Whenever I think of Abu Dhabi, I think of Sex and the City 2, which is where the movie is supposed to be set. Everything looks glitzy, glamorous, and extravagant but in reality, Abu Dhabi is not like that at all. Dubai would have been a more accurate location for that. But, I digress.
There’s definitely not as many things to do here in comparison to Dubai. I would say the only thing that is a must see would be the Grand Mosque. All the rest are kind of just nice to haves. Knowing what I know now, I would recommend just doing a day trip to Abu Dhabi and having Dubai be your home-base. It’s just too much of a hassle to pack/unpack and lug everything around between the two cities – especially since we started out in Dubai, and had to go back there to catch our flight to the Maldives. Here are 7 things we got to do/see in the 3.5 days we spent in Abu Dhabi:
1. Marvel at how grand the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque truly is
(FREE – but booking is still required) The pictures do not do this mosque justice. It’s the largest mosque in the UAE and can accommodate 40,000 worshippers. Be sure to read all of the guidelines on their website prior to your visit. They are very strict with the dress code here. For the ladies, you must wear long pants that cover the ankles, your hair must be covered, and your arms must also be completely covered. I brought a black sheer scarf as a cover up but it wasn’t acceptable. I ended up having to buy some sleeves to cover my arms. When you’re inside the mosque, you cannot touch members of the opposite sex. Ben and I were taking a photo and he had his arm around my waist when we were promptly told by an employee that that isn’t allowed. Just be respectful – after all, it is still a place of worship. Don’t be like Rihanna, who was kicked out in 2013 for posing inappropriately for an impromptu photo shoot at the mosque.
2. Ride Formula Rossa, the fastest roller coaster in the world
($80 USD) Located at Ferrari World on Yas Island, this coaster reaches its highest speed at 149.1 mph (240 km/h) in just 4.9 seconds! It starts off indoors but then zooms out onto an outdoor track. There are other rides but that one is the main attraction. You can also learn about the history of Ferrari, and even have some photo ops with some of the models (although you can’t actually go inside the car). Depending on what other attractions you might want to check out on Yas Island, you can buy a bundled ticket and save a few bucks. You also need a cloth mask in order to enter the theme park. We had N95s so we ended up having to purchase one there. Talk about making money! Maybe they think that the loops from disposable masks will snap off? Not sure of the reasoning but just remember to bring one! Overall, I don’t think the experience was worth the ticket price – unless you are a real Ferrari enthusiast.
Tip – apparently, there are free shuttle buses from Abu Dhabi (and even Dubai) to get here (and other major Yas Island attractions), which I am just finding out now at the time of this post. We bought a Halifat unlimited bus card ($10 USD) but only found out when we were boarding that it wasn’t valid for travel to Yas Island. Luckily, the bus driver was nice enough to let us stay on. We ended up Ubering back, which was $17 USD and a 25 minute ride.
3. Hang out with your favorite DC superheroes at Warner Bros World
($80 USD) This is the world’s largest indoor theme park and is divided into five zones – Gotham City, Metropolis, Warner Bros Plaza, Bedrock, Dynamite Gulch, and Cartoon Junction. The best ride was definitely The Riddler Revolution in Gotham City because it was very unique – I won’t say anymore than that so that you can find out how cool it is for yourself. We rode this three times! I would say this park was definitely more fun than Ferarri World, so if you only have time for one park, Warner Bros World is the way to go. Plus, the food wasn’t bad (or too ridiculously priced) for theme park food. We ate at Big Belly Burger in Metropolis and it was surprisingly good.
4. Visit the Louvre, the largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula
($16 USD) Yes, this is related to the one in Paris and showcases artwork and artifacts from around the world.
5. Hang out at the mall
(FREE) Emratis love their malls. Yas Mall on Yas Island is not to be missed – it’s also connected to Ferrari World, so you can kill two birds with one stone. There’s also a huge Carrefour inside the mall, which is a French supermarket chain that sells all the groceries you could possibly ever want
6. Watch the boats at Dhow Harbour
(FREE) Abu Dhabi used to be a fishing village, so it makes sense that this port exists. There’s also a fish market in the area where you can buy some seafood, and they’ll cook it up for you right there. We didn’t do this but it was still cool to see the different types of seafood on offer.
7. Browse the local produce at Mina Market
(FREE) This is another thing I love doing whenever I travel abroad. Although I don’t always buy something (usually, I’ll buy some fruit if I can), it’s cool to see all the local produce (much like the seafood market)