Abu Dhabi - Overview

The History

Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the largest of the seven individual Emirates that make up the country. The UAE was created as a federation and became a unified independent sovereign state in 1971.

Experience The Magic

Abu Dhabi has always been a special place. But until recently, the Emirate remained an undiscovered jewel on the international travel map. Today, more and more overseas visitors are discovering this unique and captivating destination.

Abu Dhabi combines year-round sunshine and superb facilities for leisure and recreation with the spice and mystique of an Arabian adventure. Steeped in ancient culture and heritage of Arabia, the strong tradition of desert hospitality continues to live in the genuine warmth and friendliness that welcomes the visitor.

Abu Dhabi’s location on an island makes it compact and accessible. It’s easy to find your way around and the city is fascinating to explore on foot, by hire car or by hopping in a taxi. This busy metropolis of spectacular high rise office towers, shopping malls, restaurants and superb hotels, interspersed with gracious residential districts looks outwards to the blue waters of the Gulf.

The Corniche is the city’s showpiece. With its beach front location, paved walkways and lush greenery, you will find visitors and residents enjoying this beautiful area at anytime of the day - strolling, jogging, cycling or rollerblading along the waterfront.

The Heritage Village on the breakwater provides a taste of life before the oil era. Its displays offer an insight into bedouin life as well as courtyard houses, wind towers and an example of ancient irrigation system used in the region’s oasis.

Abu Dhabi - International Airport

The award-winning airport is increasingly being recognised as the airport of choice offering passengers a unique combination of functional advantages and a convivial travel experience. A host of initiatives confirm the airport’s image as a passenger-centric facility.

Airport Facilities

The modern airport has one passenger terminal which is satellite shaped with telescopic boarding walkways - eliminating the need to walk through long corridors.

The passenger terminal features a unique blue and green tile mosaic atrium and houses the Abu Dhabi Duty Free complex, twice the winner of “best Travel retailer” in the Middle East. The airport currently accommodates 40 passenger airlines, serving 90 destinations. The airport contains 36 check-in counters and an unusual 18-hole sand golf course - home to the World Golf sand Championships - attracting world-class players from the golfing world. Golden Class provides a welcoming “meet & assist” service for arrivals and departures for a nominal rate.


The Abu Dhabi Airport Hotel is a five star hotel with 40 rooms. Its facilities include a VIP lounge, a restaurant, bar, children’s playroom, massage chairs, business centre, health club with Jacuzzi, sauna and gym.

Abu Dhabi Sightseeing

Travelling around the island will no doubt provide plenty of photo opportunities. Among the landmarks not to be missed are the city’s many fountains and public art; Canon square dominates the surrounding buildings, with its magnificent water fountain and enormous concrete replicas of traditional Arabic artifacts.

The city is constantly evolving and growing. Older buildings are demolished to make way for sleeker new ones, and there are always new malls, apartments and villas under development. The island’s growth is spilling over onto the mainland of Abu Dhabi emirate, with new residential areas springing up from the desert closer to the airport.

Essential to traditional life in the Middle East is the souk. No visit to the emirates is complete without sampling the hustle and bustle of these marketplaces. Originally, the souks were also the place for people to meet friends, catch up on the news, and for the men to sit and enjoy shisha. Abu Dhabi has a number of thriving souks selling everything from plastic buckets, to fresh fish and hand-woven carpets. The souk is the place to test your bargaining skills and try to walk away with a cut-price souvenir.

Another facet of Arabian life is of course water. The sea encompasses the island and is a huge part of the Emirati, past and present. Don’t miss a boat trip to neighboring islands across the calm turquoise waters or a dive on a wreck or artificial reef. For those less inclined to take to the water, don’t miss your chance to see a traditional dhow or formula 1 speedboat race frequently held off the end of the Corniche in the cooler winter months. Yacht and boat charters are all available, as well as dinner dhow cruises and dhow trips to the outlying islands.

Many of the city’s striking examples of modern architecture show fascinating interpretations of islamic themes captured in today’s materials. Learn everything about the oil - the so called “black gold” - and how it transformed Abu Dhabi into the wealthy city of today at the capital’s Al Hosn palace and Cultural Centre - a white fort right in the heart of the metropolis. This reminder of Abu Dhabi’s historical past is now home to the Centre for documentation and research, permanent and temporary exhibitions as well as theatre productions and many cultural activities.

Excursions to the liwa oasis and the Empty Quarter are highly recommended in the winter months, with vast orange dunes stretching as far as the eye can see.

Abu Dhabi Shopping Centres

Shopping can be entertaining, cultural, educational or serious business, depending on what’s on the shopping list. In Abu Dhabi, intense competition and insignificant import duties lead to some of the lowest prices in the world. Visitors first experience the retail barrage at Abu Dhabi Airport’s superb duty free area on arrival. Brilliantly designed, the area contains about thirty different stores, their open layouts making it easy for customers to browse. Transit passengers who are short of time will find Abu Dhabi Duty Free very convenient. The range is vast and exciting, gold and electronic items amongst the biggest sellers, local antiques and souvenirs are also popular, sharing the space with international branded goods, including watches, fashion items, cameras, toys, perfumes and leather goods.

What To Buy

bedouin jewellery, typically chunky silver designs, sometimes combined with precious stones, makes a handsome gift. Traditionally, jewellery was made by travelling foreign craftsmen who melted down Maria Theresa dollars, which were accepted currency at one time in the Gulf. Bedouin women traditionally received their first set of jewellery when they were married. The bedouin bride also received a wooden chest as a wedding gift from her husband and used it for storing clothing and personal possessions. The chest is still often the most prominent piece of furniture in an Arab home in Abu Dhabi. Antique chests are highly prized and quite expensive, however handsome modern versions are readily available at a range of prices. Department stores, fashion and giftware boutiques, antique shops and other specialized stores, including some familiar international names, are concentrated in Abu Dhabi’s malls.

Abu Dhabi Mall

The Abu Dhabi Mall, covering 200,000 square meters, houses more than 200 shops, including a variety of children’s, women’s and men’s fashion stores, make-up and perfume, music, soft-furnishings, household furniture, electrical goods, gifts, health-food, pharmacies, confectionery, dates, sportswear, books and stationery. A food-court serves a large assortment of delightful cuisines with 40 international food outlets and restaurants spread throughout the mall. There is entertainment for the whole family with a Cineplex, plus two action-packed kid’s entertainment centers and aspiring artists regularly entertain shoppers. Vast underground parking facilities ensure a stress free visit.

Marina Mall

Marina Mall represents one of the largest and most important retail developments in Abu Dhabi. Situated on the Abu Dhabi breakwater and surrounded by the azure water of the Arabian Gulf, it is a wonderful location for the entire family to visit and enjoy. Marina Mall covers an area of 125,000 square metres and has a large retail area of 70,000 square meters spread over four levels. With 3,500 parking bays, 400 of which are in the underground basement, there is more than sufficient parking space for all visitors. Marina Mall’s unique location on the breakwater places it within a five minute drive from downtown Abu Dhabi and the stylish residential areas of Khalidiyah and Al bateen. From the mall you can see stunning views of the Arabian Gulf to one side and the Abu Dhabi skyline to the other, all adding value to complete the shopping experience in a manner that only a few shopping centers in the world are able to offer. With 165 retail outlets, Marina Mall offers a wide variety of merchandise from jewellery and watches to designer clothing and electronics, children’s wear, sports goods, perfumes and cosmetics, shoes and accessories, gift and household items. Marina Mall is host to an impressive list of international brands such as Tiffany & Co, bvlgari, Mont blanc, levi’s, Gap, old navy, banana republic, Elle, Zara, Timberland, Carrefour, iKEA, Woolworth and many more. In addition there are excellent home-grown brands such as paris Gallery, Areej, Damas, CanCan, sun and sand sports, rivoli, Axiom, Crystal Gallery, all of whom consider Marina Mall their home.