Abu Dhabi Halal Travel Guide
Abu Dhabi is the federal capital and centre of government in the United Arab Emirates, and is the largest city of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and one of the most architecturally modern cities in the world.
The Special Olympics World Summer Games, a multi-sport event for athletes with intellectual disabilities, takes place in Abu Dhabi, from 14–21 March 2019.
With a population of just under 1.5 million, Abu Dhabi is the headquarters of numerous oil companies and embassies. With only 420,000 UAE nationals in the entire emirate, each has an average net worth of US$17 million (64M dirham). The city features large gardens and parks, green boulevards lining all the streets and roads, sophisticated high-rise buildings, international luxury hotel chains and opulent shopping malls.
Long viewed as a staid bureaucratic outpost entirely lacking in neighboring Dubai’s pizzazz, things started to change radically in 2004 after long-ruler Sheikh Zayed passed away and his son Sheikh Khalifa took over. In a bid to attract tourism and investment, land sales to foreigners were allowed and restrictions on alcohol were loosened. Since the reforms, Abu Dhabi has since grown into one of the premier cities in the Gulf, rivalling nearby Dubai and Doha. Like Dubai and Doha, foreigners far outnumber Emiratis in Abu Dhabi. As such, despite the fact that Arabic is the official language, English is the de facto lingua franca, and most Emiratis will speak it to communicate with the immigrant workers who work for them.
Homosexuality is illegal throughout the United Arab Emirates with possible resulting penalties of deportation, fines, prison time, or the death sentence.
Several massive projects are also under way. Yas Island hosts Abu Dhabi’s Formula 1 track, the Ferrari World theme park and Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, while the upcoming US$28 billion Saadiyat Island cultural zone is under development. Its centerpieces are the Louvre museum, which opened in November 2017, and the Guggenheim museum.
“Dhabi” is the Arabic word for a particular antelope species of gazelle that was once common in the Arabian region. “Abu” means father; hence, Abu Dhabi means “Father of the Dhabi”.
Climate & Weather
The city has an arid climate, with very hot temperatures in the summer. Annual precipitation totals 57 millimetres (2.2 in).
Most of Abu Dhabi is on a wedged-shaped island connect by two bridges to the mainland.
Street addresses in Abu Dhabi are simultaneously very logical and hopelessly confusing. Many roads have traditional names, like “Airport Road”, which may not correspond to the official names, like “Maktoum St”, and the city is divided into traditional districts like “Khalidiyya”. However, by recent decree, the city has been split up into numbered “zones” and “sectors”, with all roads in each sector numbered, First St, Second St, etc., and the vast majority of street signs only refer to these. The system of main streets is straight forward enough once you realize that the odd numbered streets run across the island and the even numbers run along it. So First St is in fact the Corniche, and the odd numbers continue out of town to 31st St which is near the new Khalifa Park. Airport Road is Second St and the even numbers continue to the east through to 10th St by Abu Dhabi Mall. On the west side of Airport Road, the numbers go from 22nd Street to 32nd St by the new Bateem Marina. Alas, confusion is caused by the local streets, which are on green signs (main streets are on blue signs) and are also called First, Second, etc. Most locals opt to ignore the system entirely, and the best way to give instructions is thus navigating by landmarks, if taking a taxi, odds are you will get to “behind the Hilton Baynunah” much faster than “Fifth Street, Sector 2”.
Travel to Abu Dhabi
Travel by plane to Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi International Airport
- Abu Dhabi International Airport. The UAE’s second busiest airport (after Dubai) and the home base of Abu Dhabi’s flag carrier Etihad Airways. Etihad Airways has been expanding rapidly and now flies from many locations from Australia to Europe and the United States.
The airport is separated into Terminal 1 (the original terminal), Terminal 3 (a new terminal mostly dedicated to Etihad Airways), and a smaller Terminal 2.
Terminal 1 provides a slightly dingy appearance and a stunningly bizarre blue-lime tiled mushroom canopy that awaits you at the gates.
Terminal 2 has no aerobridges, relying on buses to take passengers to and from their planes.
Terminal 3 is much newer and has improved shopping and gate access. All flights from terminal 3 are Etihad, but not all Etihad flights leave from Terminal 3. In particular flights to and from the US utilize the older terminal.
A fourth major terminal is expected to open in 2019.
To/from the airport:
- Al Ghazal taxis travel to the city at a flat rate of 75 dirham and take around 40 minutes.
- Metered taxis are now allowed to pick up passengers at the airport. A trip into Abu Dhabi town center will cost 60-70 dirham. Metered taxis can also bring passengers to the airport. The taxi stand is at the end of a long walkway from the main terminal. Passengers must turn left when leaving the arrivals area and travel through a long passageway to the curb area, where a covered platform next to the taxi stand is provided. Expect long lines at the taxi stand during the evening and late night hours.
- Public bus route A1 also heads to the city every 30–45 minutes 24 hours a day, and costs 3 dirham. This leaves from outside T3: Go to the lower level and spot the Etihad busses right in front of you. 10 metres on the right is a sign saying “Bus Stop”. The Etihad bus and the public bus use the same bus stops, the public bus will just stop as the very first one of the line. Be warned, that airport information may say that there is no public bus, and to take a taxi. The bus used to depart from the upper level but due to traffic it was changed to the lower level. The terminus in the city is Al Ittihad Square bus station, next to the British Embassy.
- If you are flying on Etihad or some partner airlines, complimentary shuttle buses are provided at regular intervals to Dubai and Al Ain (you should book these at least 24 hours in advance through this site). These depart from the main car park at the front of the airport, by the car hire offices: follow the Etihad Shuttle signs. In Dubai, you can also check in at the Etihad Travel Centre, that is close to Noor Bank station.
- Ethiad first and business class passengers can avail complimetary Mercedes chaffuer service under similar conditions as the bus fron this link to/from anywhere in the UAE.
Dubai International Airport
A viable alternative is to fly to Dubai International Airport () in the neighbouring emirate of Dubai and continue onward by bus or by taxi.
To/from Dubai airport:
- A metered Dubai airport taxi direct to the Abu Dhabi city centre will cost about 300 dirham.
- To get a bus, you will have to go to one of several bus stations in Dubai to catch the Emirates Express to Abu Dhabi. See By bus section below.
The five-laned E11 highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is the country’s heaviest-traveled route, and the 130-km journey can be covered in about 1 hour and 20 minutes. While there is a national speed limit of 120 km/h, you can speed up to 140 km/h without triggering speed cameras. This speed is wildly exceeded by some drivers. Stay out of the leftmost lane and drive carefully, mainly at night.
If you hire a car in Abu Dhabi, chances are that the car will warn you if go above 120 km/h. Depending on the vehicle, it might just be a flashing light or an accompanying, continuous, shrill beep. If you get annoyed by this, you might not want to exceed 120 km/h.
To travel directly into Abu Dhabi from Dubai on E11, keep to your left at Al Shahama and follow the E10 highway, which passes Yas Island (exit at the E12 highway) and Al Raha Beach on the way to the Sheikh Zayed Bridge into Abu Dhabi. This bridge connects directly to Salam Street (8th Street), a wide megahighway along the northern shore of Abu Dhabi Island. As an alternative to the Zayed Bridge, there are ramps off E10 that connect to the Maqta Bridge, which leads to 2nd Street (Airport Road) and to 4th Street (East Road or Muroor Road). During off-peak periods, these routes run fairly quickly into the city.
Parking within the city is monitored by Mawaqif, which also supply the parking meters. Parking meters have displays in English and Arabic. The minimum fee is usually 2-4 dirham.
Parking areas in Abu Dhabi are clearly marked; yellow and grey for no parking, blue and black for standard fare, and blue and white for premium fare.
In the central area, there are limited parking garages (some are in malls such as Khalidiya which are generally free of charge).
You can get into Abu Dhabi from the other Emirates of Dubai, Sharjah, etc., by bus. The Emirates Express between Abu Dhabi and Dubai is operated jointly by the Abu Dhabi and Dubai municipalities. The 130-km route takes around two hours. The buses operated by Dubai’s RTA are luxury buses that charge 25 dirham for the onward journey to Abu Dhabi and 25 dirham for the return journey. The Abu Dhabi transport buses charge 15 dirham each way. The first bus departs from the Abu Dhabi main bus terminal on the corner of Hazza bin Zayed the First (11th) St and East (4th) Road at 05:30 and the last leaves at 23:30; they leave at 30-minute intervals, or if the bus gets full sooner. From Dubai, the buses leave from 05:30, and run until 23:30, from the Al Ghubaiba station in Bur Dubai (opposite Carrefour Shopping). For bus times, see the timetable published on the Government of Dubai’s website.
If you hold an Emirates flight ticket and arrive to or depart from Dubai airport, the airline offers a complimentary extension of your trip to/from Abu Dhabi. Busses depart from Dubai airport Terminal 3 and arrive to Emirates Abu Dhabi office located in Al Sawari Tower. Contact Emirates customer service for booking .
You can flag down any metered taxi on the street in Dubai or any other place in the UAE and ask to go to Abu Dhabi. The cost between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is about 250 dirham. From Abu Dhabi, taxis cost about 200 dirham to Dubai.
Getting around in Abu Dhabi
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Abu Dhabi hasn’t got much in terms of public transport; there will be plenty of traffic jams.
Taxis are a good way to get around if you don’t have a car. Abu Dhabi’s taxis are relatively cheap. The main taxis are silver with yellow signs on the top. Flag fall costs 5 dirham, 5.50 dirham at night (22:00 to 06:00) (2017). You can flag one down from anywhere in Abu Dhabi. Alternatively, you can book a taxi in Abu Dhabi by calling 600535353, for a 4-dirham booking fee. Taxis will charge you 1.82 dirham per kilometer (2.93 dirham per mile), and 50 fils for every minute of waiting.
Taxis are monitored using GPS and are not allowed to give above certain speeds. These change depending on where the taxi is.
Newer-looking black cabs also go around town sometimes. These are airport taxis, which you can get on at Abu Dhabi airport and get off anywhere in the city for 60-100 dirham. You can recognise them with their coloured signs on the top, displaying text in English and Arabic.
You are not expected to tip taxi drivers, but gratuity will be extremely appreciated.
The main bus station in Abu Dhabi is on Hazaa Bin Zayed Road. You can get buses here going to the different points within the city as well as inter-city buses. The bus stand also serves as a taxi stand, for inter-emirate taxis. The inter-city buses and airport buses are easy to locate at the bus terminal, and well signposted. The route services depart from various stops in the vicinity, and not all enter the bus terminal proper. There is no directional signage or and no maps.
The fare system is simple: 2 dirham for a single ride, 4 dirham for a day pass, 30 dirham for a week pass, or 40 dirham for a one-month Hafilat pass. Tickets can only be loaded on disposable or reusable smart cards. No cash is accepted by the drivers. The dark bluish green buses are air-conditioned but not wheelchair accessible. Passengers can board and alight at the designated stops along the route. These locations can be identified by the temporary Department of Transport bus stop poles. Beware: bus stops that do not have the DoT bus stop sign may not be served as not all bus stops along the route are used.
Hafilat smart cards can be purchased from ticket machines which can be found at the main bus station and in the Abu Dhabi Mall area. Machines are unremarkable and hard to spot, thus ask locals.
- Route 5: Al Meena to Marina Mall via Abu Dhabi Mall and Hamden Street. Every 10 min, 06:30–23:30.
- Route 7: Abu Dhabi Mall to Marina Mall via Zayed the 1st Street (also known as Electra). Every 10 min, 06:30–23:30.
- Route 8: Tourist club to Break Water via Hamdan Street, Zayed the 2nd (via 4th) Street, Airport Road, Al Manhal Street. Every 20 min, 07:15–23:30.
- Route 32: Sports City Carrefour to Marina Mall via Airport Road, Bus Station, and Zayed the 1st Street. Every 10 min, 06:00-22:40.
- Route 54: Sports City Carrefour to Abu Dhabi Mall via East Read, Bus Station, and Hamden Street. Every 10 min, 06:00-23:00.
The older bus service, operated by the Abu Dhabi Municipality, operates bus routes within city and to the other emirates. The routes within the city are very few. The buses are modern and air-conditioned. The services are as punctual as possible and operate more or less around the clock and charge 2 dirham for travel within the capital. The front few seats are reserved for women, men should move towards the back of the bus.
Travel by car to Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi has a reputation for reckless drivers. They can pull out in front of you, change lanes at random, and texting while driving is common. On the other hand, the ban on drunk driving is very strictly enforced; one glass of wine is enough to land you in jail for a month.
If you do decide to take the plunge, beware that the street numbering system is unusual and it can take weeks to get used to it. U-turns are allowed at almost every intersection. When the left lane signal turns green, you simply have to swing a U-turn and come back. Whatever other flaws drivers here may have, they do not run red lights. There are cameras at many intersections, fines are high (about 550 dirham), and residents who are not citizens can be deported for running too many red lights. When the light starts flashing, that taxi in front of you will jam on the brakes, and you should, too. When the light turns green, however, expect someone behind you to honk at you instantly to get you moving.
Despite excellent roads, and a traffic signal system, vehicle accidents remain the largest cause of deaths in the UAE.
While walking in Abu Dhabi is not a problem for locals, tourists from colder climates will suffer from the heat and sun. The temperatures can exceed 45°C in the summer.
While staying inside or using a vehicle is a good idea, if you have to walk, try to do it night, when it is cooler. Plus, there won’t be a sun to give you sunburn. If you have to go during the day, wear plenty of SPF 50 sunblock, wear a hat and light clothing and try to keep in the shade as much as possible.
There is a separated cycleway that runs almost the entire length of the Corniche, as well as around Yas Island, and other parts.
Abu Dhabi offers little in the way of historical or cultural sights but it certainly isn’t lacking in attractions and many of them are free.
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (مسجد الشيخ زايد الكبير), Second Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed, . Sa–Th 09:00–22:00. The 8th largest mosque in the world, boasts a total of 82 domes. On Fridays, it is closed to the public and open only for worshippers. You can get there by public bus #54. Make sure to ask the bus driver to tell you when you get there. The public bus stop is 100 m before the mosque and after that is no stop for the next 5 km. The Mosque Centre offers several free tours of the mosque every day. Times vary on a daily basis, so check their website. As it is a place for worshippers, dress conservatively. In particular, women must cover their head and ankles (if they’re wearing sandals). Appropriate black dress is available at the mosque. You will avoid the queue for the clothing if you wear shoes, a long dress or trousers, and take a scarf to cover your head/hair. Clothing is also available for men, but will likely be unnecessary. Even when taking photos outside the mosque, women who are inappropriately dressed will be challenged by security. free.
- Qasr al-Hosn (قصر الحصن). The oldest stone building in Abu Dhabi, this small fort was first constructed in 1761 and served as the royal palace from the late 18th century until 1966. The site is surrounded by boards, and the building itself is not open to the public.
- Corniche Road. The city’s main avenue, it curves around the coastline along Abu Dhabi’s stunning waterfront that stretches for miles from the breakwater near Marina Shopping Mall almost up to the Mina Zayed port. The shoreline is lined with a walkway for the entire length, skyscrapers, lovely beaches, parks, and other landscaped areas. There are many activities like go-kart riding, playgrounds and even stages for shows. Come in the evening and you’ll feel as if all of Abu Dhabi has come here for their evening walk.
- Yas Island. Has a Formula 1 race track, Ferrari World (a Ferrari-themed park home to the fastest roller coaster in the world), Yas Waterworld, a shopping mall and a hotel.
- Flagpole. At 123 m, this is among the world’s tallest flagpoles, and you won’t miss the massive UAE flag flying from it. It is on Marina Island across from Marina Mall.
- Louvre Abu Dhabi (Musée du Louvre), Saadiyat Cultural District, Saadiyat Island, . Sa Su Tu W 10:00–20:00, Th F 10:00–22:00, closed on Monday. Art and civilization museum exhibits artworks from Musée du Louvre and other French collections. Opened in November 2017, the largest art museum in Arabian peninsula with 24,000 square metres (260,000 sq ft), including 8,000 square metres (86,000 sq ft) of galleries. 60 dirham/person.
Abu Dhabi has several large green spaces, many of which include play areas and equipment for children, and the city is studded with lovely fountains, swathes of neon light, and the occasional sculpture.
- Khalifa Park (off Al Salam St (8th) near the Grand Mosque). The best park by far, built at a cost of US$50 million. It has an aquarium, museum, train, play parks and formal gardens.
- Abu Dhabi Cultural Centre. A landmark in the Emirates, it holds cultural events and workshops throughout the year. It has a well-stocked library, children’s programs, art exhibitions, benefits, and other culture-related activities that are the hallmark of any city. It’s well worth a look.
- Manarat al Saadiyat. An exhibition space and cultural centre with galleries, a theatre and a restaurant, opened in 2009 and with works by contemporary artists from around the world.
- UAE Pavilion. Sand dune-inspired exhibition centre designed by Norman Foster.
There are a vast number of projects coming up in Abu Dhabi.
- Lulu Islands. A group of artificial islands, already built just offshore at great expense, but sitting there doing nothing after a tourism venture failed to even start construction.
- Reem Island (an island off the coast of the main Abu Dhabi island.). By the time it is completed, it will be a residential, commercial and educational haven. Reem Island is progressing well, with many skyscrapers being built on the island to facilitate its growing population. The Reem Island skyline has impressive number of tall buildings, however the north side of the island is still quite sparse. Despite this, there are many facilities available and Reem Island is a good place to live.
What to do at Abu Dhabi
- Swimming Nearly all hotels and private clubs in Abu Dhabi offer swimming facilities, usually in the form of private beaches. You can pay for a day’s use, or for a year’s. Another, notably cheaper, option is The Club, an organization geared towards expatriates.
- Lessons Some hotels also offer dance lessons, aerobics classes, and other physical entertainment.
- Desert safari trips are a tourist but fun experience. They must be booked ahead, but can often be booked as late as the day before, most hotel receptionists can arrange this for you. Trips start late afternoon and end at night. You will be collected from your hotel and driven to the desert in a 4×4 vehicle. Most packages include a bone-rattling drive over the dunes, a short camel ride, a mediocre Arabic buffet and a belly dancer. The belly dancer is normally only included if there are enough of you in your party so enquire at the time of booking. Another option would be renting/buying a 4×4 and joining the many growing 4×4 clubs in the UAE. Most popular off them is the Abu Dhabi 4×4 offroad club AKA AD4x4 that offers a free learning experience for all newcomers. The club consists of all nationalities and is active with over 2,000 members and schedule trips weekly to suit all levels of driving skills.
- The official sport of the Emirates is shopping, and Abu Dhabi offers plenty of opportunity in this area.
- Helicopter Tour Board a l6-seater Eurocopter EC130 B4 and Discover Abu Dhabi from a birds’ eye view with Falcon Aviation Services. Tours operate daily from 09:00 to 17:00 from the Marina Mall Terminal. Reservations recommended (tours can be booked on an individual or private basis)
- Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dabhi, which is about 30 min away from the capital). Watch a Formula One race, and is the second Grand Prix arena after Bahrain.
- Warner Bros World – one of the worlds biggest indoor amusement parks, featuring six themed areas; Gotham City, Metropolis, Cartoon Junction, Bedrock, Dynamite Gulch and Warner Bros Plaza.
Abu Dhabi is a compulsive shopper’s dream. There are several malls, most of which have the same stores as other malls. Besides establishments aimed at locals, malls also include popular foreign chain stores, as well as designer places. Many visitors will be surprised at the female fashion dichotomy – while local custom calls for women to be covered in public, most stores sell short skirts and halter tops alongside the more sedate floor-length skirts and high-necked shirts.
- Abu Dhabi Mall (in Tourist Club Area, adjacent to the Beach Rotana Hotel.). a three-story shopping mall
- Marina Mall (in the Water Breaker area near the magnificent Emirates Palace. It also contains one of two Carrefour hypermarkets in the city.). Has a musical fountain and ceilings that thunder and rain.
- Yas Mall. Opened in 2014 next to Ferrari World on Yas Island. This is the biggest mall in Abu Dhabi and the 16th biggest mall in the world. It has the first Lego store in the UAE. It is connected to Ferrari World.
- Al Wahda Mall (in the city centre (11th and 4th Streets)). A large, modern mall. Shops are high-end, the food court is extensive, and a large LuLu Hypermart in the basement.
- Khalidiyah Mall, Mubarak bin Mohammed St, Al Khalidiyah W9 area, POBox 4048, , fax: . Su–W 10:00–22:00, Th-Sa 10:00–23:00. Khalidiya Mall is small but a nice place to visit. The droll fashion stores may grip you for maybe several seconds, but then the obvious lack of things to do kicks in, however the food court is popular, alongside New York Fries, Chili’s and a Dunkin’ Donuts + Baskin Robbins. Downstairs there is an extortionate Krispy Kreme and Starbucks, and a what looks to be an Indian/Arabian cuisine restaurant, which seems good but looks to be unpopular.
- Shams Boutik (Reem Island, connected to Sun and Sky Towers). Su-Th 10:00–22:00, F Sa 10:00–24:00. A growing mall built around the community of Reem Island. It contains a growing number of good shops, including a supermarket, three restaurant, serveral fast food restaurants on the first floor, a café, a kids play area, a nail salon, a bookstore and more. Despite, this, it is placed in a area that isn’t usually busy, and is not very popular.
- The Mall – World Trade Center Abu Dhabi & WTC Souk, Khalifa bin Zayed the First St crossing Sheik Rachid bin Saeed St, Al Danah (at foots of Burj Mohammed bin Rahid tower), . Sa–W 10:00–22:00, Th F 10:00–23:00. Nice architecture in the Mall and Souk.
There are also many small, independent stores around the town. On the bottom floor of one building, a person can purchase fancy chocolates, computer parts, antiques and clothing. It is better to purchase things such as carpets, art, native jewellery and antiques at the independent or souk-like places than at the malls, as the price will be lower and the shopkeepers more willing to haggle.
Bargaining is a big part of shopping in the Emirates, but be prudent. Don’t bargain at Marks and Spencer or Hang Ten. Save your discounting skills for independent shops dealing in antiques and the like.
Shopping in most places can be frustrating, as the assistants will follow you around the store. This is partly due to their concept of what constitutes good service, and partly because there is a shoplifting problem. Most will not be intrusive, but some employees can be very pushy and overly obsequious. Smile and thank them often, and you’re more likely to be left alone after a bit.
In carpet stores – or anywhere that sells tapestries, Indian antiques, and the like don’t feel too pressured to buy, and don’t be shocked if they start unrolling beautiful rug after beautiful rug at your feet. You are under no obligation to buy, no matter how much time they spend with you, however the pressure will be very steady, and shyer shoppers may want to travel in packs for comfort’s sake.
Grocery stores such as Spinney’s, Carrefour and the Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society are inexpensive and usually stocked with Western goods. Examine all products before purchasing. Visitors wishing to purchase pork products will likely have to enter a separate room to do so, as no nationals are permitted in these sections of the grocery stores.
Prices in Abu Dhabi tend to be very competitive. In January 2018, the UAE introduced a Value Added Tax of 5% on most products aside from basic food items.
General discount season – end of the year and midyear. These are the time where you can get some branded items with a very low price, maybe last season’s stock.
Restaurants in Abu Dhabi
Although Abu Dhabi hosts a wide range of palates and ethnicities, there is not much variety when it comes to cuisine. Indian food is relatively cheap, and there are a few Chinese chain restaurants with reasonable prices. Hotel restaurants are usually the most expensive. The city is home to all manner of fast food like McDonald’s and Hardees, but there is little call for most people to eat at those places.
The fun thing about Abu Dhabi is that most places, from tiny falafel kiosks to grand hotel restaurants to Burger King, deliver anywhere in the city. Delivery is quick and reliable, and usually doesn’t cost extra. All food is certified halal.
Vegetarians will find the city’s selection of meals very satisfying. Vegetable and bean-heavy native dishes, the array of splendid pure vegetarian Indian cuisine, and the ready availability of fresh salads make eating in Abu Dhabi a stress-free experience. Strict vegans may have a little difficulty communicating their precise demands, but most places offer vegan dishes and are always willing to accommodate a paying customer. The best choice for pure vegans is one of many Indian vegetarian restaurants like Evergreen, Sangeetha in the Tourist Club area.
Check the Islamic calendar to determine whether you will be visiting during the month of Ramadan. Since Muslims fast during daylight hours, restaurants are, by law, closed during the day. It is also against the law to eat or drink anything, even water, in public. Tourists (and non-Muslim residents) have been arrested and given fines for violating this law. Large hotels generally have one restaurant open during the day to serve meals to non-Muslims. During the evening, however, it’s quite a different story, as the festive atmosphere of iftar (breaking the fast) begins and residents gather for lavish, Thanksgiving-like meals. As long as you don’t mind tiding yourself over in private, the evening meals are magnificent.
- The Olive Branch, Mafraq – Abu Dhabi, . Open 24 hours daily serving buffet and an à la carte menu Buffet serving times: Breakfast 06:00-10:30, Lunch 12:30-15:30, Dinner 19:00-23:00. Mafraq’s all day restaurant serves up fresh Mediterranean cuisine borrowing influence from various regions, including France, Spain and Turkey. The buffet is prepared with the freshest of ingredients and the interior décor is equally breezy and funky.
- Hunter’s B&R, Mafraq – Abu Dhabi, . Open daily from 12:00 to 02:30 with food served throughout. A modern bar with green brick walls, solid wood tables and numerous flat screen TVs showing sports. God for after work drinks, or an evening with friends, Hunter’s B&R offers a casual environment with a social buzz.
- Rimal, Mafraq – Abu Dhabi, . 14:00-01:00. Rimal Asian fusion bar serves up oriental dishes in an authentic atmosphere with a modern edge. Taste the delicious flavours from Korea, China and Japan in this Asian inspired outlet, complete with Sake and signature cocktails.
- Oasis Courtyard, Mafraq – Abu Dhabi (in Mafraq Hotel). Daily from 12:00 to 21:00 with food served throughout.. This poolside bar and restaurant serves drinks under the sun and a wide selection of snacks. The swim-up bar in the pool offers refreshment. Shisha is also available.
- The Burlington Grill, Mafraq Abu Dhabi, . Lunch 12:00-15:00 and dinner 19:00-24:00. The hotel’s grill restaurant serves grilled meat and seafood steaks. Choose from an array of starters and salads including crab cakes, goats cheese tartlets and American-style Louisiana fish gumbo. Has al fresco dining on the terrace and an aperitif bar.
- Old fish market. One of the city’s few remaining authentic spots, where you can have fresh fish cooked with your choice of sauce and accompaniments.
Some of the cheapest, but not necessarily best, food in the city can be found in many Indian restaurants. Portions are almost always generous, prices low, and quality excellent. Set meals of rice, fish curry, lentil curry (dhal), peppery soup (rasam), a vegetable side dish and perhaps a small fried fish, served on a large steel tray (thali) with little steel bowls for the accompaniments, can go for as low as 5 dirham.
- Arabian Palace (behind Baynunah Tower), . The decor is basic and the food, while cheap and filling, is forgettable, but the shisha here is excellent. Puff up a pipe, order their excellent “lemon with mint” drink and gaze at the skyscrapers. 50 dirham.
- Anand Vegetarian Restaurant, Hamdan Street (behind Dunia Finance Building and Al Mansouri Plaza), . This is a pure veg Gujarati (North Indian) style restaurant. The demand for Puri Bhaji, a deep fried bread and potato and check pea dish, is so great that you will have to wait your turn but it’s worth it. There is a special part for ladies and families. Friday lunch with sweets and as much Puri as you want for only at 12 dirham. Sometimes you will have to wait for 10 min to get a roti. 10 dirham per person, eat all you can.
- Nalas Aappakadai Restaurant (Behind the NDC building on Salam St). Speciality for Aappam & excellent South Indian food from the Chettinad cuisine, Chinese & Tandoor
- Cettinad Restaurant (Behind Eldorado cinema/National cinema, in between Hamdan and Electra St, next to Abudhabi Floor Mill), . Authentic Chettinad food available at reasonable price. Also serving North Indian, Chinese, Tandoor and Mughalai food. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods are available. Cettinad Restaurant branch is next to the taxi station flyover traffic light, on the back isde of Brightway advertisement building, +971 24454331, +971 2 4454332
- Al Safadi (Sheik Zayed Road Khalidiya Area). In an older building in one of the older and more walkable parts of Abu Dhabi. Shawarma sandwiches for 5 dirham each. Each main dish comes with a huge plate of greens, pickles, peppers and Lebanese bread. 50 dirham.
Where to stay
Hotels in Abu Dhabi used to be half the price of those in Dubai but no longer, with many hotels charging above 500 dirham per night. However, all are well-tended and host to first class restaurants, pools and other high-end hotel facilities.
- Grand Continental Flamingo (near Hamdan St and Khalifa Bin Zayed St), . This is the hotel the taxis cannot find. A 2-story atrium, quiet setting, rooms with bidet, bath and over-bath shower and wide screen TVs all contribute to a friendly stay. Only the dimness of the lighting and the overdone carpets in the room lets it down. The bath towels are also a bit small. 200 dirham.
- Novotel Centre Hotel Abu Dhabi (Novotel) (Hamdan Street & Airport Road), . Adequate rooms but inadequate and expensive breakfast in a tower block. Reception is cramped and lacks style. The lifts (elevators) are very slow. You pay for internet access. Only the cheerful staff and, if relevant to you, the central location redeem the place. The Chinese restaurant is said to be good, too.
- Park Inn Abu Dhabi Yas Island (Golf Plaza, Yas Island), . Clean rooms, excellent service and friendly staff. The restaurant is a great option for dinner. 550 dirham.
- Aloft, Atop the National Exhibition Centre. Trendy hotel with cool dark colors, attractive young hotel desk clerks, relatively small rooms (beds are comfortable though), good restaurant and lobby bar, fantastic outdoor lounge on the roof, and half-empty disco next door. Great if there’s a convention, but it’s walkable to nothing else. Car or taxi is needed to get just about anywhere. Maybe when the nearby residential/commercial development is ready in a few years, it might be more desirable. 4-star with few amenities (you bring your own bags to the room), but there is still a definite sense of style. US$90-200.
- Crowne Plaza, Hamdan Street, . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Luxury hotel for a little less money than the Hilton or both of Les Meridiens. Best Asian and Italian restaurants in the city are on the ground level. Service can be a little slow, bed is comfortable. There is a rooftop bar upstairs which seems always empty. Maybe more a 4½-star hotel, not a 5-star. You can sometimes get a “car” instead of taxi to take you places, for not much more than the taxi. US$100-400.
- Beach Rotana Hotel and Towers (Beach Rotana), Tourist Club Area, . Marble everywhere sums it up. The club rooms are worth it if you are having to pay full rates for the classic rooms in the main older hotel. They are not much bigger but the use of the Club Lounge is valuable if you are going to be in the hotel a lot and the TV arrangements are more modern, the view wide. It now looks over the hectic construction on the new artificial islands across the creek.
- Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa (Located along a 1.2 kilometer stretch of Abu Dhabi’s protected Eastern Mangroves District), . Check-out: Late check-out until 18:00 (subject to availability). 222 rooms and suites, infinity swimming pool, meeting and event facilities, wedding facilities. Prices from US$136.
- Emirates Palace, Corniche East, . Built at an estimated cost of US$3 billion, this was by many accounts the world’s most expensive hotel to build, with oodles of gold and marble plating every available surface. The scale of everything is gargantuan — you need directions just to find your way from the gate to the lobby. The hotel feels like it’s straight out of Las Vegas, minus the slot machines. To visit the Palace, you will need a reservation for a restaurant or bar of the hotel. Rates start from 970 dirham.
- Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche East, . One of the older hotels in Abu Dhabi, but kept in good shape and recently renovated. Huge Hiltonia beach/pool/spa complex across the street (free for guests), small gym in hotel itself. “Plus” rooms face the sea but are otherwise identical to normal ones. Located a fair distance from the town center, which is both good (no construction noise) and bad (virtually nothing within walking distance). There are shuttle services to the Marina Mall and the town center offered. US$150.
- InterContinental Abu Dhabi. One of the long-time prestige hotels. Expensive but occasional Internet deals on the hotel independent booking websites are worth it if you are willing to pay upfront online. The lobby is huge and recently renovated. Rooms seem a little 1980s with their decor (way too many mirrors) but beds are comfortable and the views are nice. Gym and fine (but expensive) restaurants. Abu Dhabi locals frequent the hotel piano lounge and the Brazilian restaurant. It is somewhat remote from the centre of town but the setting and amenities are worth it. US$150-400.
- Le Meridien Abu Dhabi, Tourist Club Area, . Tell the taxi driver “Lee Meridien” and he will not confuse it with Royal Meridien. Best amenity is the Meridien Village, an outdoor garden filled with restaurants and pubs, and on Thursday nights during the cooler months, a hangout for literally thousands of expats. Slated to be replaced by a bridge to Suwwah Island financial district, so enjoy while you can.
- Le Royal Meridien, Sheikh Khalifa Street, . Beautiful views of the gulf and Corniche, comfortable beds, lots of restaurants and bars (very pricey). Service is very good, but things like bringing a welcoming fruit plate to your room (formerly common in 5 star hotels) are extras now. Rotating restaurant at top, and a somewhat hidden nightclub on the 4th floor for dealings on the dark side. Sometimes can get real good deals on internet booking sites (as low as US$139/night), but generally expect to pay over US$200/night even during quiet season, and over US$500 when they have defense contractor exhibitions and such. Internet is US$24/day which is ridiculous, however if you use the wireless network in the lobby, there is no charge. They hold US$135/day against your credit card if you want to put meals or other amenities toward your room charges, so make sure you have a good credit line available if you are staying here more than a few days. US$150-400/night.
- Radisson Blu Abu Dhabi, Yas Plaza, Yas Island, . Overlooks the golf course and F1 Circuit. It has 397 rooms comprising suites and business class. All day dining restaurant, Italian restaurant, Persian restaurant, lobby bar, and pool bar.
- The Yas Hotel (Yas Island), . Set half on land and half on water, overlooking the marina, and positioned on the Yas Marina Circuit, which plays host the annual Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, this hotel is distinctive. The exterior’s gridshell can be seen for miles around and mimics the throw of a local fishing net. Fourteen restaurants and lounges.
Embassies & Consulates in Abu Dhabi
Being the national capital, Abu Dhabi hosts a large number of embassies. A majority of them are clustered in the Embassies District (Al Safarat) south of the Al Bateen Executive Airport and in the adjacent Al Ma’ared Area, west of Rabdan St and south of Shk Rashid bin Saeed Road (Road #18); and the adjacent Capital Centre south of Al Karamah St surrounding the Exhibition Centre. There are others further northwest in Al Danah, Al Markaziyah and in other parts of the city as well. If corresponding by mail/post use their PO box address as mail is only delivered to a PO Box with no post codes. If delivering to a street address with DHL, FedEx, UPS or another private courier be sure to include recipient’s phone number so that the delivery driver can call for directions or clarification on the address. Some or most countries maintain an additional consulate in Dubai and only offer consular services from their Dubai consulate or from both locations. Check website links or call before going or sending any correspondences:
- Australia, Level 8, Al Muhairy Centre, Zayed the First (7th) Street, , fax: .
- Bahrain, Embassies Area, Basin W 59-02 lot #13; PO Box 3367, . Su-Th 08:30-14:30.
- Bangladesh, Villa No. 21, Plot No. W-14/01, Al Rowdha Area; PO Box 2504, , fax: .
- Canada, Abu Dhabi Mall, Towers at the Trade Center West Tower, 9th-10th Floors; PO Box 6970, Abu Dhabi, , fax: . Su-Th 08:00-12:00 and 13:00-15:00.
- China, Plot No. 26, Sector No. W-22; PO Box 2741 (Al khaleej Al Arabi St.(NO30) across No 17. Near khalidiya cooperative society.), , fax: . Su–Th 08:30-14:00.
- Egypt, Diplomatic Area, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street (Old Airport Road), , fax: . 09:00 – 16:00.
- Ethiopia, Villa 119,Street No. 32,Al Bateen Street,Al Bateen – Abu Dhabi, . The Embassy is located in Al Batten near the intersection of Al Batten (no.6) street and Al Falah (no. 9) Street. On the roundabout take the fourth exit and in 100 meters we are located in Vila 119.
- Finland, Al Masaood Tower, 12th floor, office 1202 Hamdan Street Abu Dhabi, , fax: . Su-Th 08:00-15:45.
- France, Etihad Tower, Office Tower n°3, 22nd Floor, Corniche West, PO Box 4014, . Su–Th 08:45–12:00, M W 14:00–15:45.
- Germany, Abu Dhabi Mall, Towers at the Trade Center West Tower, 14th Floor, Abu Dhabi, , fax: . Su-Th 08:00-16:00 (By appt only).
- Greece, 31 str, Al Muroor, (PO Box 5483, Abu Dhabi), , fax: .
- India, Plot 10, Sector W-59/02, Diplomatic Area; PO Box 4090 (Off the Sheik Rashid bin Saeed Streeet (Previously known as Airport Road), near to Pepsicola,), , fax: . Su-Th 09:00-12:30.
- Indonesia, Zone 2, Sector 79, Villa No. 819, Sultan Bin Zayed Street (Str.32), Al Bateen Area; PO Box 7256, Abu Dhabi, , fax: .
- Iran, Diplomatic Area, Next to Abu Dhabi International Exhibition Center; PO Box 4080, , fax: .
- Iraq, Diplomatic Area, AirPort Road، 33rd Al Karamah Street; PO Box 6389, , fax: .
- Japan, PO Box 2430, Abu Dhabi, , fax: . Su-Th 08:00-17:00; Visa Section closes 13:30; Telephone Inquiries till 15:30. The physical location of consulate: 28th Floor, Dubai World Trade Centre Building, Dubai;
- Jordan, Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street, Diplomatic Area, Abu Dhabi, , fax: . M-Th 08:30-15:00 & Su 08:30-12:00
- Republic of Korea, 33rd Airport Road, Embassy District; PO Box 3270, Abu Dhabi (Al Nahyan Camp area, opposite to the Abu Dhabi taxi stand), , fax: .
- Netherlands, Office Tower – Bldg no. 11, 14th floor Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street (ADNEC area), Capital Centre; PO Box 46560, . Su-Th 08:00-15:30 by appt only; M & W 09:00-12:00 consular services by appt only.
- New Zealand, Level 25, Suite 2503, International Tower, Capital Centre; PO Box 62292, , fax: . M-Th 08:30-16:00.
- Oman, Al Mushraf Area, Al-Saada Street 19, .
- Pakistan, Plot No. 02, Sector W-59, Embassy District; PO Box 846, , fax: . Consular services are in Dubai at Umm Hurair One, Khalid Bin Waleed Road, Bur Dubai,
- Philippines, W-48, Street No. 8, Sector 2-23, Plot 51, Al Qubaisat, Abu Dhabi; PO Box 3215, , fax: . Su-Th 08:00-17:00; Close at 13:00 during Ramadan.
- Russian Federation, Khalifa Street,East Plots 65/67، Al Markaziyah; PO Box 8211, . (Consular Services) Su and Thur 08:00-14:00; Tue 17:00-20:00.
- Saudi Arabia, Al Karama Street, Embassies Area, , fax: .
- South Africa, Corner Airport Road & 25th Street, Villa No A029, Al Mushref Area, . Su-Thu 08:30-12:30.
- Switzerland, Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street, Centro Capital Center Building, 17th floor; PO Box 95199, .
- Turkey, Villa No:1,W59-02; 1,Embassy’s Area; PO Box 3204, . Su-Th 08:30-14:00.
- United Kingdom, Khalid bin Al Waleed St (Street 22), Corniche Area; PO Box 248, . Su-Th 07:30-14:30. The visa application centre at Shining Tower, Level 25 King Khalid Bin Abdel Aziz 26th Street, Adjacent to Khalidyah Mall; PO Box 30023
- United States, PO Box 4009, Abu Dhabi, .
Where to go next from Abu Dhabi
- Dubai (an hour and a half drive down the highway).
- Al Ain (just 90 minutes away). The UAE’s largest oasis.
- Liwa Oasis (two hours from the city). Stunning desert dunes.
- Kish Island. Iranian tourist island