Abu Dhabi is the capital and the second most populous city of UAE. Located on an island in the Persian Gulf, the city is a sub-tropical paradise. With its towering skyscrapers, glistening beaches, thrilling activities and deep rooted culture and history, Abu Dhabi is an amalgamation of tradition and progression. The city is in close proximity to Dubai and if you are in Dubai, you can plan a day trip to Abu Dhabi. The drive takes only 90 minutes.
If you have ample time, explore this wonderful place at your own pace, soaking its welcoming vibes and taking a dip into its rich history and culture. But if your trip to the city is time bound, here is a list of top three places you must visit in Abu Dhabi.
1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The massive building of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is magnificence personified. Covering an area of 22400 square metres, it is the largest mosque in UAE and the third largest in the world.
The mosque was a vision of vision of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan , who is known to be the Founding Father of UAE. He wanted to create a welcoming cultural haven that would inspire people from around the globe.
The first look of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is bound to captivate you to a point where you forget to blink your eyes. With its 82 white domes and four towering minarets decorated with gold-glass mosaic, amethyst and jasper embedded columns, and large reflective pools, the mosque is a summation of art and beauty.
It is a rich display of one of the major contemporary Islamic architecture in the world. The mosque is clad with Sivec marble from Macedonia and its architecture combines Mamluk, Ottoman and Fatimid styles. It’s well recognised for its pure white colour, symbolic of peace and purity.
The main prayer hall houses world’s largest hand-knotted carpet as well as world’s largest chandelier. The chandelier is made of 40 kgs of 24 carat galvanised gold and one million Swarovski crystals, and it weighs around 12 tons. Interesting! isn’t it?
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is also known for its unique lighting system that is designed to reflect the different phases of the moon. Every night the mosque is lit a little differently owing to the phases of the moon. Numerous light projectors are placed on 22 light towers to reach this effect. What an engineering excellence!
This place should be on top of your list when visiting Abu Dhabi. The mosque is open on all days from 9:00 am till 10:00 pm, except Fridays. On Fridays, it is open from 9:00 am till 12:00 pm and 3:00 pm till 10:00 pm. Both men and women as well as people from all culture, religion and backgrounds are equally welcomed here.
A dress code needs to be followed to enter the Grand Mosque. Men are supposed to wear clothes that cover their shoulders and knees. Women need to wear their traditional dress called ‘Abaya’. If you are not carrying the dress, you can hire it at the entrance. Photography and even professional photography is allowed in the mosque. So, you can click as many pictures as you want.
2. Ferrari World
Ferrari world is the first and only Ferrari themed amusement park in the world. Located on the Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, the park is famous for its record breaking rides.
Pump up your adrenaline with ‘Formula Rossa’, world’s fastest roller coaster ride that runs at a heart-racing speed of 240 kms per hour. Take the ‘Fiorano GT Challenge’ and race your friends at a speed of 95 kms per hour on twisting parallel tracks in a Ferrari 430 spider. Sharpen your racing skills on a 290 metre long ‘Go Karting’ track. This section is always crowded, so make sure you go there first and get your token before going for other rides.
‘Viaggio in Italia’ lets you soar over the spectacular mountains and Italian landscape while sitting on your chair. So fasten your seatbelt and enjoy virtual a trip to the Ferrari’s motherland.
Enjoy a 4D fantasy universe with the ‘Speed of Magic’ ride. Walk through the ‘Galleria Ferrari’ for a close look of a spectacular collection of unique Ferrari models. There are a lot more rides and you will need the entire day to explore and enjoy all of them. Many rides like ‘Junior GT’ and ‘Junior Grand Prix’ can be enjoyed by your little travellers.
If you own an international driving license, you can also live your dream of riding a Ferrari around Yas Island. Not just that, there are five dining options within the Ferrari World that you can choose from. The entire amusement park is Air conditioned except for the roller coaster rides.
You’ll be clicked by their assigned photographers on most of your rides. You can check those pictures at the exit counter and buy the ones you like.
3. Date Market
Well, before visiting the Date Market of Abu Dhabi, I had no idea that dates are of so many types and each variety is rich in different nutrients. Some of these varieties are Majdool, Khudri, Ajwa, Mabrum, Sugai, Shalabi, Khalas, Sheshi, Sukari, Safawi, And Kaneezi – and you get all of them in Abu Dhabi. They are local and organic.
The shopkeepers here are very affectionate. They would educate you about these dates and their varied benefits and also encourage you to taste the samples so you select the ones you like. Arabians treat their guests with a lot of affection. As a tourist, you will enjoy their unparalleled hospitality.
The date market is also full of delicacies like date chocolates and date syrups. I found these date chocolates super delicious and yes, I bought a lot of boxes apart from a few variety of dates and a bottle of date syrup. There are many date markets in Abu Dhabi, Mina Date Market and Central Market are the famous ones.