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Things To Do In Abu Dhabi In A Day

If you are on a whirlwind tour of Abu Dhabi like I was, you can still tick off the few important touristy attractions in twenty four hours.

With all bookings flights and hotel bookings done, we were facing a new dilemma before our trip to Emirates in early March 2020. Though everybody was still unsure of the spread and impact of Corona Virus but lock-downs were not implemented. We would have lost most of the booking amount had we canceled. So we instead stocked up on sanitizers, face-masks before going for the short trip.

Upon return from the trip in first week of March, the airports had started screening flights from Dubai. We self isolated at home and monitored our health. The city corporation of Pune was also very diligent in keeping record of all passengers returning from Dubai. For first fifteen days they would call us up to check on us.

It has been eight months now since and thankfully we are safe.We have refrained strictly from going out unless extremely necessary and have been using masks and sanitizers. I guess that is only way out currently to prevent the spread of virus…

But I am hopeful that this too shall pass… We will emerge happier healthier and stronger and hopeful more than ever of a better times. And when the world is healed and begins traveling again, then may be you can visit this desert land of Emirates and enjoy what it has to offer.

But first things first….

Travel Visa For Indian Citizens

  • Visa for visiting UAE can be applied online through a designated travel agent.
  • A sixty days visa is provided by UAE
  • Approximately 6000 INR are required for individual person’s visa for two months from date of arrival.
  • Indian Citizens with a valid USA visa are allowed a visa on arrival for 15 days.

I shall add more relevant and current information soon.

Commuting in Abu Dhabi

The best way to commute in Abu Dhabi is via taxi. Unlike Dubai, Abu Dhabi does not have metro train services. Taxi services are quite decent and affordable.

Things to do in a day:

Start your day with a visit to the Grand Mosque, enjoy thrilling roller coaster rides at the Ferrari world and end the day with the grand tour of Presidential palace and the light and sound show!

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

I first saw it reflected in the mirror of the wardrobe door…. pristine white and larger than any earlier ones I had ever seen. And I immediately turned around to look out of the full length glass window of my room on sixth floor.

Shiekh Zayed Grand Mosque from the highway
Mosque as seen from the approach road
Model of the mosque
Model Of The Grand Mosque at Hotel Bab Al Bahr’s lobby

Conceptualized by founder of UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan and designed by Syrian architect Yousef Abdelky, the mosque prides itself for being one of the the world’s largest. The iconic structure, an architectural marvel draws design inspiration from Mughal, Morroccan, Turk, Egyptian and Islamic architecture. Here are some of its exquisite features:

Silhoutte of Grand Mosque as the sun sets
I visited the mosque later in the day and hence the sun angle was not very flattering. It is better to visit mosque in the morning hours for better photography
  • 82 white marble domes adorn the grand mosque.
  • It occupies an area of about 30 acres excluding the sprawling landscaped gardens.
  • Its 1096 external columns are embedded with amethyst and jasper and 96 internal columns are decorated with mother of pearl inlay.
  • It has seven gold crusted Swarovski crystal chandeliers.
  • The prayer hall can accommodate 40,000 worshippers. Ther is a separate prayer hall for women.
  • 3000 artisans were employed in creating the beautiful designs in the mosque.
  • The main prayer hall boasts of world’s largest hand knotted carpet made in Iran by 1200 knotters.
  • The courtyard in mosque features world’s largest marble mosaic artwork.
  • Reflective pools sit around the mosque that enhance its beauty at night when the mosque glitters in lamplight.
  • Quranic verses and 99 names of God in traditional calligraphy Mohammad Mandi Al Tamimi can be seen on walls and domes.
The large courtyard of Sheikh Zayed Mosque
The mosaic pattern at central courtyard
Columns at the mosque
Columns with inlay work
Chandeliar at the mosque
One of the seven chandeliers at the mosque

The opulent grand structure opens for visits at 9 am and closes at 10 pm. Women need to cover their hair, hands and legs before visiting the mosque. At the visitor center, a cloak room provides traditional abaya for women visitors.

Dressed in abaya at grand mosque at Abu Dhabi
That is us in borrowed abaya at the mosque

However I saw Indian women visitors dressed in full sleeved salwar-kameez and a dupatta to cover their hair. Indian women in saris and shawls to cover hands and head were also not required to wear an abaya.

Qasr Al Watan

Qasr Al Watan or The Palace Of Nation is a working palace with offices of President, the crown prince and other offices.

Qasr Al Watan palace
It is at this palace that you realize how the wide angle lens capacity works!

More details on timings, entry tickets and amazing pictures and video of Qasr Al Watan here

A coach from visitor center drops everyone at the palace grounds. As the bus moves on the ceremonial path the palace reveals itself as a larger than life expansive structure. The white limestone and granite imposing facade sits strikingly against the blue skies. Landscaped gardens and fountains surround the magnificent palace which looks straight out of tales of Arabian Nights.

Here are some of the awe inspiring facts of the palace:

The palace is sprawled on a 380,000 square meters of land and was completed in 7 years and 150 million man-hours.

Night view of Qasr Al Watan, Abu Dhabi
Palace is lit up in the evening before the light and sound show

A grand hall of 100 meter width and 100 meter length which boasts of the world’s largest dome of 37 meter diameter is the most prominent feature of the palace.

The great hall of qasr al watan
The great hall and world’s largest dome

The magnitude of opulence can be imagined from the gold, blue and white embellishments in the grand hall. There are 5000 unique geometric and floral patterns inspired from Islamic art. A huge golden oval calligraphic art piece sits at one arm of the palace. The banquet hall uses silver, crystal and china for official dinners. A 12 tonne chandelier made of 350, 000 pieces of crystal hangs in one of the halls. It is so huge that there is a staircase inside the chandelier for cleaning purpose. Mirror cubes are placed inside the great hall to reflect the light and enhance the beauty of the designs.

The palace has different halls for presidential gifts, state banquets, library and more. A golden oval that depicts verses in 3D form sits in one of the halls.

Verses in oval installation
Art installation of verses

In the evening the palace is lit up. A light and sound show outside the palace gives brief glimpse of how the palace came to be conceptualized.

Ferrari World

Ferrari World is the first Ferrari branded theme park in the world. Located on the Yas Island, it holds the record of largest space frame structure and boasts of world’s fastest roller coaster ride Formula Rossa.

Ferrari display at theme park
Ferrari displayed on a ramp at theme park

Spread across 86,000 square meter area, it has been named the ‘Middle East’s Leading Theme Park’. Inside the amusement parks are some high speed rides and some amazing rides for kids and family rides as well. Flight simulators, Ferrari simulator rides, cinema and the world’s tallest non-inverting loop ride are some of its unique features.

Ferrari world entrance
Entrance to Ferrari theme park
display of old aircraft

Pretty little restaurants with a myriad choice of cuisines find place inside the indoor theme park. There are Ferrari cars on display too.

restaurant at ferrari world
Italian restaurant at Ferrari world


Abu Dhabi has some of the best five star hotels.

I was at Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel by ACCOR Group of Hotels at Abu Dhabi with a beach view room. And right across beyond the creek I had a magnificent view of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

The one and half days that I was in Abu Dhabi, I would sit and gaze at the clear view. On a visit to the mosque I could not capture its full view from close but up from my room I could see the whole spread of the mosque.

And that is I feel the USP of this beachfront five star luxury hotel.

Fairmont Hotel Accommodation

Located just 45 minutes drive from Dubai, Fairmont Bab Al Bahr sits with its glass facade welcoming visitors to Abu Dhabi, the capital city of Emirates.

The hotel boasts of 369 rooms that among others includes a Royal Suite, a Presidential Suite with 360 degree view and a Bridal suite with its own lift!! The 8th and 9th floor of the hotel are dedicated to various suites.

The hotel has three signature restaurants. There’s one by Marco Pierre White and I absolutely loved the interiors and of course the spread.

More things to do:

If you have enough time at your disposal you can also explore:

Desert Safari. Since I was spending more time in Dubai with desert safari and sightseeing, I skipped it in Abu Dhabi. The camp sites in desert also put up a show of traditional dances and cuisine of Abu Dhabi.

The desert temperatures however suddenly dip as sun sets and the winds are cold. Packup a light jacket for the desert evening.

Falconry and Falcon Hospital. Abu Dhabi has the first public institution dedicated to veterinary services for falcons in UAE. The hospital and research center provides tour for the visitors. Meanwhile at deserts tourists can indulge in holding falcons and watch how the tribes utilize falcons.

Al Ain is an inland oasis and ancient city of Abu Dhabi. Remains of Bronze age can be seen at archaeological park and caves and at museum in the city.

Pearl Diving was once a thriving industry. A visit to the old town to meet the divers is also an offbeat option.

What are other things to do in Abu Dhabi?Let me know in comments.

Pin it Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Qasr al watan pin it



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