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Abu Dhabi in a few words

Updated on 28.04.2018

Abu Dhabi is the discreet capital of the United Arab Emirates, which for more than a decade has been developing very high quality tourist infrastructures: the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Emirates Palace, Formula 1 circuit of Yas Island, luxury hotels on the ledge, University of the Sorbonne Abu Dhabi on Reem Island, the Louvre Museum Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island.

Inner courtyard of Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque

Geography of the city

The city of Abu Dhabi extends on several islands and on the continent. The main island has in the Northwest a 6 kilometer corniche bordering an arm of the Sea to the shallow waters, protected by Lulu Island and the almost-island of the Marina Mall. With its main island now fully urbanized, the city extends rapidly North on the islands of Al Reem, Saadiyat and Yas, attached to the mainland by an 8 tracks modern highway. In the West, the international airport indicates the limit of the city. To the South extends the industrial area and sresidential areas. And if you look closely at the plan, you can see between neighborhoods Khalifa city has and Khalifa City B a large Desert Triangle: this is the reserved location of the future capital where will be built by 2030 a forest of skyscrapers.

In the middle of the Northern islands, a natural reserve houses a mangrove, fortunately held at the gap of the appetite of the property developers. The city has practically no fresh water and has massively recourse to the desalination of sea water. No sand dunes in the city but a wind sand very fine that flies in the atmosphere.

Coucher de soleil sur Abu Dhabi et sa mangrove, aux Émirats Arabes Unis ©Odyfolio

The political capital of a nation pulling the greater part of its revenues from the exploitation of oil, Abu Dhabi houses ministries, embassies and public enterprises oil companies, financial and real estate. But the city is investing and preparing the after oil: in the future, Abu Dhabi will host tourists from around the world and international conventions. The spearhead of this policy, the airline Etihad Airways created in 2003, has a mission to connect Abu Dhabi to the world. Its very strong growth has a significant impact on the economy of the city. The major infrastructure projects very greedy in manpower churn up hundreds thousands of expatriates with all qualifications, attracted by high wages. The city invests in education, culture, environment but also in security and armaments. Abu Dhabi recruits to a gold price engineers, teachers and managers with high purchase power who spend locally a significant share of their revenues, boosting the economy of services.

Abu Dhabi 2030

Current development of the city is based on the Abu Dhabi 2030 strategic plan. Created from the vision of the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, it establishes the broad lines of the urbanization, defining the functions of each area (residential, economic, industrial, recreation), the heights of buildings, transport infrastructure without forgetting the environmental and social components. Its purpose is to increase the natural, human and cultural development of Abu Dhabi, to become a megalopolis of three million inhabitants economically viable in a future without oil revenues.

Thing to do in Abu Dhabi

From a tourist point of view, Abu Dhabi can be visited in a few days. Count a day to visit the attractions along the corniche (Emirates Palace, Heritage village, the the fish market), a few hours of shopping in a mall, visit of the grand mosque and an evening in a resort like the Shangri-La. Count one to two additional days for the visit of the new Louvre Museum, the amusement parks of Yas Island and the falcon hospital. But unlike Dubai, Abu Dhabi is a peaceful city where you can stroll along the corniche, relax on Saadiyat beach, in cozy restaurants and bars, all with a rare feeling of total security. In family or between adults, the city will satisfy everyone for short stays.

Beyond, it will be necessary to go to the inevitable Dubai, to envisage an excursion in the desert of Liwa, to visit Al Ain. But before that, there are plenty of things to do in Abu Dhabi: canoeing in the mangrove, a morning golf circuit on Yas Island, an hour of horse riding with an Arab thoroughbred, or cable wakeboarding in Al Forsan, the fabulous sushi of the Yacht Club, a techno party with David Guetta, the Aloft's crazy pool party that will make you dance in a bikini until 4am ... A surprisingly sporty, cultural and festive Abu Dhabi that could pleasantly surprise you.

Transportation in Abu Dhabi

The most convenient means of transportation in the city center is the taxi. They abound in the streets, to the outputs of commercial centers, hotels and in the main tourist places at any hour of the day and night. Easily recognizable by their gray livery and their yellow terminal, they all have a counter and issue receipts : so no surprise. Abu Dhabi airport taxis are black and charge an extra 20aed. Just make sure that the driver has understood your destination, many places sound very similar. The price of a race of 15 minutes in the city center costs between 20 and 30 dirhams, and is about 80-100 dirhams from the city center to the airport or Yas Island, 250 dirhams for the center of Dubai. To order a taxi call the 600535353, it will cost you only 5 dirhams additional.

Abu Dhabi has not subway yet, but its bus network is modern and accessible to persons with disabilities. Many bus stops are air-conditioned. Seats at the front are reserved to women only, the rest of the bus is mixed. A ticket costs between 2 and 5 dirhams according to the distance but you must have a badge (not possible to buy ticket directly in the bus). You can find maps and information on The site of the Department of Transport. It is not always easy to find bus stops, to we recommend you to limit your use on the main axes, from and to the main terminals of Al Whada Mall, Abu Dhabi Mall and Marina Mall.

Rent a car is also a very convenient transportation solution in Abu Dhabi city, and it is definitively mandatory if you plan excursions outside the city. Parking is generally free of charge in shopping malls and hotels, but do not allow overnight unless you have hotel room. A system of free valet parking is at the disposal of the customers of the restaurants and bars in the hotel complexes, subject to having consumed (ticket of the valet parking has to be stamped at the time you pay the bill). Parking in the city is with payment almost everywhere (foresee to constitute a stock of parts of 1 dirham) with areas reserved for residents based on the hours of the day and of the night. The checks are frequent and fines forwarded electronically to the car rental. Attention, radars issue fines for excess speed limit and non-compliance of traffic lights. Cameras are monitoring the entire road network and can verbalize any offenses. It's impossible for visitors to escape the fines which are carried over instantly on your rental company invoice.

Hotels in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi has a very hotel offer very varied with an excellent quality-price ratio. Browse our articles to have all the useful information to make your choice before booking.

Map of Abu Dhabi

Map of Abu Dhabi with the main tourist attractions ©OpenStreetMap contributors