Whether it’s summer or winter, Abu Dhabi is bustling with exciting things to see and do! Check out the three best activities you have to do when in Abu Dhabi and even better, they are all FREE!
With the Persian Gulf at your doorstep, make sure you pack your swimming costume. Plan ahead and gear yourself for a lot of fun during your stay! There are so many fascinating activities and wonderful examples of architecture, so if you have a video camera, take it!
Relax beside the Persian Gulf at the Corniche
Be it winter or summer, one of the best spots to be is at the Corniche, a sweeping beach that stretches all along the Western side of Abu Dhabi. It is a popular place to visit during morning or night, with cafes and activities like rollerblading and biking. You can choose to either take a stroll along the beach walking toward Marina Mall for a spot of shopping or just enjoy the scenery. Make sure you keep an eye out for one of the world’s tallest flagpoles (although it is hard to miss) opposite the Corniche beach area that proudly displays the Emirate’s national flag. There is a good walking and cycling path all along the Corniche from the city to Marina Mall. Parks and eateries are also found along the length of the Corniche. Grab a coffee or smoothie at the appropriately named Chillax Cafe. In the evening, it is nice to have dinner at one of the restaurants or cafes, but it gets very busy so book ahead or get there early.
There are plenty of paid activities on offer here too but the best activities are free! Swimming here is highly recommended! You don’t need to worry about the water temperature as it always on the warm side and very refreshing at the start or end of your day. The water is absolutely pristine and a crystal clear. You don’t have to swim far to see beautiful shells below you. This is the only place in Abu Dhabi where it is ok to bare more flesh than usual, normal swim attire is tolerated at the Corniche.
Check out the Abu Dhabi Heritage Village for a fun-filled day
The Abu Dhabi Heritage Village is one of the best recommended tourist attractions to visit in Abu Dhabi. You could easily allocate a whole day here as there is plenty to see and do, with the most exciting being a camel ride! (Especially if you have never ridden one before!) Entry here is free so there is no reason for you not to visit! A short taxi ride from the city will get you there in no time, just make sure you get there first thing in the morning to make the most of all the activities.
Entering through a fort style gateway, you’d be taken back in time to learn how the Emirati people used to live prior to the discovery of oil! You will see and learn about the rich culture and heritage of the nomadic ways of life before the economic boom. There are interactive displays throughout the village, including life-size Emirati stone houses and an example of a wind funnel that would act as air conditioning through the small houses. Also on display are historic weaponry, animals and art work, some very old. Another great feature of the village is the workshops with craftsmen demonstrating the making of traditional crafts, for example: Arabic weaving and pottery. You can give each craft a go if you like – I highly suggest trying weaving!
There are also animal displays as well as an old fort and a well display. If you have never done so, you should definitely try a camel ride! It’s quite unlike anything you’ve experienced before, just remember when they get up they put their back legs up first so you end up tipping face first toward the red dirt! So hold on tight!
In one of the display rooms, you can sit and sample Arabic dates and Turkish coffee on woven rugs and cushions. Just remember that it is only proper to eat or touch food with your RIGHT hand. The left hand is considered dirty and is quite offensive if used to eat with.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
If you enjoy amazing architecture and exquisite interiors, then the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (also known as the Grand Mosque) is a good place to visit. Firstly, it is important to note that this is a place of religious practice so modesty and respect is paramount. Women must cover their heads and dress in appropriate clothing. Men must wear a thwab and women a burka. Clothes are also provided at the mosque if you are not dressed appropriately. Shoes must be removed when entering the mosque.
During the times for worship or “call to prayer”, the mosque is not open to non-muslims. Check the opening hours on the website (listed below) before visiting. Once here, you can take a guided tour or explore the Grand Mosque on your own.
The cool marble floors and detail that have gone into the floors, walls and ceilings are worth pausing to marvel at. There are fountains located outside the Mosque and once inside the main space, you will get to stand on and view the world’s largest Persian rug. A lot of effort, planning and detail has gone into the building of the mosque with 88 white spiral domes decorating the exterior. Photography is fine inside and outside, it is just asked that no photos are taken of Muslim women, so just bear this in mind when you are snapping away!
Probably the three best free activities you will do on your travels!
The three best tourist activities you will probably ever do for free are located right here in Abu Dhabi! You could easily spend a full day at each of these activities, but remember to be respectful of local customs and laws to make the most of your time. Make sure you allocate enough time for each of these activities and bring your camera, as there are some great photo opportunities to capture here!
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