Whether you have 24 hours or five days in the capital city, Yalla has developed a mix and match itinerary, so you don’t miss a thing that you want to see during your visit. You can find out more below, or take these itineraries with you on the go with our useful Yalla See It All app.
To say Abu Dhabi is modern is an understatement. The UAE is younger than many of the people who live here, but that’s not to say it has no past. People first settled in the UAE approximately 7,000 years ago. Yet, until the late 1950s and before the discovery of oil, Abu Dhabi was a small coastal town with a few hundred huts, a couple of buildings and a fort.
Over 250 years ago, a party of hunters followed a gazelle at low tide onto the island of Abu Dhabi. The legend goes that they found a small spring and reported back to the ruler of the day. He gave orders that a village should be established close to the spring, and today’s ‘City of Abu Dhabi’ was formed. Abu Dhabi means ‘Father of the Gazelle’.
Today, huge skyscrapers and residential towers rise from where only sand existed just a few decades ago. The Emirate is proud of its past, and there are many attractions around the capital to help you step back in time and experience what it was like to live here. When you explore the cultural and heritage attractions, you will quickly discover that Abu Dhabi is a destination where respect for the past informs the present and shapes the future.
Day 1: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque & Wahat Al Karama
Start your Abu Dhabi culture tour with TripAdvisor’s number one rated attraction: the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The mosque has a 82 white shiny domes, golden colonnades and features stunning flower inlays across its marble flooring and walls. Free public tours are available daily in many languages, to give guests insight into its unique architecture.
Alternatively, you can meander through the mosque and its grounds at your own pace. Around sunset, the Mosque is bathed in a beautiful light making it ideal for photos (take the 5pm tour for this). Then go across the road to see an impressive fusion between art and architecture: the Wahat Al Karama Remembrance Memorial. The monument is a tribute to the men who gave their lives for the UAE. 31 huge aluminium-clad slabs lean against one another in an intriguing arrangement. Step down into the half-buried Pavilion of Honour and enjoy a moment of rest and reflection. www.szgmc.ae
Day 2: Heritage Village & Marina Breakwater
Where the city meets the sea, tourists can find a wealth of insight into old Abu Dhabi at The Heritage Village. A firm favourite with tourists, this is the best place to get the feel for traditional desert life. Enter Bedouin tents made from goats’ hair and wander through the tiny oasis or visit the craftsmen’s’ workshops courtyard situated across from the neat little museum. A traditional restaurant offers a refreshing mint and lemon juice replete with stunning views of the Abu Dhabi skyline and the Corniche. For great shots of Abu Dhabi’s skyscrapers across the sea, walk a bit further along the breakwater to the giant flag pole
and the rotunda of the National Theatre. If you want to add some modern luxury into your journey to the past, head to Marina Mall, which is just across the road from the Heritage Village.
Day 3: Qasr Al Hosn & the Corniche
Palace, fortress, and seat of government until 1966, Qasr Al Hosn is the historic centre of Abu Dhabi. It was the city’s first permanent building when it started out as a watchtower more than 250 years ago. Renovations of the coral and sea stone structures have transformed the site into a major cultural centre are nearly complete. Check out the incredible photos series of the fort in a tranquil desert setting 70 years ago to appreciate just how much the emirate has changed since the discovery of oil. Then hire a bicycle and enjoy the seabreeze as you cruise the 8km stretch of the Corniche promenade. Parking is free and available next to Nation Towers on Corniche Road. Use the pedestrian underpass to access the beach side. www.qasralhosn.ae
DAY 4: Women’s Handicraft Centre & Umm Al Emarat Park
Pop into the Women’s Handicraft Centre, a government-run initiative where local women keep Bedouin crafts alive, such as palm weaving, saddu tapestry making and telli braiding. Visitors have the rare opportunity to meet the guardians of local heritage in their traditional dress at work. Stock up on souvenirs that are made by the women you encounter or have a henna design piped on your hand. Women, men, and children are all welcome. Afterwards, take a quick taxi ride to a surprisingly lush green retreat. Umm Al Emarat Park. Stroll along beautiful palm tree-lined walks or take the kids to visit the animal barn. The park includes art installations, botanic gardens, play parks, as well as food trucks and cafés. For more information follow @ummalemaratpark on Facebook.
DAY 5: Emirates Palace & the Founder’s Memorial
The best way to get a real feel for the UAE’s past is to visit the Founder’s Memorial in Ras Al Akhdar. The Memorial is a permanent national tribute dedicated to commemorating the life, legacy and values of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the
UAE. The public artwork named The Constellation is a dynamic three dimensional portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed that can be experienced differently from multiple viewing points around the memorial. Drop by Emirates Palace next door to sample UAE opulence with the palace’s signature 24k Gold-flaked cappuccino. If you have time, head to the top of Jumeirah at Etihad Towers to get a bird’s eye view of the neighbourhood and partake of the best city views in town.
DAY 6: The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
Make a day out of one of the most sought-after tours in the capital: the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. This is the largest falcon hospital in the world. The tour begins with a primer on falcons, and you will learn why the bird is revered as the national bird of the UAE. The
most unique feature of the tour is seeing a falcon pedicure. While the falcon is sedated, its talons are trimmed, and visitors have the unique opportunity to feel the falcon’s resting heartbeat. The tour then continues to the aviary, where short-term residential falcons soar freely above you. The tour lasts approximately two hours, and visitors will depart understanding why the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is ranked the second most popular destination in Abu Dhabi on TripAdvisor. Do book in advance. www.falconhospital.com
Published on October 2018