Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. As the largest of seven emirates (kingdoms) by size, it has a lion’s share of the nation’s oil wealth. For those who have been to Dubai (like myself), the logical thing to do is to make the comparison between the two – but perhaps to do that is to miss the point of Abu Dhabi, because it’s very different to that “Las Vegas of the Middle East”

Downtown Abu Dhabi

Downtown Abu Dhabi

To start my transit in Abu Dhabi, I exited the airport and headed directly for the city centre. I was advised to alight from the public bus at Electra Park – like Electra Complex, I assumed, only with more shrubbery? As it turns out I was wrong on both counts – neither floral tributes nor penis envy at this industrial park. However it was the perfect place to start exploring downtown Abu Dhabi on foot. It was June, and it was hot – very hot.

Abu Dhabi

I made it as far as the deserted beach by the time I started to get sunburnt. The corniche (waterfront esplanade) would have been quite nice had it not been the start of the hot Middle Eastern summer.

Abu Dhabi Corniche

Abu Dhabi Corniche

Etihad towers

Etihad towers

Having decided that it was time to spend some cash on a taxi, I went to the soaring Etihad towers, the three towers featured in the Hollywood blockbuster Fast and Furious 7. Across the road is the incredible Emirates Palace, an epic Kempinski hotel which rates itself as “beyond 5 star”, and like much of the UAE’s exclusive locations, is completely sequestered away from the prying eyes of aam admis (laymen) like me.

Emirates Palace Hotel

Emirates Palace Hotel

Other iconic architecture in Abu Dhabi includes the bizarre Hyatt Capital Gate.

The Hyatt Capital Gate Hotel

The Hyatt Capital Gate Hotel

There are a handful of other things to do in Abu Dhabi; Ferrari World and Yas Waterpark among them, but travelling alone, that wasn’t really on the agenda. I instead headed to Yas Mall, on the doorstep of the theme parks, and quite simply huge.

Yas Mall

Yas Mall

Art outside Yas Mall

Art outside Yas Mall

Lego shop at Yas Mall

Lego shop at Yas Mall

Finally it was back to Abu Dhabi’s International Airport, which is currently in the process of being upgraded and rebuilt, and will probably be great when it’s done. Until then, unfortunately, we still have to deal with Terminal 1 which the brochures describe as iconic, but I’ll just let the picture tell the story;

Abu Dhabi International Airport's terminal 1

Dropped acid? I think I landed in Ziggy Stardust‘s brain, circa 1972. And it smells – like old fried food, drying paint smell and an ever so slight yet distinctive fragrance of stale sweat and nicotine. At least it’s memorable. In the meanwhile, we have this rather impressive new air traffic control tower to look at.

Abu Dhabi International Airport's air traffic control tower

Abu Dhabi International Airport’s air traffic control tower

A piece of nouveau grandeur in the middle of the desert wasteland, and I admired it from a distance – in many ways it was representative of my whole time spent in Abu Dhabi.

The one major attraction I haven’t included here is the truly spectacular Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which I feel warrants a post of its own, at a later date.

Have you been to Abu Dhabi? What did you think of it?

Comments (4)

  • Agness Reply

    Tim, I have not been to Abu Dhabi, but I know now that I would absolutely loooove it! 🙂 Such a great place to explore!! x

    March 6, 2016 at 2:36 am
    • Tim Blight Reply

      You’ll need to go next time you’re in the Middle East! Perfect for a transit stop!

      March 8, 2016 at 7:05 am
  • Andrew Boland Reply

    interesting. the buildings are especially curious in their designs. it looks similar to Dubai but I imagine feels quite different

    March 7, 2016 at 5:14 pm
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Yes, much more low-key than Dubai. It feels like Dubai with less glitter… and a bit more conservative. I’m not sure how I felt about it, actually…

      March 8, 2016 at 7:06 am

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