Abu Dhabi is the capital city and the largest Emirate of the seven Emirates of the United Arab Emirates. There are numerous places to visit in Abu Dhabi and the destination starts to awe you even before you have stepped on the Emirati soil. When your plane is descending for landing at the Abu Dhabi airport, its aerial view is fascinating and enthralling. Especially, the night time aerial view of Abu Dhabi is a spectacular visual of shimmer and illumination. The pattern of lights below cuts through the flurry of darkness with a defiant vivaciousness as if putting on a welcome show for visitors. As you exit the airport, you see the festival of lights pervading the surrounding nightstand as luminous defiance of Mother Nature.
The view of impressive modern high rise architecture stands as the testament to the can-do ethos of the Emiratis. As you step out, you are greeted by visual and aural delights enhanced even more by gleaming sunlight against the background of a clear blue sky. The United Arab Emirates owes its present allure, grandeur and first world status to the visionary leadership of its first president, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Not surprisingly, Sheikh Zayed is forever immortalized in the opulent and impressive architectural marvel that is Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Another such landmark is the prominent Sheikh Zayed Road which starts from Abu Dhabi, runs through Dubai and terminates in Ras al-Khaimah while also being the longest road in the United Arab Emirates.
The city of Abu Dhabi is situated on an island in the Gulf, however, most of the city and the Emirate live on the mainland. Abu Dhabi was planned and developed under Sheikh Zayed’s guidance and designed by Katsuhiko Takahashi, the Japanese architect in 1967.
Places to see in Abu Dhabi:
The city of Abu Dhabi has super tall skyscrapers and architectural and engineering wonders such as:
- The majestic Burj Mohammed Bin Rashid (World Trade Center Abu Dhabi) is a complex of two skyscrapers. The complex includes two malls and a courtyard by Marriott Hotel.
- Etihad Towers (famously featured in the Fast and Furious 7 movie) is a complex of buildings with five towers. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers Hotel is located in Tower 1. Tower 2 has an observation deck on the 75th floor which provides a 360-degree view of Abu Dhabi’s fine buildings and palaces.
- Abu Dhabi Investment Authority Tower has a height of 185m and has 40 floors.
- The National Bank of Abu Dhabi has now been named as First Abu Dhabi Bank after the merger of First Gulf Bank and National Bank of Abu Dhabi. It is the largest bank of the United Arab Emirates and is housed in a huge skyscraper with having a height of 173 m and 33 floors.
- The Baynunah (Hilton Hotel) Tower has a height of 164.9m and has 42 floors.
- The Etisalat headquarters has a height of 160m and 27 floors.
- The Aldar Headquarters is a first circular skyscraper in the Middle East.
- The Emirates Palace vows you with its design inspired by Arab heritage.
These are some of the best and picturesque must-see spots for a person who loves photographing architecture and modern Art.
Best Places to visit in Abu Dhabi:
Abu Dhabi is adorned with beautiful and scenic places to visit and is a tourist delight. Some of them are The Corniche, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, Emirates Palace Hotel, Yas Marina Formula 1 Circuit, Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi Amusement Park, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Qasr Al Watan, Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi and various Shopping malls.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque was constructed through the period 1996 to 2007 and was designed by Syrian Architect Yousef Abdelky.
The vision of Sheikh Zayed was to establish a monumental structure that would combine the cultural heterogeneity of the Islamic world with the ancient and modern values of architecture and art. The design of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque has been inspired by the Persian, Mughal and Indo-Islamic mosque architecture.
The mosque can accommodate 40,000 worshipers. The special and unique elements of the mosque include:
- The carpet in the main prayer hall which weighs 35 tons primarily made of wool was completed by 1200 artisans in two years in Iran.
- The mosque has seven imported chandeliers from Germany. These chandeliers embody millions of Swarovski Crystals.
- The 96 columns in the main prayer hall sport marble and are decorated with mother of pearl.
- The 99 names of Allah are engraved on the Qibla wall in traditional Kufic calligraphy.
Sheikh Zayed mosque is one of the most beautiful and magnificent monuments which evokes both a spiritual experience and a marvel at its architectural splendor.
Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is an art and civilization museum situated on Saadiyat Island which is expected to become Abu Dhabi’s cultural centre. Artworks from around the world are showcased with a distinct focus on bridging the gap between Eastern and Western Art.
The museum is designed as a “seemingly floating dome structure”, its patterned dome allowing the sun to filter through. Altogether it is meant to represent “rays of sunlight navigating through date palm fronds in an oasis”. The Louvre museum was originally built in France designed by architect Jean Nouvel. It was opened in Abu Dhabi in Nov. 2017 and showcases exhibits from various French museums and pieces of art from around the world.
The Emirates Palace is a luxury five-star hotel operated by Mandarin Oriental. The design of the hotel is inspired by Islamic architectural elements of the bygone times and stands as a stark comparison to the newer glass and steel buildings of Abu Dhabi. The colour and hues of the building mirror gold and various shades of sand found in the Arabian Desert. The building houses beautiful gardens, pools, restaurant and a private beach. The hotel also appeared in the ‘Fast and Furious 7’ and ‘6 underground’ films. The Emirates Palace is a luxurious and spectacular place, the interior decor is truly amazing and the exterior view in the day, as well as night, is breath-taking.
Yas Marina Circuit
The Yas Marina Circuit is the site for the famous Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. This is the 2nd F1 track in the Middle East, the first being in Bahrain. F1 fans can make an online reservation for a track tour. You can get an opportunity to run, walk or cycle around the 5.55 km Grand Prix Track every Tuesday evening from 6 p.m to 10 p.m. Then there is Yas water world for the adventure lovers and Yas shopping mall for the shopping aficionados.
The Corniche road is 8 km long and includes children’s play areas, separate cycling and walking pathways, restaurants, cafes and the scenic Corniche Beach. Marina mall is located across from the Corniche and there is also Lulu island about a kilometre from the Corniche.
Qasr Al Watan
Qasr Al Watan is a new cultural landmark located in the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi. The palace was opened to the public in 2019 to celebrate the heritage of the country and Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (crown prince). The Great Hall, House of Knowledge, Qasr Al Watan library are some of the amazing places to see here. Also, there is a magnificent sound and light show at dusk.
Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi
Warner Bros. world’s an indoor themed amusement park on the Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, owned and developed by Miral Asset Management. The facade features a 61m tall tower inspired by the iconic Warner Bros. Water Tower in Burbank, California. It has 29 rides, restaurants, attractions, shops and shows. It is organized into six themed areas. The Green Lantern Ride (a 5D mesmerizing experience), Flintstones riverboat ride and the Jokers Funhouse are some of the most enjoyable rides.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Ferrari World is also an indoor themed amusement park on Yas Island. It is the first Ferrari-branded theme park and is the largest space frame structure ever built. Formula Rossa is the fastest roller coaster in the world is located here. Ferrari World was termed as the Middle East’s leading tourist destination at the World Travel Awards 2015 & 2016.
Abu Dhabi sightseeing
There are sightseeing tours organized in Abu Dhabi which also provide flexible tickets and hop-on, hop-off buses. These ensure you can tailor your Abu Dhabi sightseeing experience to your own schedule. The sheer magnificence of Abu Dhabi’s tourist attractions and infrastructure will vow you and keep in awe of the exponential transformation of Abu Dhabi in the last 3 decades.