Survey results released July 16, 2017 rate Abu Dhabi the second best city in the world in which to live, work, and do business, based on the most recent Ipsos Top Cities Index. (New York City continues to maintain its top spot in the Index.)
Abu Dhabi is the capital city of Abu Dhabi Emirate, the largest and most populated of the seven emirates comprising the United Arab Emirates— commonly referred to as the UAE.
There are approximately three million residents in Abu Dhabi Emirate and 600,000 of them reside in the city of Abu Dhabi, a dynamic cultural centre with several major world class museums in the works. These include the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, the Maritime Museum, the Performing Arts Centre, Louvre Abu Dhabi, and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, all to be clustered on Saadiyat Island in the city’s proposed Cultural District. The architectural plans for this incredible collection of attractions are mind-blowing, with contributions from some of the world’s finest architects including world renowned Frank Gehry, who designed the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Information is forthcoming as to completion dates for each of these projects.
If you’re looking for some rugged nature, rent a car and take a drive in the desert. You might just come across a herd of camels that will greet you with a big wet kiss! It happened to us during our visit to Abu Dhabi, and remains one of the highlights of my trip.
The current must-see attraction in Abu Dhabi is the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque, more commonly referred to as the Grand Mosque. This magnificent structure was opened in 2008 and is considered to be the primary place of worship in the UAE. The largest mosque in the country, the Grand Mosque covers an area of more than 30 acres and can hold up to 40,000 people.
The Grand Mosque features many unique elements. It contains the world’s largest carpet—made of wool and weighs in at 35 tons! There are seven imported chandeliers containing millions of Swarovski® crystals. The largest chandelier in the mosque is the third largest in the world and measures in at 49 feet high. You truly stand in awe as you look up at it, and look around you at the 96 columns throughout the main prayer hall, clad with marble and mother of pearl. The Grand Mosque is a work of art—both within its handcrafted walls and throughout its immaculate grounds.
Visitors can tour the mosque Saturday to Thursday, from 9 am until 10 pm. The mosque is open for prayer, but closed to tourists on Friday mornings until 4:30 pm., and there are restricted hours during the month of Ramadan. It is free to tour the mosque, and women are provided with black cover-ups to be respectful.
It is important for visitors to be aware of local customs and respect them. In any place of worship, women must cover their heads and bodies. In public places, women should not wear short skirts or short shorts, and it is recommended to keep shoulders (and most skin) covered— despite the intense heat of the area. It is uncommon for women to drive, but not unheard of.
In North America, we are used to consuming alcohol with our meals. In the UAE, alcohol is prohibited. Visitors may consume alcohol if they obtain an Abu Dhabi drinking license. Laws are strictly enforced. Car buffs will be in awe of the Abu Dhabi police force, which drives fast luxury cars like Lamborghini and Mercedes-Benz® sports models in order to keep up with the luxury cars driven by the local Emiratis.
Luxury abounds in Abu Dhabi. As in Dubai, many of the hotels of Abu Dhabi are a work of art. Located in the West End of the city, the five-star Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi, a Kempinski Hotel, is one of them. The Palace Suite measures 7,000 square feet and is fit for any king or queen—or visitor with a generous budget. The hotel also boasts a 24/7 multipurpose business centre that will meet the needs of any business traveler.