Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates (population 1.48 million), is refined, elegant, and courteous. In addition to being a major centre for business, it has also actively, and successfully, promoted tourism, and therefore has offerings for all tastes.
The city has beaches, social clubs, sports teams, shopping malls and vibrant nightlife.
On weekends, people stroll, sunbathe, picnic and play beach volleyball along stretches of white sand beaches. The Corniche—a winding stretch of beachfront road and trail, about 6 km (4 miles) long—is lined with parks, fountains, gardens and boasts a popular bike path running its length. Beyond the beaches, the Arabian Gulf is dotted with a remarkable number of swimmers, wakeboarders and jet skis.
At night, stores stay open late for diehard shoppers and restaurants serve everything from quick curries to five-course French cuisine. Performers on world tours are increasingly making stops in Abu Dhabi. On any given day residents might snap up tickets for a Las Vegas circus act, a touring German orchestra or a Beyoncé concert.
Abu Dhabi also has a growing number of galleries and museums. The Etihad Modern Art Gallery is home to pieces by both Emirati and international artists. Architect Jean Novel’s floating Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi are now open. The Foster + Partners’ Zayed National Museum is in development.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre — the largest in the UAE and eighth largest in the world. This is a truly spectacular mosque, which arouses spiritual feelings even in non-Muslims.
Life in Abu Dhabi
As Abu Dhabi has promoted tourism, it has also relaxed its dress code. It’s still a Muslim country; however, so visitors and expats are advised to dress modestly, especially in public places.
Although Arabic is the official language of the UAE, English is the language of business, and since almost 88% of the population is from outside the UAE, English is widely spoken.
Since Abu Dhabi is located in the desert, expect a hot, dry climate. Sunny skies are the norm on most days, with sporadic rainfall throughout the winter months. Temperatures range from an average high of 42°C (118°F) during a summer day to an average low of 13°C (50°F) during a winter evening.