Middle East, United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi: Jewel of the Desert

Emirates Palace Hotel

Emirates Palace Hotel

 

 

For a lot of people the Middle East might not be high on their list of exciting travel destinations. News about travel restrictions, awkward religious differences, and conservative attitudes might dissuade some people from exploring this part of the world. The truth is that, while some parts of the region are exceptionally conservative and strict (think Saudi Arabia), other places are inviting, fun, and offer a host of interesting activities.

Abu Dhabi is one of these cities. As the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi boasts a prime location right on the Arabian Gulf. If you want to do nothing else but lie on the beach at a fancy hotel while uniformed waiters ply you with cocktails, you’re in the right place. However, if you’d like to experience more of this amazing city, you’re in luck there, as well.

Abu Dhabi is home to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the most opulent and beautiful mosques in the world. Tours are available daily and they are free. While non- Muslim women who visit Abu Dhabi might be pleasantly surprised that they’re not required to cover their hair, for a mosque visit it is mandatory that women wear an abaya. Men are required to cover their arms and legs. Once you’re sufficiently covered you’re allowed to enter the mosque grounds and the mosque itself. The building is crafted of exquisite marble, the carpet is hand woven and is the largest carpet in the world, and the chandeliers are made up of thousands of Swarovski crystals. It’s truly an amazing sight.

For all of the Formula One fans out there, a visit to the Yas Marina Circuit is not to missed. Although the F-1 races only take place one weekend per year, the track is constantly in use for a number of other events. Drag racing is held several times a month, and residents who own their vehicles are invited to participate. Also, on most Tuesday nights the track is open to walkers, runners, and cyclists who want to exercise on this multi million dollar piece of property.

Located near to Yas Marina Circuit is Ferrari World. This is the largest indoor theme park in the world, and also boasts the world’s fastest roller coaster. On display inside the park are a number of classic Ferrari’s owned by local Emiratis. If you’re a fan of Ferraris, this is the place to go.

For a little more luxury pay a visit to Emirates Palace. Known around the world as a seven star property, this hotel is worth a look, even if you’re not staying there. Visitors are free to walk around the grounds, investigate the restaurants and bars, and take a peek into the art galleries and shops. It’s a great place to spend a few hours seeing how the other 1% lives, especially if it’s hot outside, as if often is in this part of the world.

If you’re looking for an exotic destination that just might change the way you view the Middle East, Abu Dhabi is the place. In what is destined to become one of the world’s next international playgrounds, Abu Dhabi is a city that delights in more ways than one.

 

Photo by kathrin_gaisser via Flickr. 

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