Explore these hidden gems which are oﬀ the beaten track...
Qasr Al Hosn
Palace, fortress and seat of government until 1966, Qasr Al Hosn is the historic nucleus 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 delicate coral and sea stone structures are transforming the site into a major cultural centre. Until it reopens fully, the Visitor Centre houses a small, but worthwhile exhibition, that tells the story of how Abu Dhabi island was settled by a small fishing community and progressed to the high-rise city you see today. Check out the incredible photos series of the fort sitting in a tranquil desert setting 70 years ago to appreciate just how much the emirate has changed since the discovery of oil.
Details: Qasr Al Hosn, Sheikh Zayed the First Street. Until opening of the full site use the public parking spaces around the fort complex. Entry is from Khaled Bin Al Waleed Street. Every spring the site houses a fantastic heritage festival, check the www.visitabudhabi. ae website for dates. Entry: Free. Daily, 9am - 8pm.
Corniche and Mamsha Al Khair
Walking or cycling along the extensive Corniche promenade brings it home to you how much the story of Abu Dhabi is linked to the sea. Years ago pearl fishers used to push off boats on expeditions full of danger and risk. From the East Plaza all the way to the Emirates Palace, you will spot the granite monolith and limestone installations of Mamsha Al Khair, which contain quotes from globally renowned inspirational figures that aim to increase awareness of the importance of social responsibility and social service.
Location: Parking is available next to Nation Towers on Corniche Road. Use the pedestrian underpass to access the beach side.
Women’s Handicraft Centre
Inside this government run initiative, local women keep Bedouin crafts alive, such as palm weaving, saddu tapestry making and telli braiding. The Handicraft and Heritage Centre is not on the main tourist thoroughfare, but if you persevere to find your way past the gate of the complex you will be rewarded with a unique chance to meet the true guardians of local heritage. Slip off your shoes as you enter the five workshop areas, sit down and observe the women in traditional dress at work. You can stock up on the products for sale - souvenirs made here in the UAE - in the exhibition hall opposite the workshops. The hall also houses plenty of interesting displays of traditional Bedouin household craft and adornments and a big model of Abu Dhabi as it was in 1959. Women, men, children are all welcome. Dress appropriately for this traditional environment and respect the breaks at prayer time. This is a great opportunity to snap shots of local craft in the making, but remember to ask for permission before photographing the women.
Details: Follow Karamah Street (14th ) to the end, heading away from the Corniche. Park outside the Women’s Union complex and walk up to the guard who will indicate the way to the tent shaped roofs in the far left corner. Taxi drivers may not know this place, so bring these directions when you go.
Open, Sunday – Friday, workshops 8am - 1pm, exhibition hall 7.30am - 3pm. Closed on public holidays.
Wheelchair access available. Identity documents may be required and will be left at the security gate.
Umm Al Emarat Park
Enjoy the beautiful palm tree walks, take in the sights and sounds of the water running down the walls of the Wisdom Garden and visit the animal barn. Umm Al Emarat (formally known as Mother of the Nation) Park’s sustainable design set international benchmarks and includes art installations, botanic gardens, play parks, as well as cafés. It also boasts a special charm after sunset. For more information about regular film screenings, pop-up markets and other community events go to @ummalemaratpark on Facebook.
Details: Between Karamah Street (14th) and Shk Rashid Bin Saeed Street (18th), with best access from 15th and 18th Street. Large shaded car park. Wheelchair access available.
Entry AED5, under 3 years go free.
Daily, 8am - midnight, last entry at 11pm.
Telephone: +971 2 666 9559
Zayed Exhibition, Zayed Centre
The Zayed Centre is set in a picturesque complex of buildings modeled on traditional Emirati architecture, right at the edge of the turquoise sea. Its little museum is worth a visit to get a sense of the pride Emiratis feel for the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, affectionately known as the 'Father of the Nation'. The Zayed Exhibition holds photos and personal memorabilia of the beloved late leader and many unique gifts bestowed on him by foreign delegations. Next to cherished classic vehicles – including a Mercedes Maybach - you will find marvels such as stuffed lions, hunting rifles, and a huge portrait of the late Sheikh recorded as a Guinness World Book record, composed UAE stamps worth more than AED 100.000. To finish, sit down among the majlis cushions, accept the complementary cup of Arabic coffee and chat to the friendly reception staff.
Details: Al Bateen area, close to the Crown Prince Court along 4th Street. Look out for the gate to the centre on the left as you head towards Al Bateen Wharf and park on site.
Open, Sunday – Thursday, 8am - 2.15pm, Closed on Friday and Saturday. Guided tours in English and Arabic are available, however you need to book in advance.
Telephone: +971 2 665 9555
UAE Currency Museum
If you like museums in unusual locations, then book ahead to get access to the Currency Museum, set in the ground floor of the UAE Central Bank. The museum’s gold and silver Islamic coins will make your eyes sparkle, but more importantly, the currency tells you about the historic trade connections of the region. It also explains the process of unifying the emirates as witnessed by the Indian rupees on show, and the currencies of the different emirates before the joint dirham and the UAE bank notes came into use.
Details: UAE Central Bank, Al Bateen along 4th Street, close to Sheikh Zayed Centre. There's plenty of parking on the rear side. Enter via the black reception building.
Daily, Sunday to Thursday, 9am - 2pm. Booking at least a day in advance is required. Tour size: max 15-20 persons.
Telephone: +971 2 691 5265
Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
Falconry is a very popular traditional sport here in the UAE, Some birds are highly valued and seeing them fly business class when travelling is not an unusual sight. The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital out towards Abu Dhabi International Airport is a world-leading centre that cares for more than 10,000 birds each year. Guided tours through the hospital facilities, ranging between 1 – 2 hours, are available. Not only will you see the hospital wards and tour the falconry museum, but also you can also handle these majestic birds of prey and have your picture taking with one sitting on your arm. It is advised to book online two days in advance, or call the day before to confirm a space on a daily tour either at 10am or 2pm.
Details: Sweihan Road, Al Shamkha, near Abu Dhabi International Airport. There's parking available and wheel chair access.
Tour price: Adults AED170, children AED60 (5-9 years), Free for under 5 years.
Daily, Sunday - Thursday, Friday and public holidays closed. Occasional Saturday 10am tours. During Ramadan tours will be conducted only at 10am.
Telephone: +971 2 575 5155. Email: email@example.com Website: www.falconhospital.com