Abu Dhabi

View of Abu Dhabi   Ferrari World

Why Abu Dhabi?                                                              Click here to view video

While neighbouring Dubai has caught the world's media attention with its over-the-top developments, Abu Dhabi has been quietly planning its transformation into a world-class luxury travel and business destination. The emirate of Abu Dhabi is huge by comparison to the other emirates, comprising almost 87% of the country’s total area. Just as 50 years ago Abu Dhabi was little more than a fishing village comprising a fort, a few coral buildings and a smattering of barasti huts, the rest of the emirate is very ‘Arabian Sands’ with its enigmatic empty desert, dotted with oases such as Al-Ain and Liwa. While the ruling Al-Nahyan family may have become rich from what lies beneath, you get the sense that their connection to the desert and the sea is something that remains more important than petrodollars.
The Abu Dhabi 2030 Urban Structure Framework Plan will see the city change into a modern metropolis, complete with trams, rotating towers and developments in the sea. One of these, Saadiyat Island, is spearheading the transformation of Abu Dhabi into a world-class tourism destination with a cultural emphasis. It is here that a new US$27 billion cultural district will be located, which will contain museums, art galleries and performing arts centres. These will include the Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and expected to open in 2012, and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi contemporary art museum, designed by Frank Gehry. It is scheduled for completion in 2011 and is set to become the largest Guggenheim museum in the world. With the oil predicted to run out sometime after 2100 AD, you’d forgive Abu Dhabi for wanting to just sit pretty and count the money. But this attractive, green and distinctly Arab city just appears to be hitting its stride. While not as cosmopolitan or as sophisticated as Dubai, Abu Dhabi also lacks traffic jams and the poseurs that plague its neighbour, making it a much more liveable city if you don’t crave clubbing. After closely watching Dubai’s phenomenal growth, Abu Dhabi has chosen its development projects wisely, and while the laid-back feel might eventually change, the local Emirati flavour of the capital appears certain to remain.

Abu Dhabi has several attractions worth checking out, such as the beautiful Corniche (beach), the Al Hisn Fort, Breakwater Island and Sheikh Zayed's palace.  Many of the city's top-class hotels and restaurants, including the prestigious Emirates Palace Hotel, allegedly the most expensive in the world, are located along the downtown section of the Corniche, overlooking the many sandy islets that are rapidly undergoing development.

  • When should I travel?
Abu Dhabi is a year-round destination, with seasonal activities and attractions to suit every taste and interest. Sea, sand and surf are popular throughout the year, with lots of sunshine. Hotter summer climes are ideal for lounging on the emirate’s tranquil beaches, but visitors are advised to avoid the midday sun as temperatures may soar. All facilities are fully air conditioned so even on the hottest days, visitors can relax and enjoy a range of activities indoors.  Milder weather in the winter months provides the ideal climate for desert adventures, with dune bashing and desert safaris immensely popular. The lush green oases of Liwa and Al Ain provide a backdrop to some of the largest sand dunes in the world, and are popular destinations year round due to their cooler climes.  Throughout the year, visitors to the emirate of Abu Dhabi can also enjoy a range of cultural activities and fantastic shopping.

  • Is it safe to travel and are there places to avoid?
Since punishment for crimes in Abu Dhabi is strictly enforced, there are virtually zero crime rates in the city. The emirate is completely safe for tourists. Abu Dhabi is one of the safest places in the world to visit, with world-class services, standards and procedures in place to facilitate travel to and around the emirate. Any inquiries prior to your travel, whether related to travel requirements or information on Abu Dhabi, can be answered by UAE embassies and consulates in your country. Meanwhile, foreign embassies in Abu Dhabi will assist you with any inquiries or travel emergencies that may arise during your trip to the emirate.

  • What money should I take?
The currency is the UAE Dirham. There are myriad banks across the city with ATMs, especially in the centre of town along Hamdan and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Sts. All the malls, and many of the five-star hotels, have ATMs. Moneychangers are found on Hamdan and Liwa Streets.

  • What language will they understand?
The official language of Abu Dhabi is Arabic, but English is widely spoken and understood by the locals. Besides English and Arabic, many hotels, airlines, restaurants and malls employ staff that is conversant in multiple languages.

  • How about my health?
There are excellent private hospitals and clinics in Abu Dhabi, but they can be costly so it is best to take out health insurance in your home country before you travel.  Most people (residents and visitors alike) prefer to drink bottled water. Some people will advise you not to drink the tap water in Abu Dhabi. It is desalinated sea water so does not taste pleasant, but it is safe to drink.

  • Public Holidays


1 Jan New Year
4 Feb Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday*
17 June Israa & Miaraj Night*
20 Jul Ramadan expected to begin
19 Aug Eid Al Fitr*
25 Oct Arafat Day*
26 Oct Eid Al Adha*
15 Nov Hijri New Year's Day*
2/3 Dec UAE National Day

1 Jan New Year's Day
24 Jan Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday
6 Jun Leilat al-Meiraj (Ascension of the Prophet)
9 Jul Start of Ramadan
8 Aug Eid Al Fitr
14 Oct Arafat (Haj) Day
15 Oct Eid Al Adha
4 Nov Hijri New Year's Day
2 Dec UAE National Day
  • Do I need a visa?
South African passport holders require a visa for Abu Dhabi which must be obtained prior to arrival.

  • Will I need any innoculations before I depart?
No innoculations are required for entry into Abu Dhabi.