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Revision as of 19:14, 30 January 2010
Abu Dhabi city gleaming in the evening light.
Abu Dhabi  is the federal capital and center of government in the United Arab Emirates. It is the largest city of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and one of the most modern cities in the world.
With a population of just under 1.5 million, Abu Dhabi is the headquarter of numerous oil companies and embassies. With only 420,000 citizens in the entire emirate, each has a theoretical net worth of $17 million, and Abu Dhabi has been described by CNN as the richest city in the world. The city features large gardens and parks, green boulevards lining all the streets and roads, sophisticated high-rise buildings, international luxury hotel chains and opulent shopping malls.
Long viewed as a staid bureaucratic outpost entirely lacking in neighboring Dubai's pizazz, things started to change radically in 2004 after long-ruler Sheikh Zayed passed away and his son Sheikh Khalifa took over. In a bid to attract tourism and investment, land sales to foreigners were allowed, restrictions on alcohol were loosened and several massive projects are under way. Yas Island hosts Abu Dhabi's Formula 1 track and the upcoming Ferrari theme park, while the upcoming $28 billion cultural zone of Saadiyat Island and its centerpieces the Guggenheim and Louvre Museums are scheduled to open in 2011. It remains to be seen how well the strategy will work, but the city is certainly experiencing a construction boom.
Scale model of Saadiyat Island, with the Guggenheim up front
The core of Abu Dhabi is a wedge-shaped island connected to the mainland by the Maqta and Musaffah bridges. The wide end of the wedge forms the city center, with the Corniche running along the coast and a road variously known as Airport Rd or Sheikh Rasheed bin Saeed al Maktoum St running lengthwise out to the bridges.
Street addresses in Abu Dhabi are simultaneously very logical and hopelessly confusing. Many roads have traditional names, like "Airport Rd", which may not correspond to the official names, like "Maktoum St", and the city is divided into traditional districts like "Khalidiyya". However, by recent decree, the city has been split up into numbered "zones" and "sectors", with all roads in each sector numbered, First St, Second St, etc, and the vast majority of street signs only refer to these. The system of main streets is straight forward enough once you realize that the odd numbered streets run across the island and the even numbers run along it. So First St is in fact the Corniche, and the odd numbers continue out of town to 31st St which is near the new Khalifa Park. Airport Rd is Second St and the even numbers continue to the east through to 10th St by Abu Dhabi Mall. On the west side of Airport Rd, the numbers go from 22nd Street to 32nd St by the new Bateem Marina. Alas, confusion is caused by the local streets, which are on green signs (main streets are on blue signs) and are also called First, Second etc. Most locals opt to ignore the system entirely, and the best way to give instructions is thus navigating by landmarks, if taking a taxi, odds are you will get to "behind the Hilton Baynunah" much faster than "Fifth Street, Sector 2".
Abu Dhabi International Airport
Abu Dhabi International Airport  (IATA: AUH, ICAO: OMAA) is the UAE's second busiest airport (after Dubai) and the home base of Abu Dhabi's flag carrier Etihad . Launched in 2003, Etihad Airways has been expanding rapidly and now flies everywhere from the United States to Australia, and its services (particularly on long-haul flights) are remarkably good in all classes.
Despite its slightly dingy appearance and the spectacularly bizarre blue-lime tiled mushroom canopy that awaits you at the gates, the airport itself is quite well-maintained and has duty-free shopping. However, it can get a little overcrowded at peak hours around midnight. The airport is currently undergoing a major expansion which is proposed to be completed by 2010. Picking up luggage is also quite easy, although, be forewarned that airport personnel may remove a flight's bags from the carousel and stack them in a pile next to it, as the airport has few baggage carousels.
To/from the airport:
- Al Ghazal taxis travel to the city at a flat rate of Dhs 75 and take around 40 minutes.
- Metered taxis are now allowed to pick up passengers at the airport. A trip into Abu Dhabi city center will cost between Dhs 60 and Dhs 70. Metered taxis can also bring passengers to the airport.
- Public bus route 901 also heads to the city every 30-45 minutes and costs just Dhs 3
- If you are flying on Etihad, complimentary shuttle buses are provided at regular intervals to the centre of Abu Dhabi and to Dubai. These depart from the main car park at the front of the airport, by the car hire offices.
Dubai International Airport
A viable alternative is to fly to Dubai International Airport in the neighbouring emirate of Dubai and continue onward by bus or, if really in a hurry, by taxi.
To/from Dubai airport:
- A metered Dubai airport taxi direct to the Abu Dhabi town center will cost about Dhs 300.
- To get a bus, you will have to go to one of several bus stations in Dubai to catch the Emirates Express to Abu Dhabi. See By bus section below.
The five-laned highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is the country's heaviest-traveled route, and the 130-km journey can be covered in two hours. While there is a national speed limit of 120 km/h, this is often wildly exceeded by young Emiratis and the highway sees over 20 accidents monthly. Stay out of the leftmost lane and drive carefully, especially at night.
You can get into Abu Dhabi from the other Emirates of Dubai Sharjah etc by bus. The Emirates Express between Abu Dhabi and Dubai is operated jointly by the Abu Dhabi and Dubai municipalities. The 130 km route takes around two hours and the cost per person is Dh.20 one way. The first bus departs from the Abu Dhabi main bus terminal on the corner of Hazza bin Zayed the First (11th) St and East (4th) Rd at 6:30AM and the last leaves at 9:30PM; they leave at 45 minute intervals. From Dubai, the buses leave from 6:00AM, and run until 9:00PM, from the Al Ghubaibah station. For bus times, see the timetable publishd in the Government of Dubai website.
You can flag down any metered taxi on the street in Dubai or any other place in the UAE and ask to go to Abu Dhabi. The cost between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is about Dhs 250. From Abu Dhabi, taxis cost about Dhs 200 to Dubai.
Abu Dhabi is built for cars. As a result, there are a lot of them and lots of traffic jams in the down town area.
The best way to get around if you haven't rented a car is by taxi. Basic white-and-gold taxis with green signs on top are ubiquitous and crossing town won't cost more than Dhs. 10 ($3.7) or so. Basic metered fares start from Dhs. 2.50. Slightly more luxurious silver cabs, have white signs on top and charge a little more with a Dhs. 3 starting fare and Dh. 1 per km thereafter. They are probably the safer bet in the unruly traffic. Taxis like Al Ghazal and National monopolize the hotels, and charge roughly twice what the local Silver or White and Gold cabs charge.
A host of silver colored taxis have now entered the local taxi business. Though the cars used are of a higher standard, have better educated and trained drivers, they charge a little more. These cabs charge the metered fare plus Dhs.10 for a trip to the airport, which usually works out cheaper than the White and Gold cabs, bargained fares.
The local white and Gold cabs or silver cabs, are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport as this service is reserved for the Al Ghazal limousine service, who charge around AED 75/- for a trip to the city.
The white and Gold taxis do not go to the airport by the meter, and will usually bargain for the fare from the city. The normal being between Dhs. 35-50, depending on your race and bargaining ability.
You are not expected to tip cab drivers, but gratuity will be extremely appreciated. Many taxi drivers are displaced persons, far from their home countries and families, so don't be surprised if they take out pictures of family members for you to comment on.
White and Gold taxi drivers are not patient enough at busy times for you to count your change in a leisurely way before you pay them. Most white and Gold cabs try and negotiate a fare that is usually higher than the Silver Cabs, and will decide where they would like to go, and whom they would like to drive. They also prefer working as car pools whereby they take 4-5 individual passengers to improve their revenues. This is because the fares for these cabs were frozen to 2000 levels.
The main Bus station in Abu Dhabi is on Hazaa Bin Zayed Road. You can get buses here going to the different points within the city as well as inter city buses. The bus stand also serves as a Taxi stand, for inter emirate taxis.
Abu Dhabi has recently invested considerable sums in improving its long skeletal bus network and the fleet is set to increase from 120 buses at the end of 2008 to 1360 by the end of 2010. The fare system is simple: Dhs. 1 for a single ride, Dhs. 3 for a day pass, or Dhs. 40 for a one-month Ojra pass. The dark bluish green buses are air-conditioned but not wheelchair accessible. Passengers can board and alight at the designated stops along the route. These locations can be identified by the temporary Department of Transport bus stop poles. Beware: bus stops which do not have the DoT bus stop sign may not be serviced as not all bus stops along the route are used.
The City Bus routes are:
- Route 5: Al Meena to Marina Mall via Abu Dhabi Mall and Hamden Street. Every 10 minutes 6:30AM-11:30PM.
- Route 7: Abu Dhabi Mall to Marina Mall via Zayed the 1st Street (also known as Electra). Every 10 minutes 6:30AM-11:30PM.
- Route 8: Tourist club to Break Water via Hamdan st,Zayed the 2nd(via 4th)street,Airport Rd,Al Manhal Street. Every 20 minutes 7:15AM-11:30PM.
- Route 32: Sports City Carrefour to Marina Mall via Airport Road, Bus Station and Zayed the 1st St. Every 20 minutes 6AM-10:40PM.
- Route 54: Sports City Carrefour to Abu Dhabi Mall via East Read, Bus Station and Hamden Street. Every 20 minutes 6AM-11PM.
The older bus service operated by The Abu Dhabi Municipality operates bus routes within city and to the other emirates. The routes within the city are very few. The buses are very modern and air-conditioned. The services are as punctual as possible and operates more or less around the clock and charge Dhs.1 for travel within the Capital. The front few seats are reserved for ladies, so men should avoid occupying them.
Unless they are very aggressive drivers or accustomed to reckless road behaviour, most visitors find the Emirati style of driving far too dangerous to be willing to get behind the wheel themselves. Those who do should be aware that any traffic accidents between locals and expats will ultimately mean that the expat is deemed at fault in most cases. Rented cars/visitors are not treated differently if they get into a car accident. However, it must be known that if you do get in a car accident that you should never move your car unless 1) you are asked by the police to do so over the phone, or 2) the police ask you to move it upon their arrival to the scene. It doesn't matter how you feel about your car blocking three lanes in the middle of the rush hour while waiting for the police. If you move your car, you will be in some serious trouble. Tests for alcohol can also be administered, and even the blood-alcohol level rise from a glass of wine will be sufficient grounds for one month's incarceration.
If you do decide to take the plunge, beware that the street numbering system is unusual and it can take 30-45 days to get used to it. U-Turns are allowed at almost every intersection. When the left lane signal turns green, you simply have to swing a U-turn and come back. One tip – whatever other flaws drivers here may have, they do not run red lights. There are cameras at many intersections, fines are high (about Dhs. 370-551 or US$100-150), and residents who are not citizens can be deported for running too many red lights. When the light turns yellow, that taxi in front of you will jam on the brakes, and you should, too. But when the light turns green, expect someone behind you to honk at you immediately to get you moving.
Unfortunately, despite excellent roads, and a traffic signal system, vehicle accidents remains the largest cause of deaths in the UAE.
Navigating Abu Dhabi on foot is difficult due to the spread-out nature of the city and the oppressive summertime heat and humidity. Pedestrian crossings across the massive boulevards are few and far between.
Abu Dhabi offers little in the way of historical or cultural sights but it certainly isn’t lacking in attractions and many of them are free.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the largest mosque in the UAE.
- Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The 6th largest mosque in the world. Construction is mostly completed. Entry into the mosque for non-Muslims is restricted to Saturday-Thursday mornings.
- Flagpole. At 123m, this is among the world's tallest flagpoles, and you won't miss the massive UAE flag hanging off it. On Marina Island across from Marina Mall.
Abu Dhabi has several large green spaces, many of which include play areas and equipment for children, and the city is studded with lovely fountains, swathes of neon light, and the occasional sculpture.
- Khalifa Park, (off Al Salam St (8th) near the Grand Mosque). The best park by far, built at a cost of $50 million. Has its own aquarium, museum, train, play parks and formal gardens.
- Cultural Events The Abu Dhabi Cultural Centre has become a landmark in the Emirates and holds cultural events and workshops throughout the year. It has a well-stocked library, children's programs, art exhibitions, benefits, and other culture-related activities that are the hallmark of any city. It's well worth a look.
There are a vast number of projects coming up in Abu Dhabi.
- Saadiyat Island is being developed into a cultural haven (see Understand).
- Yas Island: The alpha-male motorsports den of Yas Island will feature a world-class motor sports racetrack which held the final Formula 1 race of the 2009 season and is on the race calendar for 2010 - the Ethiad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a Ferrari theme park, water park, and — of course — enormous shopping malls.
- Lulu Islands are a group of artificial islands, already built just offshore at great expense, but currently sitting there doing absolutely nothing after a tourism venture failed to even start construction.
- Swimming Nearly all hotels and private clubs in Abu Dhabi offer swimming facilities, usually in the form of private beaches. You can pay for a day's use, or for a year's. Another, notably cheaper, option is The Club, an organization geared towards expatriates.
- Lessons Some hotels also offer dance lessons, aerobics classes, and other physical entertainment.
- Desert Safari trips are a tourist but fun experience. They must be booked ahead, but can often be booked as late as the day before, most hotel receptionists can arrange this for you. Trips start late afternoon and end late evening. You will be collected from your hotel and driven to the desert in a 4 x4 vehicle. Most packages include a bone-rattling drive over the dunes, a short camel ride, a mediocre Arabic buffet and a belly dancer. Note that the belly dancer is normally only included if there are enough of you in your party so enquire at the time of booking.
- The official sport of the Emirates is shopping, and Abu Dhabi offers plenty of opportunity in this area.
Abu Dhabi is a compulsive shopper's dream. There are several malls, most of which have the same stores as other malls. Besides establishments aimed at locals, malls also include popular English, American, and Canadian chain stores, as well as designer places. Many visitors will be surprised at the female fashion dichotomy - while local custom calls for women to be covered in public, most stores sell short skirts and halter tops alongside the more sedate floor-length skirts and high-necked shirts.
- Abu Dhabi Mall is a three story shopping mall located in Tourist Club Area, adjacent to the Beach Rotana Hotel.
The turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf along the Corniche, with the Marina Mall in the background
- Marina Mall boasts a musical fountain and ceilings that thunder and rain. It is in the Water Breaker area near the magnificent Emirates Palace. It also contains one of two Carrefour hypermarkets in town and the Abu Dhabi branch of IKEA.
- Al Wahda Mall, opened in 2007, is a large, modern mall in the center of downtown (11th and 4th Streets). Stores are high-end, the food court is extensive, and the LuLu Hypermart in the basement is probably the largest grocery and dry goods store in, well, anywhere.
There are also millions of small, independent stores around the city. On the bottom floor of one building, a person can purchase fancy chocolates, computer parts, antiques, and clothing. It is better to purchase things like carpets, art, native jewelry, and antiques at the independent or souk-like places than at the malls, as the price will be lower and the shopkeepers more willing to haggle.
Bargaining is a big part of shopping in the Emirates, but be prudent. Don't bargain at Marks and Spencer or Hang Ten. Save your discounting skills for independent shops dealing in antiques and the like.
Shopping in most places can be frustrating, as the clerks will follow you around the store. This is partly due to their concept of what constitutes good service, and partly because there is a shoplifting problem. Most will not be intrusive, but some employees can be very pushy and overly obsequious. Smile and thank them often, and you're more likely to be left alone after a bit.
In carpet stores - or anywhere that sells tapestries, Indian antiques, and the like don't feel too pressured to buy, and don't be shocked if they start unrolling beautiful rug after beautiful rug at your feet. You are under no obligation to buy, no matter how much time they spend with you. However, the pressure will be very steady, and shyer shoppers may want to travel in packs for comfort's sake.
Grocery stores such as Spinney's, Carrefours, and the Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society are inexpensive and usually stocked with Western goods. Be careful to examine all produce before purchasing. Visitors wishing to purchase pork products will likely have to enter a separate room to do so, as no nationals are permitted in these sections of the grocery stores.
Prices in Abu Dhabi tend to be very competitive, and there is no tax.
General discount season - end of the year and midyear. These are the time where you can get some branded items with a very low price, maybe last season stock.
- Khalidiya Mall. Khalidiya mall is a nice place to visit but the droll fashion stores and unopened cinema may grip you for maybe several seconds, but then the obvious lack of things to do kicks in. However, the food court is popular, alongside the well known New York Fries, a fully fleged Chilli's and a Dunkin' Donuts + Baskin Robbins. Downstairs there is an extortionate Krispy Kreme and Starbucks, and a what looks to be a Indian/Arabian cuisine restaurant which seems good but looks to be unpopular.
Abu Dhabi is host to a wide range of palates and ethnicities when it comes to cuisine. Lebanese/Arabic, or Indian food is usually the cheapest. Hotel restaurants are usually the most expensive. The city is home to all manner of fast food like McDonald's and Hardees, but there is little call for most people to eat at those places. Some foreign residents complained of a lack of good Chinese food, but several Chinese restaurants have opened in recent years and serve reasonable Chinese food.
The fun thing about Abu Dhabi is that everywhere, literally from tiny falafel shacks to the cushy hotel restaurants to Burger King, delivers to anywhere in the city. Delivery is quick and reliable, and usually doesn't cost extra.
Vegetarians will find the city's selection of meals very satisfying. Vegetable and bean-heavy native dishes, the array of splendid pure vegetarian Indian cuisine, and the ready availability of fresh salads make eating in Abu Dhabi a stress-free experience. Strict vegans may have a little difficulty communicating their precise demands, but most places offer vegan dishes and are always willing to accommodate a paying customer. The best choice for pure Vegans would be one of the many Indian veg restaurants.
Visitors should always check the Islamic calendar to determine whether they will be visiting during the month of Ramadan. Since Muslims fast during daylight hours, restaurants are, by law, closed during the day. It is also against the law to eat or drink anything, even water, in public and tourists (and non-Muslim residents) have been arrested and given fines. Large hotels generally have one restaurant open during the day to serve meals to non-Muslims. During the evening, however, it's quite a different story, as the festive atmosphere of iftar (breaking the fast) begins and residents gather for lavish, Thanksgiving-like meals. As long as you don't mind tiding yourself over in private, the evening meals are magnificent.
Some of the best and cheapest food in the city can be found at its many Indian restaurants. Portions are almost always generous, prices low, and quality excellent. Set meals of rice, fish curry, lentil curry (dhal), peppery soup (rasam), a vegetable side dish and perhaps a small fried fish, served on a large steel tray (thali) with little steel bowls for the accompaniments, can go for as low as Dhs.5.
- Arabian Palace, (behind Baynunah Tower), ☎ +971 02-6343396. The decor is basic and the food, while cheap and filling, is forgettable, but the shisha here is excellent. Puff up a pipe, order their excellent "lemon with mint" drink and gaze at the skyscrapers. Dh 50.
- Anand Vegetarian Restaurant, Hamdan Street (behind Ex-Standard Chartered Bank Building and Al Mansouri Plaza), ☎ +971 2 6775599. This is a pure veg Gujrati (North Indian) style restaurant. The demand for Puri Bhaji (a deep fried bread and Potato and Chick Pea veg dish) is so great that you will have to wait your turn but it's worth it. There is a special part for ladies and families. Friday lunch with sweets and as much Puri as much as u want only at Dhs 12. Sometimes you will have to wait for 10 mins to get a roti. Dhs.10 per person Eat all you can and various.
- Anjappar Chettinad Restaurant, (Behind the NDC building on Salam St). Excellent South Indian food from the Chettinad kitchens of Madras. Food can be spicy. Portions usually small, though worth it for the taste.
- Cettinad Restaurant, (Behind ELDARADO Cinema/National Cinema, in between Hamdan and Electra street, Next to Abudhabi Floor Mill), ☎ +971 02-6777699/6780002. Authentic Chettinad food available at reasonable price. Also serving North Indian,Chinese,Tandoor and Mughalai food. Both vegetarian and Non vegetarian foods are available. From 1st Week of June 09, Cettinad Restaurant Branch will be opened in the Muroor Area, Next to Taxi Station Flyover Traffic Light, Back Side of Brightway Advertisement building, Tel : 024454331/024454332
- Rodeo Grill at the Beach Rotana Hotel is an excellent steak house that is a bit pricey.
- Prego's at the Beach Rotana Hotel is a very good Italian restaurant with a good wine selection, and an Artichoke dip appetizer to die for
- Benihana at the Beach Rotana Hotel is the world famous Teppan-yaki chain
- Zen, Al Ain Palace Hotel, ☎ +971 02-6794777, . 12PM-3PM, 7PM-12AM. The more widely known and older Japanese restaurant, serving traditional Japanese foods and drinks. The fine dining experience is accompanied with a great decor.
Only restaurants located in hotels are allowed to serve alcohol. Therefore, all nightlife is associated with hotels. The drinking age is 21, but most places don't care. Unlike some other Middle Eastern nations, the bars in Abu Dhabi will be able to accommodate most drink orders.
Technically, you are supposed to purchase a permit to buy alcohol for private storage, although Spinney's and other liquor stores usually take proof that you aren't a local Muslim (a military ID or driver's license.)
- Hemingway's, Hilton Abu Dhabi (Corniche West) – There are three different places inside. The main restaurant has a good tex-mex menu, a wide selection of beer on tap and features live music in the evening. Jazz Bar – The second venue, has great food and a good jazz band. The band normally changes every six months or so, but the quality is consistent and they take requests. The bartenders normally put on a show by tossing bottles around while mixing a mean cocktail. The third place is Cinnabar, a nightclub that normally gets going after midnight, although it can be a nice place for a quiet drink early in the evening. The music is mostly house/club, although they have a salsa night.
- The Captain's Arms Le Meridien (Eastern Abu Dhabi) – Traditional British pub located in the hotel courtyard. The pub features traditional food and a great selection of beer on tap. The large terrace is great during the cooler months of the year. A typical hang-out for the expat crowd, but try to get there early, as it attracts a large after-work crowd.
- Wakatua, Le Meridien (Eastern Abu Dhabi) is a Polynesian-themed cocktail bar located at the far end of the courtyard, right on the water. The cocktails are amazing. The Navy Grog is highly recommended. It has a nice view at night, over the water.
- Rock Bottom, at the Capital Hotel, is one of the most popular night club locations in all of Abu Dhabi. It stays open later than most venues, and is cheaper. If you get there early enough, they have decent food you can enjoy in the restaurant area. They have both a live band and an excellent DJ, along with black lights and lasers. There is even a hot dog stand later in the night, providing some delicious drunk snacks. Thur nights can get extremely crowded, be warned.
- The Embassy is a fairly new nightclub in The Emirates Palace Hotel. Though drinks are expensive, it is worth a visit. The grand hotel is a must-see in Abu Dhabi and the actual club is nicely decorated, comfortable, has great service, a balcony overlooking the hotel grounds, and provides a fun time with great music and very colorful laser shows.
- Sax is a popular night club located in The Royal Meridian Hotel (not to be confused with Le Meridian Hotel). Next door to the restaurant/bar "Oceans", Sax is a beautifully decorated club with sleek black marble floors, two bars, a DJ, and depending on the time, a Jazz band. The club is often very loud and very dark with little more than lasers lighting the room. It's not a place to go if you expect to talk at all, at least not on a weekend night. Collared shirts are required for men, and sneakers usually don't pass the bouncers either. It's not uncommon to have to pay an entry fee. There are free drinks for the ladies on Wednesday nights, so expect it to be crowded.
- PJ's is a 'traditional' Irish Pub in the Royal Meridian Hotel, boasting brunch buffets and a long happy hour. The majority of the guests are usually English/British/American/Australian. There is something entertaining going on every day of the week, from 'Quiz Night' to 'Ladies Night'. If you want to start drinking early, this is the place to go. No one will bat an eye if you order beer with brunch, and you'll probably find yourself staying for more than one round. The music earlier in the day is a mix of oldies and rock with faster-tempo songs for the late night crowd. This is also a great place to come to watch sports, as the quiet daytime atmosphere and televisions throughout ensure a pleasant experience. The outdoor seating near the hotel's pool is also a great asset on cooler days.
- Zenith at the Sheraton Corniche is nicely decorated club and has a nice sized dance floor. If you like the local Abu Dhabi crowd and Arabic music, this is a great place to go. The drinks can be expensive,but the presentation is entertaining. Just around the corner is a quiet outside venue where you can drink and smoke sheesha near a pond.
- Trader Vic's is a famous cocktail bar/restaurant located in The Beach Rotana Hotel (connected to The Abu Dhabi Mall). The flattering lighting, interesting menu, and soft but fun island music make this a great place for a date or hanging out with people you actually want to talk to. The cocktail menu is pages long, and ordering a complicated fruity concoction is a must. The drinks may be a little on the expensive side at times, but the atmostphere is great. Try ordering one of their two or four person drinks, which come in a giant fishbowl. They're a lot of fun if you don't mind sharing!
- 49ers is a steakhouse/bar. It is often quoted as "More of a meat market than a steakhouse" because of its solid reputation for prostitution. I wouldn't recommend a non-prostitute woman going there. It is uncomfortable and the men in the bar will probably assume you are for sale. The Novotel Hotel and The Sands Hotel are also notorious for their nightclubs that men frequent when looking to purchase a date for the night.
- Heroes is a friendly sports grill/bar. Located in The Crowne Hotel's basement, it offers reasonable meals, and fair drink prices. The bar is often full of men and women watching various sports games on television. Later at night they have a DJ and a live band that play softer rock songs. It is a pleasant place to hang out with friends, though the lack of windows or ventilation can make it stuffy and smoke-filled quickly.
- Mardi Gras is a small restaurant/bar located in The Capital Hotel. Its ambiance reminds one of a spa. The service is good, the drinks are reasonable, and the food is tasty. The band often leaves much to be desired, and the DJ is worse.
- The Yacht Club at the Intercontinental Hotel is newer bar/restaurant, and offers a gorgeous view of the sunset over the marina if you sit outside. Inside has a very modern, minimalistic feel. The cocktails are delicious, but expensive.
- Left Bank at the Souk at the Shangrila Hotel (between the two bridges)is a popular and lively spot. It serves a wide range of interesting cocktails (try the pineapple-ginger collins) as well as nicely prepared and presented meals. They are still new so they are trying a little harder right now, and the service tends to be pretty good. Worth the 15 to 20-minute trip out of the downtown core.
- Rabbit Hutch. The dedicated British Embassy Rabbit Hutch is a nice pub with music, a pool and a small play area for children. Although you have to know someone on the inside to get into this rather exclusive pub, the British friends and the refreshing pool is definitely worth it. They do all sorts of drinks, but don't ask for a martini, on the rocks, shaken not stirred.
The over-the-top opulence of the Emirates Palace
Hotels in Abu Dhabi used to be half price compared to Dubai but no longer. You'll be be looking at north of US$150/night. However, all are well-tended and host to first class restaurants, pools, and other high-end hotel facilities.
- Emirates Palace, Corniche East, . Built at an estimated cost of US$3 billion, this was by many accounts the world's most expensive hotel to build, with oodles of gold and marble plating every available surface. The scale of everything is gargantuan — you need directions just to find your way from the gate to the lobby! — and the hotel feels like it's straight out of Las Vegas, minus the slot machines. Day tripping visitors are welcome, and entertainment options include caviar and champagne at the Caviar Bar, a fine Cohiba and cognac at the Havana Club, or a Turkish coffee (Dh 30) at Le Cafe. Rooms for the night start from about US$500.
- Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche East, ☎ +971 02-6811900, . One of the older hotels in Abu Dhabi, but kept in good shape and recently renovated. Huge Hiltonia beach/pool/spa complex across the street (free for guests), small gym in hotel itself. "Plus" rooms face the sea but are otherwise identical to normal ones. Located a fair distance from the city center, which is both good (no construction noise) and bad (virtually nothing within walking distance). However, there are shuttle services to the Marina Mall and the city center). US$150.
- Hilton Baynunah, Corniche, ☎ +971 02-6327777, . Popular with business travelers, the Baynunah's main selling points are the central location and spacious rooms equipped with kitchens. Indoor pool, gym, small lounge open to all guests. Downsides are thin walls and a construction site next door which is unlikely to be completed before 2009. US$120.
- Beach Rotana Hotel and Towers (Beach Rotana), Tourist Club Area, ☎ +971 02-6979000, . Marble everywhere sums it up. It is luxurious and the luxury is well done from the lady who welcomes you to the hotel to the concierge. Of course, it is also expensive, very expensive if you don't arrive off peak and off peak is rare in Abu Dhabi. The Club rooms are worth it if you are having to pay full rates for the classic rooms in the main older hotel. They are not much bigger but the use of the Club lounge is valuable if you are going to be in the hotel a lot and the TV arrangements are more modern, the view wide. It now looks over the hectic construction on the new artificial islands across the creek. The rooms could use headphones to allow watching of TV at a louder but more personal level. The Club rooms jacuzzis in the bath are OK for the user but a noisy nuisance for the neighbours.
- Cristal Hotel Abu Dhabi (Four Star Business Hotel), Zayed the 1st Street (Behind Hamed Center), ☎ 00971 2 652 00 00, . checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Cristal Hotel Abu Dhabi is located in the downtown banking district just a short drive from Abu Dhabi Airport. We offer our guests 192 rooms and suites. State-of-the-art conference and business center, as well as an indoor pool and spa facilities. All of our rooms and suites have been designed with contemporary luxury in mind. Features include Cristal's unique executive desk, a 32 inch Flat Srceen LCD TV and high speed internet access. No detail has been left unattended.
- Novotel Centre Hotel Abu Dhabi (Novotel), PO box 47136 (Hamdan Street & Airport Road), ☎ +971 02-6333555, . Adequate rooms but inadequate and expensive breakfast in a tower block. Reception is cramped and lacks style. The lifts (elevators) are very slow. You pay for internet access. Only the cheerful staff and, if relevant to you, the central location redeem the place. The Chinese restaurant is said to be good, too.
- Grand Continental Flamingo (Grand Continental), P.O.Box 28080 (Visible across Capital Garden, Near Hamdan St and Khalifa Bin Zayed St), ☎ +971 02-6262200, . This is the hotel the taxis can't find. A 2 story atrium, quiet setting, rooms with bidet, bath and over-bath shower and wide screen TVs all contribute to a pleasant stay. Only the dimness of the lighting and the overdone carpets in the room lets it down. The bath towels are also a bit small. Dhs. 200.
- Park Inn Abu Dhabi Yas Island (Park Inn Abu Dhabi Yas Island), P.O.Box 93725 (Golf Plaza, Yas Island), ☎ +971 02-656 22 22, . A great new hotel in Yas Island. Clean rooms, excellent service and nice and friendly staff. The restaurant is a great option for dinner. Dhs. 550.
Other luxury hotels include:
- One To One Hotels - The Village, Al Salam Street, ☎ +971 02-4952000, . A four-star hotel.
- Le Royal Meridien, Sheikh Khalifa Street, ☎ +971 02-6742020, .
- Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort, Corniche Road, P.O. Box 640, ☎ +971 02-6773333, .
- InterContinental Abu Dhabi, .
- Le Meridien Abu Dhabi, Tourist Club Area, ☎ +971 02-6446666, .
- International Rotana Inn Hotel, .
- Millennium Hotel Abu Dhabi, Khalifa Street, PO Box 44486, ☎ +971 02-6146000, .
- Sheraton Khalidiya Hotel, Zayed the First Street, Khalidiya Area, P.O. Box 6727, ☎ +971 02-6666220, . 50.
- Hilton Corniche Residence, Corniche Road, ☎ +971 02-6276000, . 100.
- Dubai — a two-hour drive down the highway
- Al Ain — the UAE's largest oasis
- Kish Island — Iranian tourist island
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