You’ve booked your ticket, now what? We’ll show you 8 things you absolutely can not miss in Abu Dhabi!
Think Abu Dhabi is all about those shopping malls, think again. Abu Dhabi has become a mecca for cultural experiences unlike anywhere else in the world. So put on your comfy shoes, here are eight experiences you must put on your Abu Dhabi bucket list.
The year of the Zayed
To mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the United Arab Emirates, 2018 has been designated as The Year of Zayed. With a genuine passion for Arab culture, Zayed was accomplished in the traditional pursuits of archery, falconry and horse and camel riding, while his temperament as an inclusive and understanding head of state was nurtured in the vast, calm landscape of his birthplace of Al Ain. Declared by his son, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the current President of the UAE, the objective of The Year of Zayed is to commemorate and honour the legacy of the man who did so much to create the thriving modern UAE, and build on the strong foundations he laid for the future.
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel’s otherworldly design for the Louvre Abu Dhabi has created a ‘museum city’ of 55 detached buildings that appear to float atop the cool waters of the Arabian Sea. Anchored by a giant dome, an intricate metal web of 7850 ‘stars’, rendered in various sizes and at different angles over eight different layers, casts intricate shadow patterns into the interior. Twenty-three of the buildings are dedicated to gallery space, with works either acquired by the museum itself or on loan from the Louvre and 12 other leading French institutions, including the Musée Rodin, Centre Pompidou and Musée d’Orsay. Works to search out include Bellini’s Madonna and Child, Whistler’s Mother by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David, as well as the latest jewel in the crown, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi. The Children’s Museum is spread across two floors hosting family-focused exhibitions and interactive workshops designed to educate as well as enchant. louvreabudhabi.ae
Al Dhafra Festival
An annual celebration of the heritage and traditions of Abu Dhabi and the UAE, this year’s festivities will take place from 17-28 December at Madinat Zayed in the Al Dhafra region, about two hours’ drive from Abu Dhabi city. Events include saluki (greyhound), falcon and date packaging competitions, as well as poetry, photography, cooking competitions and one of the most popular spectacles – the camel beauty contest.
Abu Dhabi Art
The tenth edition of Abu Dhabi’s annual art fair takes place this year between 14–17 November, showcasing modern and contemporary art from all around the world. Held at Manarat Al Saadiyat, a custom-built cultural centre, it’s the culmination of a year-round program of arts. abudhabiart.ae
Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The only twilight race on the F1 circuit, the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final race of the season, takes place this year from 23–25 November. The Yas Marina circuit on Yas Island has two long straights, as well as a few unique features, including the fact that the cars pass through the yacht-filled marina and exit the pit lane through a tunnel. The accompanying entertainment program is another drawcard of the event: this year’s headliners include The Weeknd. yasmarinacircuit.com
Celebrated on 2 December each year, National Day commemorates the union of the Arab states that today form the United Arab Emirates. The celebrations of national pride – from traditional dance performances to an air show – culminate in spectacular firework displays on Al Maryah and Yas Islands and an outdoor concert at Al Jahili Fort in Al Ain.
Liwa Date Festival
Held in July in the oasis city of Liwa in the Dharfa region, the festival includes a hotly contested competition to find the best date grower, a live date auction, and cultural events.
Tradition meets technology in one of the UAE’s most popular sports: camel racing. While in the past child riders were used to lighten the load during races, today it is the job of robot riders to steer the animals home to victory. Races in Al Ain feature voice-activated remote control robots, with the benefits going beyond just making the the camels faster: there are no jockey injuries and much less harm is done to the animals.