Thursday, November 7, 2013

Free Things to Do in Abu Dhabi

Standing its ground as the second most expensive city in the Middle East, Abu Dhabi can certainly be a costly place to visit. 

1. Explore the area - Abu Dhabi is rich in sites that allow tourists to gain an insight into the culture of the city. Free guided tours of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world.  The breathtaking mosque sits on land the size of five football fields, whilst the columns shine with marble panels and semi-precious stones.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

2. Shopping - If you can avoid buying anything, shopping in Abu Dhabi can be an interesting free experience, with plenty of souks to explore. The fish market at the mina end of the city can make for a great early morning walk, with the locally caught fish being on display. An Iranian souk can also be found near the fish market, which boasts an interesting range of plants, pots and other homeware items that are brought across the Arabian Gulf to be sold as they are unloaded by Iranians. The gold souk next to Madinat Zayed shopping centre, the carpet souk in the port area and the fruit and vegetable souk close to the Central Post Office on Airport Road give an insight into the daily life and culture of the city. 

Iranian souk

3. Get active - The Jebel Hafeet Mountain is the third largest in the United Arab Emirates, and whilst it has a road from the bottom to the top that you can drive up, it is also possible to walk all the way to the summit of the mountain too. The peak of the mountain offers panoramic views of the country and the walk up provides a mixed range of flora and fauna to admire.
Jebel Hafeet Mountain

4. Appreciate the art - Located in the middle of downtown Abu Dhabi, the Cultural Foundation is the artistic centre of the city. Open daily, the centre has a range of performances to catch with exhibitions and lectures being free. The Manarat Al Saadiyat is an arts and cultural centre that features four gallery spaces that often provide great free exhibitions as well. Showing works by flourishing national and international artists, the Ghaf Gallery is a villa-based gallery that is slowly becoming one of the most established in the city, which can also be explored for free. The Barakat Gallery specialises in ancient art, with displays including antiquities from Africa, Asia and Europe. Whilst every item is on sale for those who wish to make a purchase, the galleries can be explored at no cost. 
Manarat Al Saadiyat

5. Watch a camel race - Taking place in the revolutionary Al Wathba Racetrack stadium every weekend is the highly competitive camel race that locals flock to watch. If you have a 4x4 available, you can join in by driving alongside the camels for the best view. The race is one of the most traditional sports in the United Arab Emirates, however in recent times robots have replaced jockeys, giving the race a futuristic feel. Other races that can be watched for free are the annual dhow races in February, the Red Bull Air Race in March, the powerboating races in November and jet skiing races which take place throughout the year.
 Al Wathba Racetrack

6. Visit the museums - The Emirates National Auto Museum displays one of the world’s most diverse collections of vehicles from giant Range Rovers to Mercedes in every colour of the rainbow, providing a unique visiting experience. Whilst entry is free, occasionally you may be asked for a small donation to enter the museum.
The Emirates National Auto Museum

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