packed morning, take a short drive over to the popular Flooka Restaurant for lunch. Overlooking the intricate waterways of the Eastern Mangroves, the Mediterranean-Lebanese restaurant will satisfy your appetite with its servings of the day’s freshly caught seafood prepared to your liking. Indulge in shared platters of seafood mezze infused with Arabian spices to get energised for an afternoon of exploring.
02:30pm: A unique Abu Dhabi experience awaits you at the Falcon Hospital, located 30 minutes away by car. The largest falcon hospital in the world, the institution also offers an award-winning tourism programme, which welcomes you into the world of falcons and falconry giving you a deeper look into its history and heritage. Witness falcons getting a ‘pedicure’ or walk amidst the aviary and get up close to the majestic birds, which are also the national bird and emblem of the United Arab Emirates.
04:00pm: Located 40 minutes away by car is The Galleria, a popular shopping mall on the Al Maryah Island. Housing over a hundred renowned international brands and the latest in high fashion, jewellery, electronics and more, you can be assured the best shopping experiences here. Take a breather and head to Bateel Cafe, which serves aromatic coffee selections such as the traditional Arabic coffee and the Arabica Espresso best enjoyed with some delicious savoury pastries.
06:00pm: Make your way by car to one of the world’s largest places of Muslim worship, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Located 15 minutes away, this stunning architectural treasure took 11 years to build and covers an area as large as five football fields. Walk along the decorative white columned aisles and enter the astonishing marble quadrangle that gives you a 360° view of the incredible minarets and domes.
Once inside, remember to look up at the intricately designed ceiling adorned with majestic chandeliers. Each piece is a statement in itself and made with a variety of jewels and crystals, resulting in an elaborate light show when the sun glints off their various facets.
The world’s largest chandelier also resides in the mosque under its main dome. Measuring 10 metres in diameter and 15 metres in height (almost as tall as a 5-storey building), this crystal wonder weighs in at a monumental nine tonne, which is almost as heavy as nine supercars combined. All the sights at the mosque are best taken in at the ‘Sunset Tour’. Enjoy the early evening breeze while you watch the captivating colours of the sky change as the sun retreats behind this magnificent structure.
You are encouraged to dress modestly when visiting this place of worship, and women will be provided a traditional Abaya (a black robe like dress) before being allowed to enter. Also note that the mosque will not be open to non-Muslims on Friday as this is the main day of prayer in the Islamic week.
10:00pm: Unwind after the day’s activities with a drink or two back at The Yacht Club Bar and Galley at InterContinental Abu Dhabi. Kick back and relax with your travel companions on the outdoor terrace overlooking one of the most scenic marinas in the city. With international DJs spinning the latest hits, the highly acclaimed club is also a perfect nightspot for those who would like to dance the night away.
About Guest Blogger
Discover the wonders of this Arabian city with Nader El Kari, Chief Concierge of InterContinental Abu Dhabi and member of of Les Clef d’Or, a prestigious global concierge society, as he shares a 24-hour Insider Itinerary with the best activities for you to get the most out of this dynamic city. For more activities in Abu Dhabi, please visit the InterContinental Abu Dhabi Concierge Guide.