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Planning your Abu Dhabi visit
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Abu Dhabi is an oven in the summer months, which is why most of the locals leave the city to tourists. Forget walking outside in July and August – save that for the (somewhat) cooler months from November to April/May. Metered taxis are abundant and will take you anywhere for a fair price. Bus n. 5 links the Marina Mall to Al Maryah Island, and bus 54 will take you from Al Zahiya to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The free Yas Express is a handy shuttle bus that links all major sightseeing spots roughly once an hour on three different routes.
Rules to live by
Abu Dhabi is a lot more conservative than neighboring Dubai, so you’d do best to remember to cover your shoulders, arms and legs whenever possible. Walking around in a bikini top or even shorts in certain places is a definite no-no. Happy couples should remember to save the smooching for behind closed doors, and during Ramadan eating and drinking in public view is strictly forbidden. Having even the smallest trace of an illicit drug in your bloodstream or urine is considered possession in these parts, so leave the codeine and Nurofen behind, and whatever you do, don’t get drunk in public.
Most of Abu Dhabi’s nightlife takes place in the luxurious interiors of fancy hotels, so prepare to dress up. Pack your best clothes, and ladies: bring the high heels. Hotels often host elaborate brunches that last from midday to evening, and ‘ladies nights’ mean women often get to drink for free in a ploy to entice more men. For 1920s speakeasy fun head to Butcher & Still at the Four Seasons Hotel. Underground wine bar La Cava at the Rosewood Hotel is an atmospheric treat. Or join the local for some Friday hedonism with a pool party at Al Maya Island. The choice is yours.
What to do in Abu Dhabi for 3 days
Desert Evening Safari + BBQ Dinner
Ready to get sand in all your cracks? This action-packed Arabian excursion will do it. Ride the dunes in a 4x4 and see what it really means to go ‘off-road’ in the desert. After your adrenaline-pumping 'dune bashing' thrill ride you’ll get up close and personal with falcons, eagles and more at a stunning falconry display. You’ll be hungry after all that action. Sit back and relax with a traditional Arabic BBQ and some belly dancing as the sun sets over the desert. There’s no better evening in Abu Dhabi.
Catch a Camel Race
For the full Lawrence of Arabia experience, you can catch local camel races just outside the city limits. In lieu of Peter O’Toole, these hump-backed athletes are ridden by robotic jockeys, which the owners control from speeding SUVs. If you thought camels were slow, sedate animals, the sight of dozens of them galloping about a dusty racetrack is certainly a spectacle! Just be careful with your camera – photographing strangers is technically illegal, but many will be happy to pose with their prized racers.
Desert Morning Safari
Set the alarm clock for ‘early’ because the best time to experience the desert is the morning, before the temperatures climb to boiling point. This desert morning safari takes you out to experience some dune-bashing at sunrise, with little to no other tourists to spoil your view! Hurtle, race and bump in a 4x4 with an experienced guide and then see some cute baby camels at a real Bedouin camel camp. Opt for the optional camel trek for bonus bragging rights.
Get Your Souk On
The UAE are notoriously expensive, especially for travelers who’ll be eating out a lot and snapping up souvenirs for friends back home. One way to claw back some value is to hit up the local ‘souks’ – the sprawling markets where you can find everything from hand-crafted local jewelery to super-cheap street food. Never settle for the asking price, as haggling is considered an integral part of culture, and vendors will instinctively overcharge tourists.