Labeled as the “richest city in the world” by Fortune Magazine, Abu Dhabi’s rapid development, advanced urbanization, and relatively high income of its population has transformed the city into a cosmopolitan metropolis and a world power. As capital, Abu Dhabi is the center of the United Arab Emirates’ political and industrial activities, as well as the cultural and commercial hub for the country. Yet, the UAE also houses another major global city, Dubai. Known as the business hub for the Arabian Gulf region, Dubai’s economy is renowned, with its main revenues coming from tourism, real estate, aviation, and financial services. Together, these two cities are quickly establishing the UAE as the new “hot spot” for tourists and travelers across the globe.
With impeccable displays of technology advancement exhibited throughout the entire city, the cultural landmarks and various attractions that make up Abu Dhabi are far ahead of their time.
One major landmark that is significant to the city is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the world’s largest mosques in existence. The architectural design of this structure is spectacular, within itself, yet when you take a closer look, you get a glimpse into the creative minds that conspired to build the work of art that is the Grand Mosque. Aside from its large acreage and many reflective pools, a stunning feature can be witnessed at night. The shining colors of white and gold that cover the building are transformed by a unique lighting system which reflects the moon, a truly magical sight unique to the mosque.
The impacts of modern influence are apparent in whichever direction you look in this city, and this is particularly exhibited in the designs of the Emirates Palace and the Etihad Towers. The Emirates Palace is an iconic, luxurious hotel which blends Arabian features with the latest technology to create a mesmerizing experience for visitors. Like a modern day version of the palace right out of the Disney movie, Aladdin, this building transforms your childhood into reality. The Etihad Towers are viewed as architectural masterpieces, but it’s what they each hold on the inside that stuns visitors. Aside from providing residential space, the buildings house the most expensive and exclusive collection of boutique shops in the world, with private rooms available for VIP shopping. Though dramatic and a little over the top, these two structures are worth a walk-through.
If you’re traveling with family, there are many attractions to suit your needs and that allow you to experience Abu Dhabi in a whole new light. The Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the first Ferrari theme park and the largest attraction of its kind. Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster reading at an average speed of 240kmph, is also part of the park. If you aren’t a thrill-seeker, and are looking for something slightly more laid back, there is the Yas Island Waterpark. With 43 rides, slides, and attractions, the waterpark plays on the culture of Abu Dhabi with the theme “The Lost Pearl”. Visitors follow the story of a young girl on a quest to find a legendary pearl as they make their way through the various exhibits. Other attractions fun for the whole family include: Wadi Adventure, the Emirates Park Zoo, and Hili Fun City. The city also provides opportunities for biking, golfing, watersports, karting, and walking tours.
The cuisine found throughout Abu Dhabi is just as desirable, with a wonderful blend of Emirati and Gulf food infused with spices and ingredients from throughout Asia and Arabia. A traditional dish of the region, Al Harees, is a combination of meat and wheat slow-cooked in a clay oven or pot and served with ghee. Being that Abu Dhabi is surrounded by water, fish is also a mainstay of many local dishes and can be found in most restaurants. A few places to check out during your stay are Al Arish, Bu Tafish, and Mezlai, all providing a taste of what the local cuisine has to offer.
Dubai has undergone a rapid transformation, from a humble beginning as a pearl-diving centre, to one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Visitors are transfixed by the view of futuristic skyscrapers and a glittering coastline surrounded by endless desert. Chances to explore while in Dubai are endless, with each experience and attraction paying great tribute to this glamorous city.
The most notable landmark in Dubai is the world renowned Burj Khalifa. Standing at 829.8m, the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, with staggering views in every direction. Take a trip up to the 124th floor observation deck where you can get a bird’s-eye view of the city skyline, or check out the beautifully designed gardens and Dubai Fountain that grace the ground floor surrounding the building. Whichever, you prefer, a visit to the Burj Khalifa is a “must” while visiting the city of Dubai.
Like Abu Dhabi, Dubai’s use of modern architecture and supreme technology do not go unnoticed in the city. Yet, there are many cultural landmarks that paint a beautiful picture of the rich history that makes up the region. The Dubai Museum at Al Fahidi Fort is filled with spectacular dioramas vividly depicting everyday life in the days before the discovery of oil, galleries recreating the scenes of the Creek and marine life, and incredible exhibits portraying the history of pearl diving. Take a trip back through time as you immerse yourself in the story of the beginnings of Dubai. When you’re not ascending the steps of the Burj Khalifa or exploring the Dubai Museum, visit a few other cultural treasures Dubai has to offer, like the Grand Jumeirah Mosque, the Palm Islands, the Old Souks, or the Sheikh Obaid bin Thani House.
If you’re looking to have a little fun while in the city, Dubai offers myriad things to do for every type of traveller. While waterparks, such as the Wild Wadi Waterpark, are thrilling for the whole family, Dubai takes it a step further with it’s ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences and attractions. Interested in skiing on snow or ice-skating in the desert? Dubai has it. The first indoor ski resort in the Middle East, Ski Dubai is an amazing mountain-themed indoor snow resort where visitors can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, or just play in the snow. The resort has 5 different runs varying in length and is covered with snow all year round. The Dubai Ice Rink is also becoming one of the most preferred tourist activities. Located in the Dubai Mall, the rink is visible from three levels of the mall’s main thoroughfares, offering theater-like entertainment for shoppers. Other activities to take part in during your trip to Dubai include: sand skiing, camel rides, dune driving, various water sports, and much more.
Dubai offers rare opportunities to experience local and ethnic cuisine from various regions around the world. Many of the hotel restaurants in the city offer a wide variety of choices, such as Arabian, French, Italian, Greek, Mexican, and Chinese. While you can find your typical American-owned restaurants here, like McDinald’s, Pizza Hut, and Dunkin’ Donuts, there are a number of restaurants offering local Emirati favorites. A few of the most reputable restaurants within Dubai are Pierchic, Margaux, and Eauzone. Answer your stomachs’ needs by spoiling yourself at any of these restaurants.