The crystal clear waters of the Arabian Gulf frame the sophisticated city of Abu Dhabi as it rises from the dramatic desert.
With over 700km of beautiful coastline and a plethora of natural islands, surrounded by warm waters that are home to a magnificent array of fish and marine life, Abu Dhabi’s inhabitants also count the stately dugong, graceful dolphins and hawksbill sea turtles, not to mention majestic falcons and the Arabian greyhound, otherwise known as the Saluki.
This is a land of awe-inspiring desert, of cooling oases and dramatic rocky mountain heights. The landscape’s legacy is a cultural kaleidoscope forged from the needs of harder times, when the sea and date palm oases provided much-needed sustenance. This nurtured a steadfast respect for Abu Dhabi’s rich heritage and traditions, and the Arabian hospitality for which the emirate has become renowned.
Top attractions and highlights
Recommended by TripAdvisor as one of the world’s Top 25 landmark attractions. There are daily complimentary ‘walk-in’ guided tours.
Here you’ll find the Yas Marina Circuit – the world-class motor sports race track that hosts the annual Formula 1® Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Yas Links Abu Dhabi Golf Course and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the world’s largest indoor theme park, with more than 20 exhilarating and educational rides and attractions – including the world’s fastest roller-coaster, the Formula Rossa.
Enjoy the waters of the Arabian Gulf with a kayaking tour of the protected eastern mangrove forest that meanders along the city’s coastline. Learn about the natural wildlife habitats from an experienced guide before enjoying a buffet breakfast brunch at the nearby Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara.
Authentic Emirati dining
Visit the Mina Zayed Fish Souk to capture the array of locally caught fruits of the sea before calling for lunch at the Al Dhafra Tourist Village for an authentic Emirati dining experience. Sample a wide selection of the market’s fresh fish and shellfish and try “Jesheed” – a shark speciality garnished with turmeric.
Emirates Palace – an iconic Abu Dhabi landmark – is a sight to behold and among the world’s most opulent hotels. Resplendent with gold-leaf chandeliers and fittings, 114 domes and a gold-dispensing ATM machine, another popular pastime is taking High Tea in Le Café.
Join the Abu Dhabi Pearl Journey for a two-hour cruise to understand the enchanting history of the Arabian Gulf’s ancient pearling industry. Then, relax and admire the tranquillity of the mangroves from the comfort of a self-skippered solar-powered eco-boat or explore the Arabian Gulf shoreline and islands on board the Gulf’s largest catamaran with Belevari Marine.
Timeless Arabian Nights Village
Nestled among stunning dunes, Arabian Nights Village harnesses the soul and essence of old Arabia and is conceived to let visitors experience the mythical and timeless beauty of the desert and aspects of traditional Emirati life. This village offers first-class facilities and accommodation in traditional Emirati dwellings and an experience of genuine Emirati heritage, including activities like sand-surfing, falconry, quad-biking and desert safaris.
Summer Season Abu Dhabi
From June to September, Abu Dhabi unveils its Summer Season programme, a thrilling show-packed summer season for the whole family.
Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The world’s only twilight race, the 2015 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is returning to the iconic Yas Marina Circuit in November.
Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship
Held every January, this tournament is recognised as one of the biggest events on the European Tour. Keen golfers can book their own ‘Stay and Play’ packages through Golf in Abu Dhabi and choose from several golf courses in the city. The Yas Links Course is the only links course in the UAE, while the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club was designed by none other than South Africa’s Gary Player.
Al Dhafra Camel Festival
It’s a rather unlikely lineup of beauty. Over 25 000 camels hailing from all corners of the Arabian peninsula competing in a beauty competition with a difference. A celebration of Bedouin culture, the annual Al Dhafra Camel Festival, held every December in Abu Dhabi’s western region of Al Gharbia, aims to preserve the nation’s heritage through various cultural events.
Getting there: Fly from Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi on South African Airways, departing daily.
Currency: R3 to one dirham
Weather: Temperatures range from a low of around 13C on a winter’s night, to a high of around 42C on a summer’s day. The cooler months, November to April, are the most pleasant time to visit, when temperatures are around 24C during the day and 13C at night.
Visas: South Africans require a visa to visit the United Arab Emirates. These can be obtained online.