Eight Surprising Facts About Abu Dhabi

Eight Surprising Facts About Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the capital of both the eponymous emirate and the whole of UAE. It is home to the government residence and the country’s Supreme Petroleum Council. Abu Dhabi boasts an amazingly eclectic architecture, many interesting museums, stylish hotels and white sand beaches. While you can find shelter from the heat in a huge shopping mall, a generous dose of adrenalin is waiting for you in one of the theme parks. Abu Dhabi knows exactly how to amaze its visitors and here are the 8 facts that prove it.

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Abu Dhabi entry requirements

As of 7 November 2022, almost all Covid-19 restrictions in Abu Dhabi were lifted, meaning the green status on the Al Hosn app and negative PCR tests are no longer required to enter Abu Dhabi attractions.

It all began with a gazelle

The name of the emirate of Abu Dhabi translates from Arabic as “the father of a gazelle”. The name is believed to originate from the ancient legend which has it that hunters from the Bateen Liwa oasis spent ages chasing a gazelle. The animal ran across the desert in a zig-zag pattern, leading the hunters to the coast of the Persian Gulf, where it plunged into the water and waded across to a wonderful island. The hunters followed the gazelle and it brought them to a fresh water spring. As a sign of gratitude, the hunters let the animal go free and named the settlement they founded near the spring – Abu Dhabi (“the father of a gazelle”).

The name is believed to originate from the ancient legend which has it that hunters from the Bateen Liwa oasis spent ages chasing a gazelle. Photo: Experience Abu Dhabi

A chandelier with a room inside really exists

The presidential palace Qasr Al Watan, whose interior decorations use 11 tons of gold, will strike you with its grandeur. Even though the palace is used for official state receptions, anybody is allowed inside. Upon entering it, you won’t know what will make you more amazed – its grandeur or magnificence. Mosaics, arches, mirrors, patterns and golden items – this palace looks like it jumped right out of a book of fairytales. Speaking of which: one of the reception rooms is a library of 50,000 books. While residents of the Emirates may even borrow them to read, everybody else is only allowed to have a look. 

One of the most incredible rooms in the palace is the meeting hall, which is decorated by a 12-ton chandelier with a separate room housed inside it for staff to clean the crystal. Incidentally, it takes two whole days to clean the dust off the chandelier. Still thinking it’s too much of an effort to clean your apartment? Entry to the palace costs 65 AED ($17.70) and tickets are for sale on the official site.

The presidential palace Qasr Al Watan, whose interior decorations use 11 tons of gold, will strike you with its grandeur. Photo: Experience Abu Dhabi

You may visit the Louvre

Louvre Abu Dhabi, a legendary museum that has become a magnet for the fans of history, architecture and painting from around the world, occupies an area of 9,200 square meters (the Paris Louvre is of course far bigger – 160,106 square meters). The collection includes valuable exhibits – from ancient tableware and jewelry to works of the most fashionable contemporary artists. However, one should take note not only of the collection but also of the building which houses it. The museum, built by the architect Jean Nouvel, features different elements: its open terrace leads directly on to the sea, while air and sunlight penetrate inside through 7,850 stars carved in the dome. Despite the structure’s apparent lightness, the dome weighs around 7,500 tons, which is roughly the weight of the Eiffel Tower. 

Come over here just before the sunset to see how weird-looking shadows begin to dance on the floor and white walls. Grab a coffee in the museum café, sit on the steps that lead directly on to the water and watch dusk set in over the city. An entry tickets costs 63 AED ($17.20) and may be purchased on the museum’s official site.

Louvre Abu Dhabi is a legendary museum that has become a magnet for the fans of history, architecture and painting from around the world. Photo: Experience Abu Dhabi

Here you will find the biggest carpet in the world

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of Abu Dhabi’s landmarks. Even if you have never been to this emirate you are sure to have seen the pictures of this fantastic beauty. Of course, no picture could even begin to convey its unbelievable lavishness: 82 snow-white marble domes, 1,096 pillars encrusted with amethyst and jade, an internal courtyard decorated with an elegant mosaic, and a huge chandelier sparkling with Swarovski crystals — the mosque will leave an indelible impression even on full-blown skeptics. 

Inside you will find the largest hand-woven carpet in the world: it has been officially recognized by Guinness World Records. People of any confession may enter the mosque but they must observe a fairly strict dress code: women must cover their ankles and wrists while covering their heads with a headscarf. Men wearing t-shirts or shorts are not allowed inside. Entry to the mosque is free but you have to book a visiting slot in advance on the official site. It’s best to plan your visit for the afternoon so that you first catch the mosque in natural light and then again, when it is all lit up in the evening.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of Abu Dhabi’s landmarks. Photo: Experience Abu Dhabi

It is also home to the region’s biggest aquarium

They like to set world records in Abu Dhabi, hence the description “biggest in the world” being so commonplace here. For example, The National Aquarium Abu Dhabi recently opened in this emirate, and is the biggest aquarium in the Persian Gulf region. Here you can watch agile sharks, “smiley” stingrays, exotic fish and giant turtles swim in amazing varieties. Some of the aquariums have fairly creatively designs: for example, one of them is housed within a car. There is a special veterinary facility on the premises where injured marine animals receive medical care. The doctors provide aid to numerous turtles who frequently lose flippers due to motor boat collisions or as a result of plastic littering the world’s ocean. A ticket to this underwater kingdom costs 130 AED ($35.40) and can be bought on the official site. The aquarium is located on the stylish Al Qana promenade which offers entertainment to suit any taste — from a games center to movie theaters and restaurants.

Here you can watch agile sharks, “smiley” stingrays, exotic fish and giant turtles swim in amazing varieties. Photo: Experience Abu Dhabi

You can pay $100,000 for a bird

Falconry has been historically considered one of the favorite (and, at the same time, one of the most expensive) pastimes among Arabian men. It’s an unusual sport: competitive and fascinating. Falcons in the Emirates can cost upwards of $100,000. So it’s not surprising that owners take great care of their feathered pets. A special falcon hospital in Abu Dhabi receives birds for a medical check-up. The pets, whose eyes are closed with special hoods as a precaution, perch obediently waiting for their turn. 

The doctors check the birds’ overall health, trim their claws, which sometimes grow far too long and, if necessary, even restore damaged feathers. The hospital also has a compound for the birds to stay in overnight. Tourists visiting the birds of prey hospital are told all about falconry and are even allowed to be present during a check-up. And, of course, they can have their pictures taken holding one of these expensive beauties. A two-hour guided tour costs 170 AED ($46), and you can book and pay for a tour on the hospital’s official site.

Falconry has been historically considered one of the favorite pastimes among Arabian men. Photo: Experience Abu Dhabi

Grab a chance to accelerate to 240 km/hour in 4.9 seconds

This is the maximum speed which the famous Formula Rossa roller coaster at the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi theme park on Yas Island can reach. You’ll ascend to a heart-racing height of 52 meters feeling the adrenalin rush to your every cell. Continue your ride on the Flying Aces, a roller coaster with the highest loop in the world. If you don’t fancy something that extreme, head for another attraction, called Bell’Italia. You can have a ride through a miniature Italy on a retro Ferrari 250 California. An entry ticket to the park costs 310 AED ($84.50). 

However, Ferrari World is not the only funfair on Yas Island. Located adjacent to it is another big park, Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi, which features famous franchises of the legendary studio. Here you can pay Tom and Jerry a visit, hang out in Dynamite Gulch and wander through the grimy Gotham City. In an area measuring over 150,000 square meters, guests have at their disposal 29 ultra-modern roller-coasters, interactive attractions, as well as shops, cafes and restaurants to suit any taste. And all this takes place in the pleasant company of the beloved Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Bugs Bunny, Scooby-Doo and others. An entry ticket costs 310 AED ($84.50), but if you really want to jump in with both feet, it’s better to buy a ticket package that includes both parks: you’ll get a bargain at 395 AED ($107.50). 

Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi, which features famous franchises of the legendary studio. Photo: Experience Abu Dhabi

Get blown away in the world’s biggest indoor skydiving chamber

Already missing the records? Well here’s another one for you: Abu Dhabi boasts the world’s biggest indoor skydiving chamber. Look for it at CLYMB, which is a stone’s throw away from Ferrari World. Here you can experience your childhood dream of flying by catching a powerful airstream that will lift you up (don’t be scared – a trained instructor will be guiding you). Obviously, being able to properly control your body will require certain training but you can still enjoy the process from the very first flight. Prices begin at 235 AED ($64). You can view all the prices and buy tickets on the official site.

Abu Dhabi boasts the world’s biggest indoor skydiving chamber. Photo: Experience Abu Dhabi

Where to stay

There is no shortage of luxury hotel accommodation in Abu Dhabi, all the more so with ZenHotels you can book online with a card issued by any bank! So only your desires matter. If the main purpose of your trip is theme parks, take a look at hotels on Yas Island: many of them offer guests significant ticket discounts. If you want value for money then check out Crowne Plaza Yas Island. It’s easy to reach Ferrari World and Warner Bros from there, as well as Yas Beach. And whatever you do, don’t miss out on the steaks they serve at lunchtime: they are really worth your attention.

It’s easy to reach Ferrari World and Warner Bros from Crowne Plaza Yas Island, as well as Yas Beach. Photo: Crowne Plaza

The best time to go

The ideal time to visit Abu Dhabi is the second half of autumn and the start of winter. While mid-October temperatures here easily pass +35, the end of the month see them gradually drop. 

In November-December you can still go for walks and swim: the air temperature gets closer to +28, which is ideal for relaxation, while the water temperature cools to +26-27°C, depriving you of the sensation that you are taking a hot bath. 

If you are after sightseeing rather than a beach holiday, you might want to visit Abu Dhabi in January or February. These are the coolest months best suited for cozy and comfortable strolls. The period from March to early May is also appropriate for a coastal vacation whereas summers in Abu Dhabi are very hot, so you will have to spend your holiday sitting under the air conditioner.

One of the most luxurious accommodation options is located near Louvre Abu Dhabi, on Saadiyat Island, which is the Arabic for “Island of Happiness”. Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island is the only hotel in the emirate to offer the ultra all inclusive experience. Its stylish rooms are equipped with everything you need for a relaxing holiday (including a huge selfie mirror in the bathroom). The delicious buffet available to hotel guests from morning to evening offers an unmatched variety of dishes, with signature cocktails mixed at the bar. The beach, however, deserves a special mention: it’s probably one of the best in the whole of Abu Dhabi. The white sand and turquoise waters stretching out to a transparent horizon: swimming here is pure pleasure. Just remember to apply the sunscreen.

One of the most luxurious accommodation options is located near Louvre Abu Dhabi, on Saadiyat Island. Photo: Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island

Rixos Marina Abu Dhabi is not an average hotel, it is an entire national cultural tourist attraction. It occupies a monumental arch-shaped skyscraper. Rooms in modern style look on to the sea or the myriads of city lights, the equally spectacular views. The hotel has its own beach: modest in size but cozy as well as a spacy outdoor swimming pool. Plans include building a private water park. You can walk from Rixos Marina to the large Marina Mall if you want to go shopping, while the presidential palace is within just a few minutes’ ride away.

Rixos Marina Abu Dhabi is not an average hotel, it is an entire national cultural tourist attraction. Photo: Rixos Marina Abu Dhabi


Abu Dhabi is bound to impress you with its cultural, architectural and culinary diversity. The air is filled with rich aromas of Eastern spices, the glistening skyscrapers shooting upwards intermingle with low buildings constructed in traditional style, while care for the future is intertwined with a delicate attitude to preserving history. This emirate will definitely surprise you and make your heart beat faster, while the variety of new projects rolling out here with each passing year are sure to drive your curiosity and desire to return one day.

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