So what do the locals do, to while away their time? This depends, of course, on the time of day and season; summer temperatures can rise to 180°F, sandstorms arrive and nights can be cold! You could be taking a boat trip along the coast, swimming, dune bashing in the desert, camping out under the Gulf’s burnishing stars, or shopping. The best way to get to grips with the Emirati state of Abu Dhabi is to do as the locals do!
Begin the day with a steaming hot cup of strong local Arabic coffee, known as “kahwa”, and then head on over to Al Bateen Island, and next to the Intercontinental Hotel, you will find yourself at the Al Bateen Shipyard. This is one of the oldest inhabited areas of the city, where you can learn about the city’s maritime history, forged as it was by dhow sailing boats, still being made, and very popular today. Learn also of pearl harvesting and the fishing industry. You can also charter your own boat and skirt the city’s perimeter in style.
Stop by the historic Qasr al-Husn fort and learn about Abu Dhabi’s bloody history, then visit one of the best modern art galleries, either Gallery One at the Emirates Palace hotel or the Ghaf Art Gallery. Then, time permitting, visit the Al Ain Camel Market, a drive to the south, but well worth the trip, where buyers and breeders haggle over prized animals, as the religious nomadic shepherds have done for hundreds of years.
The best time to visit the city is winter, and should you do so, you may like to watch the locals partaking of more modern pursuits, and one of the outlying islands. Gary Player, the sporting legend has opened a new golf course on Saadiyat Island, and the arrival of the Yas Marina Grand Prix circuit on nearby Yas Island, has resulted in the city now venturing into go-kart racing and a calendar of motorsports.
Late afternoon, and the souks are frenetic beehives, the perfect place to purchase a local pearl necklace, aromatic oils, or a pair of soft Persian slippers. Choose from an abundance of gifts on display to take home for a loved one.
Built on the edge of Rub’ al Khali, one of the great desert seas of the world, Abu Dhabi is perfectly primed for 4×4 off-road safaris and dune bashing. Long ago more acquainted to the likes of the great British explorer Sir Wilfrid Thesiger and Lawrence of Arabia, this rolling carpet of sand offers several exciting adventures for all the family. Get to grips with falconry, take a camel-ride, or, for those who dare, try sand skiing! Don’t miss the opportunity either, to dine under the stars. You will find that many tour companies offer sun-downer drive and dine trips into the desert dunes.
And into the night
One of the most exciting aspects of your trip is to mingle with the young and kooky locals and expats, in enjoying a night of Hookah at one of the numerous sheesha cafes or hotel bars, of course in an imitation Bedouin tent. Slip yourself onto a divan couch and commence your feast, tucking into a wide array of Middle Eastern dishes including moutabel, hummus, fatoush and the divine sweet local dates and delicacies. Enjoy!