Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates and one of the richest cities in the world, was an ideal opportunity to spend a couple of days. We had boarded the Etihad flight in Brisbane, Australia and settled in for the two 7 hour flights via Singapore to our first destination. Arriving late at night, we caught a taxi to the Centro Al Manhal for only 80 Dirham. As we found out over the next couple of days, the hotel was in a great location with the Abu Dhabi Bus station and the Al Manhal mall within 5 minutes walking distance from the hotel. The roof top pool was also an added bonus.
The main attraction of the city is the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Nahyan Grand Mosque. You can jump on a tour, take a taxi or in our case ride the public bus. For only 4 Dirham, the bus worked out the cheapest and the best way to see the suburbs. Some buses you get a paper ticket, but most just have a tin just to the right of the driver as you stepped on. Men and women are separated on the buses with a little yellow sign distinguishing the designated area.
Make sure you dress appropriately to enter the mosque. For men - sleeves and trousers that are below the knees. For women, a much more conservative approach where everything needs to be covered - long, loose trousers covering your legs. A shawl covering your head and long sleeved tops which cover past your wrists. Unfortunately Cheryl didn't have her forearms covered or a shawl covering her head. As we entered the gates a security guard lent Cheryl a scarf that managed to cover her hair. Inside the mosque you will find one of the world’s largest carpets. It took 1200 workers over 2 years to finish and you can feel the quality under your bare feet.
Another must do in Abu Dhabi is the Afternoon Desert Safari. We went with the company suggested by our hotel - Desert Rose Tourism. A very professional company which showed all the hospitality that we have come accustomed to in the UAE.
The tour started at 3.15pm with a pick up from the hotel. After a 45 minute drive, we left the tarmac to start our sand adventure. A quick acceleration up the dune and a first glimpse of the forever changing landscape was upon us. We were not the only vehicle in the group; another 7 or 8 land cruisers joined our pack. The tyre pressure was released before the real adventure started. This ride is definitely not for the faint hearted. No dune seemed to be too big or too steep for our fearless driver.
When we arrived at the desert camp, we were greeted by a small tent city which circled around stage. 'Everything is free except the alcohol and 4 wheelers' was the common cry from our driver. These free activities included camel riding, Henna tattoo, sand boarding down the steep dune, dress up in traditional Arabian clothing or try your hand at the Arabian coffee with dates. After a delicious BBQ dinner and a belly dancing show, it was time to hop back in the cars to the hotel.
All in all, Abu Dhabi turned out to be a nice little stop over destination. I wouldn't recommend any more than 3 days unless you really like shopping.
Hotel: Centro Al Manhal $85 AUD per night
Tour Company: Desert Rose Tourism - 290 Dirham pp for Afternoon Desert Safari
Airline: Etihad Airways BNE-DUB $814 AUD pp
Abu Dhabi must do's: Grand Mosque, Desert Safari, and Shopping