Lowdown on Abu Dhabi/UAE?
January 11, 2014 10:04 AM   Subscribe

I just found out that I'll be spending the rest of the month in Abu Dhabi for work, staying in company housing somewhere downtown. I'd love to hear about others' experiences around in Abu Dhabi and the UAE.

I'm interested in things to do/see/experience/explore, weekend trips, general thoughts on the region and westerners visiting. I'm not really a big shopper and the idea of skiing in the desert doesn't give send tingles up my spine, but I am definitely open-minded. When in Abu Dhabi.... Hit me with it!
posted by benbenson to Travel & Transportation around Abu Dhabi, UAE (2 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'll let others give advice on Abu Dhabi and Dubai themselves (there are great restaurants, some top-notch bars, and a few interesting things in both to see - Friday brunches are also an experience), but I highly recommend your trying to get over to Oman at some point. The bus ride is long and not particularly comfortable, but there are cheap flights to Muscat where it's easy to rent a car. Muscat is an interesting place, and fun to walk around - good restaurants too and the new opera house is stunning. But it's the countryside I loved - Wadi Shab and the Jebel Shams/Jebel Akhdar area in particularly. Beautiful hikes in an interesting landscape. There are many more options as well.

Outside of Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the UAE, I liked both Al Ain and Sharjah, though both in my opinion can be done in a day. But they're easy to get to either driving or by bus. I also enjoyed the camel racing off the road (I think I'm recalling correctly) between Dubai and Al Ain that happens on a somewhat regular basis. Oh, and Ferrari World near Abu Dhabi was enjoyable for a half-day even for a solo adult - mainly for the Formula Rosso ride which I think I did 5 or so times back to back.

Other possible weekend trips include Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait - all of which are easy and cheap flights. I've only been to Bahrain, which was interesting enough for a day and a half - not sure I'd make a special trip, I just had a long layover.

If you like the beach, this is a good time to be visiting the region - there are some nice beach hotels/clubs in Dubai you can use for a fee even if you don't stay at the expensive hotels.

It's not my favorite area of the world (with the exception of outdoor Oman which I love), but I enjoy visiting and could happily spend a month in the area if I was working much of the time. Just people watching at the many malls is more fun than I thought it would be and life is pretty comfortable in the UAE!
posted by traveltheworld at 11:11 AM on January 11, 2014

Best answer: I live in Abu Dhabi and I love it here. I hope I'll be able to stay at least a few more years. That being said, Abu Dhabi is one of those places that is fun to visit, but way better to live in (in my opinion) because there aren't a huge number of sights to see. However, the UAE is a small country, and if you are here for more than a week or two, you can definitely see more of the country, including Dubai (and perhaps even Oman or Bahrain and Qatar as traveltheworld suggests).

The best sights to see include Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (truly impressive and awe-inspiring), the Corniche (for a nice, long walk - the weather is gorgeous right now!), Ferrari World (if you like), camel races (on Friday and sometimes Saturday mornings), Al Ain (gorgeous oasis city - going up Jebel Hafeet is awesome)... My mind is kind of blank right now, but Abu Dhabi city is a place that's pretty good for wandering around - it doesn't have a ton of sights like Dubai does. The best beach (in my opinion) is on Saadiyat Island. Most beaches charge a fee for entrance (some of them are only accessible through hotels/fitness clubs). The hotel where you're staying will be able to advise you on beaches.

Taxis are relatively cheap here, as are a lot of the smaller restaurants. For the best shawarma in the city, try Al Safadi (one location on Airport Road, one location in Al Khalidiya). I find Lebanese Flower overrated, even though it gets great reviews online. Abu Dhabi has pretty good everything - any ethnic food you're looking for, it's probably here. There are a ton of fancy restaurants in all of the hotels here, but I tend to eat in less expensive places. However, I did love Meat Co. in the Shangri-La souk - a fantastic meal, and if you can sit outside, you'll have great views between the bridges and of Sheikh Zayed mosque. Cafe Arabia is an excellent restaurant/cafe with a very affordable and delicious brunch on Fridays. For drinks or pub food, I recommend Coopers (in the Park Rotana hotel) - it's a popular hangout and a comfortable place to grab a drink after work.

Abu Dhabi (and the UAE in general) is extremely welcoming to visitors - most of the country is populated by foreigners, so it's really easy to adapt/get by here. Time Out Abu Dhabi is a surprisingly good resource (http://www.timeoutabudhabi.com). I can't think of much to say right now (but I got so excited when I saw the post I just had to get in here and reply) but feel free to MeMail me if you have any questions, need any help while you're here, need someone to provide directions, etc. I'm a happy AD resident, so I'm more than happy to help!
posted by gursky at 11:54 AM on January 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

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