What to do in the city, from the Grand Mosque to galleries
Explore Yas Island Whether you get there by boat, seaplane or on your own two feet, Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island provides hours of entertainment. Try stand-up paddleboarding around the marina: if you’re a beginner, you can borrow free boards and paddles every Thursday from 5pm to 8pm. Alternatively, indulge in your need for speed and passion for luxury Italian cars at Ferrari World. You’ll be able to drive a miniature supercar around a shrunken replica of Italy, then catch a ride on Formula Rossa, the fastest rollercoaster in the world, which reaches speeds of up to 240kph. Afterwards, take a stroll around the gardens of Yas Gateway Park, then melt your stress away in the spa at the five-star Yas Viceroy Hotel. Sports fans can tee off on the island’s Yas Links Golf Course and gastronomes can indulge at one of the 31 restaurants on offer. Yas Island is likely to be teeming with people during Grand Prix weekend from Friday November 2 and hotels will be impossible to come by, so we’d advise waiting a few weeks for the prices – and crowds – to drop. www.yasisland.ae/en.
Take a tour of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque See what is arguably one of the most treasured modern architectural sites in the UAE. Designed to ‘unite the world’, the mosque was built by more than 3,000 workers incorporating materials and themes from Italy, Germany, Morocco, India, Turkey and Iran. Marvel at the sheer size of the place: capable of holding almost 41,000 people, it contains 1,000 columns and 20,000 marble panels, inlaid with intricate semi-precious stones. The mosque also boasts one of the largest chandeliers ever built, plus the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet: the rug, by Iranian designer Ali Khaliqi, sits in the main prayer hall. Open Sat-Thu 9am-10pm. www.szgmc.ae/en (02 441 6444).
Go island hopping Jump on a boat or Jet-Ski and head out to sea to explore some of the 200-plus islands that surround the city. Al Maya Island boasts some of the emirate’s best beaches, Delma is one of the oldest inhabited islands in the area, Al Futaisi Island is a nature lover’s paradise, and Sir Bani Yas Island is all about the wildlife. While you’re out and about, keep your eyes open for seven species of dolphin, eight species of whale, ten species of shark and the endangered dugong, as well as pink flamingos.
Party all night For a taste of the capital’s nightlife (especially if you have some cash to splash), the place to been seen is Allure by Cipriani. The UAE outlet of this bold-faced New York restaurant institution is the prime spot on Yas Island for dancing the night away. With close proximity to the Du Arena, the club tends to draw local and international acts for after-parties following their performances at the nearby venue. Grab a copy of our sister publication, Time Out Abu Dhabi, for full listings and details of one-off events. Allure by Cipriani, Yas Island Yacht Club, www.nightcluballure.com (02 657 5400).
Discover the art scene Abu Dhabi’s cultural district on Saadiyat Island has quickly transformed itself from a blank canvas in the desert to the colourful home of the capital’s burgeoning art scene. The main galleries in the Manarat Al Saadiyat area house permanent and temporary exhibitions and also host the Abu Dhabi Art Fair, an annual four-day event that comprises art exhibitions, talks and workshops. The district’s Zayed National Museum gives visitors a taste of Emirati history through the life of HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the former ruler and first president of the UAE. The district will get an even bigger infusion of sophistication when the Jean Nouvel-designed art juggernaut Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Frank Gehry-designed contemporary art institution Guggenheim Abu Dhabi open in the near future, firmly cementing the Saadiyat district of the emirate as a true cultural beacon. Saadiyat Cultural District, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, www.saadiyat.ae (02 406 1400).