In comparison to its more tourist-friendly sister emirate, Abu Dhabi is often overlooked in favour of Dubai. However, Abu Dhabi is a striking emirate of its own: it is the largest among the seven that makes up United Arab Emirates, as well as being the business and government centre of the country. I spent some time in Abu Dhabi courtesy of a long layover en route to Johannesburg, and although I didn’t get to explore too much of the city, I’ve found it to be a less touristy version of Dubai with unequal Beaudoin hospitality that the country has become well-known for.
1. Beaudoin Hospitality & Culture
Having been to Dubai twice and Abu Dhabi once, you can immediately tell that hospitality is not lacking anywhere in the country. Located near the coastlines means that this country was once a thriving fishing community and Abu Dhabi was, at some point, a leading exporter of pearls (Pearl hunting/fishing is a common tourist activity these days). A clean and safe city, it is a popular destination for professionals looking to work in a growing cosmopolitan city with an abundance of Beaudoin charms.
2. Geography: Easily Accessible from Around the World
Abu Dhabi is blessed with a strategic geographic location which makes it accessible from every corner of the world. Its main airport, the Abu Dhabi International Airport is being re-developed to accommodate a growing number of airlines / carriers beyond the 40 that currently flies through there.
A layover in Abu Dhabi doesn’t always mean you have to stay within the city – Dubai is located only 1-1.5 hour away by taxi, and if you are flying with Etihad Airways, be sure to take advantage of the luxury coach that takes you to to Dubai Mall from Abu Dhabi for free and in less than two hours. Flying into Abu Dhabi typically means an inexpensive fare compared to flying directly into Dubai, but you get to discover two emirates for the price of one!
3. Dress Code
Traveling to other parts of the world means that you should always respect the local customs and culture. The dress code in Abu Dhabi is similar to other parts of the Middle East – women should cover their shoulders and wear skirts/shorts that go beyond the knees. When visiting religious sites, always observe the local customs and dress code to avoid any troubles!
4. 200 Natural Islands
Abu Dhabi has a multi-faceted landscape, from deserts, oases, over 400km of coastline, and a staggering 200 natural islands dotted around it. The variety of landscape means that there’s plenty to do for anyone at any age. Of course, a cannot missed experience is the Desert Safari Tour, which is highly popular in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Island hopping is also a popular past time.
5. Subtropical Climate
When thinking about the Middle East, or Abu Dhabi, the first thing that comes to mind is desert terrains and punishing hot temperatures. A case in point, I arrived at 7am to a 40C weather), and was informed that the temperature goes as high as 60C during the summer months (June – August). A sunny day during your visit is almost guaranteed, but always take extra precautions (i.e. bring water bottles) and wear lightweight clothing to avoid heat stroke!