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8 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Abu Dhabi

I love Abu Dhabi, the capital city and one of the seven states that make up the country of the United Arab Emirates. Stunning beaches, expansive deserts, luxury hotels and immaculate mosques—it’s a beautiful mix of ancient tradition and modern marvel.

Culturally, the UAE might be a little different from what you’re used to, but by keeping a few simple things in mind, you’ll feel confident diving right in. Here’s a few things you should know before your trip.

1. Go to the Grand Mosque.

Grand Mosque - Abu Dhabi

Yep, this place is pretty amazing. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is actually pretty new, with the building opening in 2007. It was designed to highlight the cultural diversity of Islamic world, drawing from historical and modern values of architecture and art. The stark white pillars against the blue sky are simply breathtaking. Just go, go, go!

2. Dress Code

Samantha Brown _ Abu Dhabi

Unless you’re relaxing in your hotel room, ladies need to cover shoulders and knees. This has a benefit beyond just being culturally respectful—all that sun can easily lead to sunburn city! It’s good to protect your skin with breathable, lightweight fabrics. And while temperatures outdoors may be scorching hot, when you head inside it’s FAH-REEEEZING! I brought a large, lightweight scarf that I could wrap around my neck, shoulders or use as a headscarf.

3. Mosque Manners

Samantha Brown - Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

Women aren’t expected to cover their heads all the time, but it’s a must at the Grand Mosque. Women are also prohibited from wearing tight clothing (sorry, yoga pants). Both men and women are prohibited from wearing anything sleeveless, like tanks tops, tee and polo shirts. Leave your cargo short and jorts at the hotel, too—they’re banned for all mosque visitors.

4. Photo Faux Pas

Does a trip count if you don’t have the selfie to prove you were there? In this case, yes. While at the Grand Mosque, it’s natural to want to snap a selfie with your group. However, that means you’re touching, which is a big no-no!

5. Get on the Water

Samantha Brown on the Persian Gulf

When we hear on the news about the “Persian Gulf”, it’s rarely good events. And yet the gulf’s waters are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The view is spectacular, the sailing is fantastic and invigorating. A few hours spent here undoes a decade of nightly newscasts.

6. Eat with an Open Mind

Meylas Food Truck - Abu Dhabi

In China you eat Chinese, in Italy Italian and so on, but in Abu Dhabi you’ll find it’s not so easy to find a place that serves authentic Emirati food. Struggle not and head to Shaikha Al Kaabi’s food truck Meylas. She’s the first person to run a food truck in the UAE. Meyeylas means a gathering place and it features food from the recipes of Ms. Al Kabbi’s mother and grandmother. Shaikha’s smile and hospitality is singular to none, and it’s one of those food experiences you’ll remember for a lifetime.

7. Take a Walk

When the sun finally sets, all of Abu Dhabi heads to the waterfront for a long stroll. Head to the Corniche, a walkway along the seacoast, for a leisurely walk teeming with local color.

8. Road Trip to Dubai!

photo by Terry Ratcliff - Stuck in Customs
photo by Terry Ratcliff – Stuck in Customs

If Rome and Paris were an hour from each other would you pass on going to them both?  Of course not, so make sure you take in two of the most futuristic cities one trip.  Head to the top of the Burj Khalifa the tallest building in the world for obvious bragging rights.

8 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Abu Dhabi

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Can’t wait to see if you are heading to Texas so I can “accidentally” bump into you and hear your two questions!!?
    Glad you are back!!! ☺️

  2. In the mosque you are also not allowed to point or raise your hands above your head. I learned that hard way and got scolded by security for taking my “not so famous” pose with my arms above my head which is my way of saying “love this place”! Not in the mosque though! You must also remove your shoes when inside the mosque. There are rules to follow!

  3. Short and interesting tips to imbibe before embarking on UAE tour. I liked the picture of Grand Mosque the most. I’ve heard and read a lot about this magnificent mosque. So, it’s a natural inclusion on my bucket list. Would have loved this blog further had it thrown some more lights on the procedures and etiquette to follow while inside the mosque.

  4. We are going to Dubai in March for three days enroute to Italy , we will go to Abu Dhabi for the day and go to the Mosque, can we carry our shoes or this there somewhere safe to leave them . Thank you

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Samantha Brown - Abu Dhabi
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