- Must-see attraction is Sheikh Zayed mosque, the 3rd largest in the world and another symbol of contemporary Abu Dhabi. Arriving in the city, it is impossible to miss the dazzling-white building on the background of blue sky, casting reflections of its magnificent dome onto the unruffled surface of an artificial lake. It's a man-made marvel endowed with a divine, almost incredible beauty. The project was initiated by the late Sheikh Zayed, the first president of the UAE, and started in 1998, yet it first opened its doors only in December 2007.
The mosque is sited on a small hillock and comprises stunning 22 000 sq. m. Built of white marble, it features four 107m high minarets and 82 different size domes. 1048 columns outside and 96 inside, all are incrusted with gemstones and semi-precious stones, every detail and floral motif being the finest hand-work. The main prayer room features seven 10 to 10 meters large and 9 tons heavy crystal chandeliers and the largest hand-woven Persian carpet in the world. Spreading over 6000 sq. m., it had been made by 1200 Iranian women, and its estimated value is over 8.5 million dollars. The mosque, which estimated building costs reaching 2.167 billion dirham, has achieved three entries into the Guinness Book of World Records with the largest carpet, the biggest crystal chandelier and the largest dome of its kind. The mosque is open for non-Muslim visitors till 12 am, and women, upon entering, are required to cover up their heads. No bare legs and arms are allowed either. Its white marble courtyard, surrounded by stately columns, is almost blinding in its glimmering whiteness, while the only imperfection seems to be a not yet finished park planned to encircle the building. Instead of blooming greenery, a rather chaotic building site with few half- withered palm trees stretches around the mosque - the works do not run as smoothly as expected, they say.
- Unlike Dubai where no one seems to walk on foot any more, Abu Dhabi boasts a 9 km long beachside promenade, much favored by local families going out for weekend picnics there, and a bikeway. Owing to cooperation between Abu Dhabi Municipality and the local telecommunication company, a new project is about to be launched. It will make wireless internet available at all the city parks, encouraging people to spend more time there.
- Do not miss an opportunity of visiting the local fish market, with its authentic, still unpolished flavor. Counters are brimming with all sorts of sea creatures, and you can choose shrimps or fish and get them grilled on the spot just for 10 dirhams.
- An attraction of Abu Dhabi Al-Ittihad Square with its symbolic sculptures. Six gigantic figures set amidst the urban jungle of skyscrapers glisten in the bright sunshine with a phial for rose-water, a coffee pot, a cannon and a watch tower among them. On Fridays numerous believers flow to the nearby mosque, leaving the neighboring streets almost empty. Only a muezzin's penetrating voice echoes there, giving a surreal feeling.
- While Dubai's huge developments glorify a culture of consumerism, Abu Dhabi is famous for its project of Cultural Island and aspiration of becoming one of the cultural capitals of the world. Once complete, Saadiyat Island will house the Frank Gehry-designed Abu Dhabi Guggenheim Museum, Zaha Hadid Performing Arts Centre, Maritime Museum by Tadao Ando and a branch of the Louvre Museum by Jean Nouvel. Sited just 500 m from the shore, it is a natural, not a man-made island. Currently only colonies of turtles dwell there, and a timeline of the project's completion is rather vague due to the world economic crises. Yet a vast exhibition on the future cultural hub on Saadiyat Island can be viewed at Emirates Palace Hotel for over a year already.
- Four-wheel desert safari tours are among the topmost tourist attractions at the UAE. If you crave for some adrenaline rush cruising up and down the dunes, go to Abu Dhabi then - dunes are much higher than in Dubai there and the desert scenery fascinates with its beauty. The setting sun paints it yellowish-red and silence seems almost tangible. If you wish to savor it to the fullest, be sure to arrange an individual tour, otherwise, standing in a crowd of tourists, a magic of the moment is almost lost. A tourism agency Phoenix (www.phoenix-emirates.com) is offering the very best desert safaris.Share it:
Keywords: Abu Dhabi