Abu Dhabi UAE

How to Spend A Weekend in Abu Dhabi

While visiting the UAE, my cousin and I took the opportunity to spend a weekend in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven kingdoms that comprise the United Arab Emirates. The capital city (of the same name) is the seat of the UAE’s federal government and home to the country’s ruling family – the Al Nahyans. While its glamourous neighbour Dubai, specializes in tourism and luxury retail, Abu Dhabi’s mainstay continues to be oil and petroleum exports. The Emirate however, has grown quite popular in recent years as a tourism destination as well as a filming location for both Hollywood and Bollywood blockbuster movies!  Here’s how to spend a weekend in Abu Dhabi!

Where To Stay

From our Dubai hotel, we took a taxi to the Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al -Beri, Abu Dhabi for a 2-night stay.

About 1.5 hours later we arrived at our destination. Did I mention that I love Arabic architecture? I chose the Shangri-La for precisely that reason. I felt like we entered an Arabian palace. We were greeted in traditional fashion with strong coffee and dates and proceeded to check in. I was surprised and pleased to see the welcome message on our room’s flat-screen!

The late afternoon and evening were spent enjoying the hotel. We sunbathed, swam in the pool and took in the view of the spectacular Grand Mosque in the distance. For dinner, we chose to eat at the hotel’s Vietnamese restaurant Hoi An. I highly recommend the duck and fish steamed in a banana leaf!

Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

A trip to Abu Dhabi is incomplete without a visit to the Grand Mosque, the largest in the UAE and a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. It was constructed between 1996-2007, its design a brilliant fusion of Islamic styles brought together to create this modern wonder of the world. The Grand Mosque was the vision of the UAE’s former president, HRH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan whose final resting place lies beside the grounds. The complex covers an area of over 22,000 m2 and boasts 82 domes of varying sizes, accommodating 41,000 worshippers. White Greek and Italian marble provide a stunning finish to the structure.

My cousin and I dressed in traditional black abayas (robe-like dresses) and shaylas (headscarves worn in the Gulf region) that we bought in Dubai and caught the hotel’s complimentary shuttle at 8.30 am to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

The interior design of the mosque is equally impressive with the 99 names/ attributes of God (Allah) written in three types of Arabic calligraphy, carved floral inlays and a 5,625 sq.m  hand-made Persian carpet in the main prayer hall. Seven massive Swarovski crystal chandeliers complete the interior.

Inscriptions of God’s name (Allah)

Floral inlays on the walls

My cousin Shena on the largest Persian carpet in the world!

One of the Swarovski crystal chandeliers!

Dressed in my abaya and shayla to visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque

TIP: All visitors to the Grand Mosque are required to dress modestly, i.e. no bare arms and legs, with ladies being required to cover their hair. The mosque provides clothing for visitors as a gesture of goodwill. Free guided tours available but you can also explore at your leisure.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:  Ultimate Beginner's Dubai Travel Guide

For more information please click here: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center

Take a Desert and Dinner Safari

We arrived back at the Shangri-La after our visit to the Grand Mosque and managed to snag the last 2 spots on that afternoon’s desert safari. We were picked up by our driver in a 4×4, 15 minutes later, and set off for the desert. Our first stop was at a camel farm where we had an up close interaction with the “ships of the desert” and met up with a small crowd of fellow travelers.

Tip – If you decide to participate in a desert safari on your UAE trip, I recommend that you do it here instead of Dubai as the landscape is more untouched, with no extreme amount of tourist traffic.

Hello there !

Next up was dune bashing! Our driver was a young Pakistani with superb driving skills who took us on a high-speed roller coaster ride to the top of the high dunes, then slid us down, always in full control of the 4×4 while we screamed ourselves silly in the back seat during the 45-minute experience. The exhilaration of dune bashing was followed by a short rest to admire the beauty of the desert landscape before we made our way to the Arabian “Village”.

Destination Tidbit – The impressive sand dunes of Abu Dhabi were used as the first shooting location of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and were chosen precisely for their incomparable beauty!

The desert is beautiful!

The last stop on the safari was the Arabian “Village”, where I headed to a nearby table and ate some salt to ward off some nausea brought on from the dune bashing and partook of coffee and dates. At the Village, we stopped at the various tents to rest, try on traditional Arab clothing, get henna painted on our hands and take camel rides. As the evening grew dark, a sumptuous feast of Arabic/Indian cuisine was served followed by belly dancing performances and shisha smoking around a fire. Stargazing concluded our safari as all the lights in the “Village” were switched off, giving us an unparalleled view of the desert night sky, free from light pollution.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:  UAE Trip Planning Tips

Tip: Walk with a warm jacket as temperatures plummet in the desert at night!


I got a need… a need…for SPEED!

Ferrari World is a must for racing fans, automobile lovers and families alike. From the Shangri-La Hotel , the shuttle took guests to Yas Island, home of Ferrari World about 20 minutes away. After getting your tickets the thrills begin!

Oh yeah !!!

Got my ticket!

As you enter, be sure to visit the Galleria Ferrari to get up close and personal (no touching!) with Ferrari’s gorgeous collection of classic and contemporary automobiles. You will hear the roar of engines as you pass by each model and learn about:

  • The company’s car making history
  • Its participation in the Formula 1 circuit since the competition’s inception
  • Facts about each car as you go along from one model to the other

After visiting the Galleria, make your way to the fastest roller coaster in the world…the Formula Rossa! Get yourself strapped in, put on your goggles and feel your heart hammer before you get shot like an arrow at 240km/hour in 4.9 seconds! The roller coaster scales heights of 52 metres and you will feel the adrenaline rush of 4.8Gs. I crossed the finish line feeling like a champion and… because it was so nice, I did it twice!

For a leisurely change of pace after all the thrill rides, take some moments to fully appreciate where you are by looking up and recognizing the Legends of Ferrari whose achievements on the F1 circuit made Ferrari great!

Afterward, move over to the nearby Bell’Italia where you can get into a scaled down Ferrari 250 California and explore Italy in miniature! The tour takes you around scenic “Portofino”, “Amalfi Coast”, “Monza Racetrack”, the “Colosseum di Roma”, “Venezia”, and  “Maranello”.

On the “Viaggio in Italia”- a simulated ride that utilizes hydraulic technology- you will be taken on a joyride through Italy’s cities, villages and mountains while a member of Ferrari’s team provides narration about the company throughout.

Before leaving, be sure to browse the Ferrari Store and pick up a souvenir item to remember your exciting and action-packed day! My dad loved his red Ferrari World tee. As you can see, he’s worn it quite a bit!



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  • Reply
    Best Desert Safari Dubai
    at 11:40 AM

    your blog and especially picture are creating one thing clear that you enjoyed a lot there, your way of sharing your feeling about the tour is so good. Thanks for allowing to comment here

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    at 11:54 PM

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    Sage Scott
    at 12:16 AM

    I’ve only been to Dubai. I think Abu Dhabi would be more my style! 🙂

  • Reply
    at 8:20 PM

    Wow I enjoyed this post so much. That part of the world seems totally different and interesting. Loved reading it. I would love to visit one day.

  • Reply
    at 7:55 PM

    OMG! Everything looks incredible! The hotel, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the desert….ever since watching Sex and the City 2 I’ve had Abu Dhabi on my radar. This makes me want to go even more!

  • Reply
    at 3:21 PM

    WOW! The hotel looks amazing. Looks like you really got to immerse yourself in the culture which is something I love about travel.

  • Reply
    at 2:02 PM

    Gosh – your hotel looks so luxurious! And I love the architecture, the mosque looks quite incredible! And i love the Camel safari, that looks like so much fun, and the dunes looks so graceful. I’ma Star Wars nerd too, so i’ll have to visit!

  • Reply
    at 12:02 PM

    You got to see and do so much in one weekend! I’m impressed! The hotel looks beautiful. The desert safari looked like a great experience!
    Kathrine recently posted…Day Trip from Rome: Ostia AnticaMy Profile

  • Reply
    at 10:06 AM

    What a great part of the world! The mosque is stunningly beautiful, and the hotel looks absolutely wonderful!! This has definitely put Abu Dhabi on my radar, which is great as it wasn’t somewhere I’d previously considered – definitely interested now!

  • Reply
    Louise Allonby
    at 9:48 AM

    Abu Dhabi looks incredible. I always fly via there or Dubai but have never done a transit but I sure do want to, the culture, the food, the warm welcomes. It’s very tempting. Very well documented post.

  • Reply
    at 9:39 AM

    This looks like an awesome weekend getaway. So many people go to Dubai but miss Abu Dhabi. The camels are so cute, I think that would have been my favorite part of the trip!

  • Reply
    at 9:35 AM

    Grand Mosque is amazing! It’s so surreal. I’ve been to Ferrari World as well. But Shangri La stole the show in this blog of yours. Love it!

  • Reply
    at 9:35 AM

    Great tips. My sister is moving to Dubai soon, so I’m sure I’ll be heading that side of the world a lot. Will make sure to include a trip to Abu Dhabi on one of the trips 🙂 Ferrari World looks like fun!

  • Reply
    best desert safari in dubai
    at 3:37 AM

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    Michelle Dela Cerna
    at 4:34 AM

    Hi, I am Michelle Dela Cerna currently based in Dubai, I am your avid reader of your blog since then and somehow you give me an interesting idea about Abu Dhabi.


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    Alessa Bommer
    at 2:31 AM

    Abu Dhabi is indeed a beautiful and luxury place. But the impression I get from Abu Dhabi is that it is a serious. From your pictures, though, I get the fun and chill side of Abu Dhabi. And the mosque is absolutely stunning! The biggest Persian carpet in the world? UEA is definitely have so many mosts in the world! Aww you see a camel, like actually a camel! I wish I could see one too. Thank you for sharing the side I am not aware of Abu Dhabi. You should come and explore Bali too. Get your family with you too. Check our luxury villas out for your accommodation here. We have 5 bedrooms villa and I promise you’ll love us and Bali! Please do check us out, thank you!

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    at 11:27 PM

    Free info like this is an apple from the tree of knogdelwe. Sinful?

  • Reply
    at 5:17 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing your travel story to Abu Dhabi and many useful tips. About a year ago we were blessed with the opportunity to visit Dubai for 4 days but we were not able to make it to this amazing city of Abu Dhabi. May be next time!!!
    Dmitriy recently posted…Almaty – jewel of Central AsiaMy Profile

  • Reply
    Teddy Angert
    at 2:05 PM

    I’ll admit Abu Dhabi has never been on my list, but your photos are gorgeous. Thanks for the insight into this far from ordinary place!

    • Reply
      at 10:56 PM

      That adeesrsds several of my concerns actually.

  • Reply
    Joy Generoso
    at 12:44 PM

    Wow! This is a very timely post since my husband and I are planning a short visit in Abu Dhabi soon. All the attractions and things to do you listed here are also in my itinerary. I can’t wait to see Abu Dhabi!

  • Reply
    Geemiz Travel
    at 9:41 AM

    This weekend guide is very convenient and helpful. Abu Dhabi is such a wonderful place. I so want to visit grandest and biggest mosque.

  • Reply
    Lily Travella
    at 5:29 PM

    That food! Those Mosques! That swimming pool! Stunning photos! It’s a little out of my price range, but I’d love to see Abu Dhabi.

  • Reply
    Wendy Maes
    at 4:19 PM

    Thanks for sharing. I was in Dubai and Oman but Abu Dhabi is still on my list. Will look for Shangri La when I go.

  • Reply
    Jamie Italiane
    at 3:38 PM

    We lucky girls you are! If I get to Abu Dabi I’ll follow your suggestions.

  • Reply
    Lisa Linh
    at 2:23 PM

    Your hotel was gorgeous and the Mosque is beautiful. I love that you can get into the miniature car, so cute!
    What a fun trip.

  • Reply
    at 1:49 PM

    A weekend well spent. The architecture and the lavish decors are really amazing. Your sand dunes experience seemed to be a lot of fun.
    Ricci recently posted…Solo Travel: My Not So Ordinary Travel Story at Mt. TapyasMy Profile

  • Reply
    at 11:03 AM

    Isn’t that Mosque breathtaking? I was mesmerised! Wished I had more time to admire it but I was with a day tour and it was a really short trip.

    Realised I went for the desert safari tour by the same company, from seeing the belly dancer. She’s so good right?!? Dances so well to the music! 💃🏼
    Kristine recently posted…The Best & Worst of my Travels in 2016My Profile

    • Victoria Hawkins
      Victoria Hawkins
      at 10:16 AM

      It was a spectacular structure indeed! The belly dancer was awesome too. Do you remember the name of the company ? We booked the tour and left for the tour so quickly I didn’t have time to ask!

      • Reply
        at 11:14 PM

        The voice of raolinaitty! Good to hear from you.

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    at 5:57 PM

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    • Victoria Hawkins
      Victoria Hawkins
      at 10:11 AM

      Thank you so very much for your kind words! My blog theme is a paid one from Themeforest with this particular structure. Unfortunately I don’t know much about coding to customize it more and cannot use Photoshop well at all, but I intend to change that this new year! As for my writing, I really want to move beyond “Listicles” – 10 things to do etc etc LOL.

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      at 11:46 PM

      This piece was cogent, wetw-lritlen, and pithy.

  • Reply
    at 11:02 PM

    I have always wanted to start cataloging all my travel experiences but could never get around to to it……maby reading about your experiences will give me the impetus to do a review or 2….. btw this was great!!!!!

    • Victoria Hawkins
      Victoria Hawkins
      at 10:34 AM

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it Larry! You’ve had some awesome trips and experiences yourself! Cataloging, blogging is hard work eh but you’ll feel the satisfaction of imparting valuable info and actually helping people get out and realize that there’s a world outside our little island!

  • Reply
    at 4:28 PM

    Your experiences were very well documented and it was great to see the actual pics. Keep it up.
    Next trip??? South America???
    elizabeth recently posted…How to Spend A Weekend in Abu DhabiMy Profile

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