Abu Dhabi is the capital and second largest city in the United Arab Emirates. It lies on a T-shaped peninsula and has a population of almost a million. It is the center of political, commercial, and cultural activities and is famous for its gorgeous and fast-growing architecture. The area used to be inhabited by the Bedouin tribe but now is a modern business mecca. If you are returning from a trip overseas – as we did on our way back from India – and have a chance to stopover in Abu Dhabi, even just a short 24 hours in the city could give you a good overview of the history and personality of this great city. Abu Dhabi is both historical and modern, so be sure to see both aspects of the city during your brief stay.
The Abu Dhabi airport is a modern building located just outside of the city. Many visitors consider it as a tourist attraction as well!
October through February is the best time to be in town given the fact Ramadan is over. Temperatures are lower and rainfall is minimum; even if you can’t schedule your stopover for these months, a day in this beautiful city is still well worth it!
24-hour Stopover in Abu Dhabi
Start the morning by taking the free tour at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. You can certainly tour the Mosque on your own, but walking through with a tour guide enables you to learn about the history and details of the grand building. The first tour of the day is at 10 a.m. but arrive early to secure a spot and enjoy wandering around on your own. Visitors are able to tour this site from 9 am until 10 pm each day, so if you really enjoy your tour, you can come back after dinner and see this grand structure in the evening lights!
Stroll along the Corniche promenade and enjoy the pristine beaches and grab lunch at one of its many local eateries.
Finish your stroll at the Emirate’s Palace Hotel for a luxurious afternoon tea! This hotel is extremely lavish, complete with a gold ATM. Enjoy delicious cakes and other sweet treats. You may not be able to afford to stay at this incredible hotel, but why not enjoy it for an hour?
Head over to the Heritage Village and Marina Village which will give you an opportunity to see how life used to be in the UAE for the Bedouin people who can still be found in the desert. You will see mud houses, markets and even have the opportunity to ride a camel. While there, be sure to take in the view of the city from the marina!
Next, visit the Central Market Souk where you will see different shops, gifts, and even henna shops where you can get temporary henna tattoos to commemorate your trip.
Cap the evening off with dinner at the Lebanese Flower where you can try traditional dishes like hummus and lentil soup as well as a large variety of fresh juices. A must.
Finally, after lingering over your delicious meal, you could catch a cab and ask for the driver to take you by some of the many modern buildings that the UAE is famous for including Capitol Gate and the US Embassy. You could also end the day just as you started it: enjoying one of Abu Dhabi’s most popular and well-known attractions, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This grand structure is worth viewing twice, even on a short visit to Abu Dhabi. Either option is a great way to end your day in this exciting city!
Some Abu Dhabi useful information
The U.S. Embassy is located in the Embassies District at Plot 38, Sector W59-02, Street No. 4. The Embassy can be reached at 917-2-414-2200.
Hospitals include Al Corniche Hospital, 971-2-672-4900 and Sheik Khalifa Medical City, 971-2-610-2000, and American European Medical Center, 971-2-445-5477 (Sat – Th, 9-9).
Abu Dhabi Traveling Tips
- Make sure you wear appropriate clothes in Abu Dhabi
- Be aware that smoking is banned in Abu Dhabi, but many restaurants and establishments have smoking rooms.
- Tipping is not expected at restaurants as service charges are included.
- Be sure to check the dates of your vacation to see if it coincides with Ramadan. Many attractions shut down for at least part of the day during Ramadan, so you will have to plan accordingly.
In truth, Abu Dhabi has enough history and attractions that you could enjoy several days exploring! However, if you only have time for a one-day stopover, it’s worth it! 24 hours isn’t enough time to see and do everything, but it is enough time to see at least a little beauty and history in this great city.