Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates was created with the formation of the UAE in 1971. A cosmopolitan center with urban architecture, lush green gardens and fountains, Abu Dhabi is the second most populous city in the UAE with 921,000 residents living within the city proper. The city’s luxurious hotels and shopping malls draws thousands of visitors annually, a majority of which are business travelers from all over the globe.
Getting around is generally easy with its well-planned road system. Taxis are reasonably priced and plentiful and all major car rental agencies have offices in Abu Dhabi. Modern air-conditioned buses operate round-the-clock. The service is easy to use, with passengers hopping in and out of any bus by placing a one Dirham coin in the collection box next to the driver.
Abu Dhabi’s culture is firmly rooted in Arabia’s Islamic traditions. Islam is more than a religion; it is a way of life that governs everyday events from what to wear to what to eat and drink.
Foreigners are free to practice their own religion and the dress code is liberal however, women are encouraged to dress modestly. UAE nationals usually wear traditional dress in public. For men, this is the kandura – a white full length shirt-like garment, which is worn with a white or red checkered headdress, known as a ghutra. Women wear a long, loose black robe called the abaya that covers their normal clothes – plus a headscarf known as the sheyla.
Generally tourists are permitted to photograph the city but it is expected polite behavior to ask permission before taking photos of people, particularly women. Photographs of government buildings, military installations and ports and airports are not permitted. Further, cameras may be banned in public areas designated for women and children only.
Although foreigners have numerous dining options available to them in Abu Dhabi, Muslims are not permitted to eat pork or drink alcohol. Hotels and several unlicensed outlets across the emirate do tend to serve alcohol to visitors. Non-Muslims can consume pork in certain restaurants and any dishes using pork ingredients will be prepared separately from non-pork dishes and will be clearly marked on the menu.
Regional cuisine consists of dishes like hummus, salads, fresh pastries, rice dishes and grilled meat, generally lamb or mutton. Visitors can also choose from a variety of cuisines, including Chinese, Thai, Lebanese, American, Mexican, Moroccan and Vietnamese dishes. Essentially, the food in Abu Dhabi caters to the palates of a wide variety of people.
So whether you are visiting Abu Dhabi on business or to simply partake in its stunning and absolutely grand architecture, rich culture and history and various outdoor activities such as motor racing or sailing, there is something to do for everyone!
Photo credits: Rocky Andoh