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Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Cruise ships dock at the state-of-the-art terminal at Port Zayed, minutes away from central Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal can accommodate two large and one smaller vessel at a time. The terminal is a modern facility with traditional Arabic architectural elements and hosts shops and restaurants, a tourist information desk and foreign exchange. There is also free WiFi throughout. Getting out and about is very easy, there is a taxi stand just outside, and some of the malls send free shuttles to the port in the hope to pick up potential customers, however they wouldn’t be able to accommodate luggage. It’s not possible to walk to anywhere. Abu Dhabi International Airport is 35 minutes away by car.
The local currency is the Emirate Dirham – AED. Exchanging money is very easy, the rates in Abu Dhabi would normally be better than the rates at home. There are quite a few money exchanging shops scattered around the city. Getting cash from ATMs is also safe and easy, but do check with your bank whether there are any fees for getting different currency and make sure you have notified your bank you will be abroad.
The language spoken in Abu Dhabi is traditionally Arabic, but almost everyone in Abu Dhabi speaks English, since nearly 80% of the population is foreign.
Opening hours and bank holidays. The working week in Abu Dhabi is normally Sunday to Thursday. Some small independent shops would only be closed on Friday, which is the locals’ Sunday. All of the malls work with extended working hours every day, until 10pm. Many of the businesses take a break from about 1 pm until 4 pm, and then work until 7 or 8 pm to avoid the midday heat. Smaller shops and businesses will either be closed, or operate with reduced hours on the national holidays, such as the holy month of Ramadan, which is in summer months. Most of the food outlets will be closed during that month, very few are open for tourists and serve food and drinks behind curtains. You are not allowed to eat, drink, chew or smoke in public outside of those areas before midnight. Hotels are less affected, normally there is no alcohol served until midnight. Every year the rules differ slightly, as the directions are issued by the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi just before Ramadan. Do make yourself aware of any other bank holidays and how they may affect your trip.
Dress code. Although very open to tourists, Abu Dhabi remains a strict Muslim city and the local ways have to be respected. If you are out and about in the city’s markets and malls, the ladies’ shoulders and knees should be covered with non-transparent clothing. Underwear should not show. Swimwear is allowed on beaches, but not going topless. If you are going on a public beach in swimwear and you are a woman, be prepared for stairs from the local male beach-goers. You are also not recommended to show public signs of affection to your partner (including holding hands), and it is absolutely forbidden to swear and appear drunk in public. Same sex couples and marriages are not recognised and are considered illegal. Cross-dressing is also considered illegal. If you are carrying medicines with you, make sure you have doctor’s prescription for all of them, covering the illness and the period of travel.
Tipping in Abu Dhabi is quite common, although there are service charges and taxes added to your restaurant bill. The norm is 10-15%. Taxi drivers would not expect a tip as such, rounding up the fare would be enough. Between 5 and 10 AED is enough for hotel staff.
The localtime in Abu Dhabi is GMT + 4 hours and the dialling code is + 971.
Things To Do
Visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This architectural masterpiece is one of the largest mosques in the world and can cater for over 40,000 worshipers at a time. It’s open for visitors every day, except for Fridays. The shiny and blinding white of the marble columns contrasts with the 24-carat gold that features heavily in the stunning building. The mosque is also famous for the world’s largest hand knotted carpet that covers the main prayer hall, made by 1200 artists, and the world’s largest chandelier that dominates it. The perfect time to visit would be just before sunset – there wouldn’t be too many people and the pictures would come out excellent. The mosque also features a unique lighting system, which mimics the phases of the moon. The mosque is also the last resting place for Sheikh Zayed himself – the late president of United Arab Emirates who passed away in 2004.
Take a drive to Yas island. This man-made island of entertainment is a home to Yas Marina Cuircit - where Formula One Grand Prix has been taking place since 2009. It is also famous for hosting the only Ferrari themed park – Ferrari World and the world fastest roller-coaster at 149mph. Yas Waterworld Waterpark is also here with its largest surf-able sheet wave surf in the world. As the development of the island has not finished yet, there will be more exciting attractions on this list.
The recently opened Louvre Abu Dhabi is a must-see as well. With the ambition to be a “universal museum”, its temporary and permanent exhibitions will aim to tell a visual story of the world since the earliest civilisations, using art, sculptures and other artefacts. In a historical collaboration with the Louvre Paris, the museum is going to use the name “Louvre” for 30 years, it would be supplied with about 300 loans from 13 leading French museums during the first 10 years.
Get a glimpse of the past at the Abu Dhabi Heritage Village - a reconstruction of a traditional oasis village. Here you can watch craftsmen demonstrate metal work, pottery, tannery, glass-blowing and sword making. You can see some original examples of the nomadic Bedouin lifestyle that the locals had before oil was discovered. There is a traditional palm-leaf house, an ox-drawn well, an ancient falaj (irrigation) system, a lovely little spice shop and a museum as well.
There are a few more interesting places to see in Abu Dhabi, that showcase the Emirati history and heritage. One of them is Qasr Al Hosn - the oldest stone building in Abu Dhabi and the emirate's first permanent structure. once home to the emirate's rulling Al Nahyan family, now it hosts a free exhibition that tells the story of Abu Dhabi and its people through oral testimonies and historic photographs. Another one is the Al Jahili Fort - one of the largest castles in Al Ain and a magnificent example of military architecture. it was the headquarters of the Oman Trucial Scouts, gthe force that protected the mountain passes and kept inter-tribal peace, and also served as a residence for the local governor from the Al Nahyan family. Jebel Hafeet is at the tallest mountain of the emirate and plays a significant role in Emirati history. Several notable fossil discoveries have been made here, and also archeologists have also uncovered more than 500 ancient bural sites. The road that leads to the top of the mountain is deemed to be one of the best driving roads in the world as well. On the way back from the summit, consider taking the route through Al Ain Camel Market - the last finctioninng traditional camel market in the UAE.
Do not miss a stroll down at the Corniche - the lively manicured waterfront that includes children's play areas, cycle and pedestrian pathways, cafes, restaurants and the blue-flag Corniche beach. The Umm al Emarat Park is another splendid facility for early morning and evening walks - it is a home to a variety of facilities, including the Shade House, an Animal Barn, Amphitheatre, Great Lawn, Botanic Garden, Children's Garden and an Evening Garden.
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