From surfing in the desert to shopping at a gold vending machine
Time Out Abu Dhabi staff
Art and culture Take a trip in a futuristic car There are many incredible sights at Masdar City, Abu Dhabi’s eco town near the airport. The architecture evokes the spirit of desert planet Tatooine from the original Star Wars movie. The wind tunnel, which controls the temperature even in summer, is a technological marvel, but our favourite part of a visit here is a ride in the driverless cars which take you from the car park to the city itself. Again, the vibe is very 1970s sci-fi movies; think The Black Hole and Logan’s Run as you eerily cruise along. www.masdarcity.ae.
Withdraw gold from a vending machine at Emirates Palace If you’re after an ostentatious souvenir of your time in Abu Dhabi then the gold ATM at Emirates Palace is where to go. Even the machine is finished in gold leaf. Dish out on a 1g, 5g or 10g coin and pay according to the current price of gold thanks to a computer that tracks it inside. It’s a wonderful souvenir, but may also be a sound investment. Emirates Palace, Ras Al Akhdar, www.emiratespalace.com (02 690 9000).
Look into the shadows Jordanian artist Bassam al Selawi’s shadow reflective art has caused quite a stir in Abu Dhabi since its exhibition at the Rosewood Hotel. These miniature sculptures are carved in such a way that when light is cast upon them, incredibly detailed shadows of camels, people and a whole lot more appear on the walls behind them. They are weird, intriguing and definitely worth checking out. Abu Dhabi Art Hub, Mussafah (02 551 5005).
Watch robots race camels If watching a robot ride one of our single humped friends wasn’t strange enough, the reason why this even takes place is pretty weird in itself – Abu Dhabi’s robot jockeys replaced kids back in 2002 and it’s illegal to use children now. These androids of the desert weigh around 3kg, have whips and two-way radios and are remotely controlled by operators who drive alongside in cars. So where can you watch this spectacle in Abu Dhabi? The Al Wathba Camel Race Track (about 45km east of Abu Dhabi on the Al Ain Road), or the Al Maqam Track near Al Ain. The Camel Racing Federation, Al Wathba (02 583 9200).
Visit the National Automobile Centre HH Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan’s spectacular car collection is impressive both in number (there are 200 cars) and style. It’s home to the largest two-wheeled caravan (20m by 12m, with eight bedrooms and bathrooms and four garages) and the world’s largest motorised jeep (four times the size of a normal jeep). Dhs50 entry, Al Gharbia, www.enam.ae (050 810 2211).
Join an anime club If you’re looking to dress-up like a Japanese cartoon or computer game character then these guys can help. Amazing outfits and ‘cosplay’ conventions (like the one happening at Al Ain Mall on September 6) are just part of what this dedicated social group gets up to. Japanese and Korean culture, anime and Manga films and even learning Japanese are all on the agenda. Some may think its all a bit weird, but we reckon it’s pretty cool. Abu Dhabi Anime Club, www.facebook.com/AbuDhabianimeclub.
Charter a dhow This one’s definitely a bargain as you get to enjoy dinner while on a dhow cruise. Learn about the heritage of the UAE onboard one of the boats traditionally used by merchants and pearl traders. Abu Dhabi Dhow Cruise offers excursions leaving at lunch time and in the evening. If you fancy seeing Abu Dhabi in a more modern vessel, Belevari Marine offers similar trips on a catamaran. www.abudhabidhowcruise.com, www.belevari.com.
Ride a camel at Qasr Al Sarab This resort is a must-try if you want a real luxurious getaway in the Liwa Desert. It does two camel treks daily; one in the early morning and one at sunset. It will soon become clear why these animals are known as ‘ships of the desert’, because even though they walk quite slowly, the motion is both back and forward and side to side. A once-in- a-lifetime experience. Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, www.qasralsarab.anantara.com (02 886 2088).
Sport and outdoor Have a wild west shootout There are plenty of places around the globe to take part in a bit of paintball warfare, but Abu Dhabi likes to take things one step further. Head to Al Forsan and you won’t be hiding from your mates just in bushes, you’ll be running around a saloon, jailhouse and a bank. You can even take part in a cowboy-inspired high noon shootout, where you’ll walk duel with Tippmann paintball pistols and holsters. John Wayne, eat your heart out. Sas Al Nakhl, www.alforsan.com (02 556 8555).
Take to the skies Want to experience a skydive but a bit too chicken/sensible to actually jump out of a plane? Take a spacewalk instead. The wind tunnel at Abu Dhabi Country Club blows air upwards at 875hp, which means you can feel what it’s like to be plummeting towards the Earth without actually having to jump. There is a 90kg weight limit. Abu Dhabi Country Club, 19th Street (02 446 3653).
Ride a wave in the desert It’s a safe bet that The Beach Boys never considered a follow up to ‘Surfing USA’ called ‘Surfing UAE’, but it is actually possible to learn to surf in our emirate – and you can even learn in landlocked Al Ain. Wadi Adventure is home to a man-made wave machine which can create a wave as high as 3m every 90 seconds. Dhs100 for 55 minutes, Al Ain, www.wadiadventure.ae (03 781 8422).
Explore with a diver propulsion vehicle Unleash your inner James Bond by taking lessons at the Al Mahara Diving Center on a propulsion vehicle (which helps divers go further and deeper). Explore Abu Dhabi’s waters with a PADI day-course, which includes two dives. It’ll cost you Dhs1,200. www.divemahara.com (02 643 7377).
Run on the F1 track at Yas There’s a good chance you’ve gone to Yas to see the F1 or have eaten at one of the restaurants overlooking the stunning track, but have you ever run on it? Every Tuesday evening, Yas Marina Circuit offers a unique training ground for cyclists and runners and it’s free of charge. Wednesdays is ladies only. www.yasmarinacircuit.com.
Have a go at paddle yoga Yoga is for flexible people. Paddleboarding is for people with balance. If you combine the two, you get the extremely tricky but also strangely relaxing past-time of paddleboard yoga. Lessons are held in groups of up to 11 people. Go with friends and guess who’ll be falling in the water first. Watercooled UAE, Hiltonia Beach Club at Hilton Hotel, Corniche (02 639 5997).
Shopping Shop for gold Next to Madinat Zayed Mall is the Madinat Zayed Gold Centre. Dealers don’t seem to turn up until after 4pm, but there’s no denying that this gleaming den is the place to go to if gold is your thing. Generally there are deals to be had and haggling to be done, but you need to remember the bargaining is on the ‘maker’s fee’ rather than the value of the actual gold which is non-negotiable. Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre, www.madinatzayed-mall.com (02 633 3311).