The list of things to do in Abu Dhabi is virtually endless, so it’s natural to be overwhelmed when deciding which ones to try. Abu Dhabi is a treasure trove of diverse experiences, with dozens of sky-piercing towers, architectural masterpieces, historical landmarks, and entertainment hubs. Whether you are looking for cool and unusual things to do in Abu Dhabi or prefer action and adventure over all else, the UAE capital city promises to deliver impeccable holiday experiences to all. Here are some of the Top 10 Cool and Unusual Things to do on the Abu Dhabi City Tour.
The Top 10 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in Abu Dhabi
1. Masdar City
In Light of Climate Change As one of the most dangerous threats to humanity on the planet, a company called “Masdar in the United Arab Emirates planned to build a 100% green city in 2006. That’s right—a fully functional city that produces no greenhouse gases. They used it to construct a central plaza of modern terracotta buildings with an Arab texture to house up to 1500 green energy businesses.
The city was designed to house 50,000 workers, plus an additional 60,000 from the surrounding areas, with the majority of them working toward a clean energy future. Masdar City’s operators devised contraptions that would take hot desert air from the sky and convert it to cool ground air, allowing Masdar City to be up to 20 oC cooler than neighbouring Abu Dhabi.
This clean energy would also be used to power a completely green transportation grid. This transit system is comprised of electrically powered Personal Rapid Transit vehicles, which are pods that circulate the city’s underground and are accessible to all residents. They were supposed to provide nonstop transportation from point A to point B for groups of three to six people.
In addition to the PRT system, the city caters to pedestrians and cyclists, and the only cars permitted are electric ones. Movement sensors have been integrated into the city to replace water taps and light switches, reducing water and energy consumption by more than 50% each. In just a few short years, Masdar City became the world’s first carbon-neutral city.
Except for one flaw: it was never completed. The original goal was to have the city finished by 2016. However, due to the late-2000s global financial crisis, the project has stalled, and current estimates have it completed by 2030—a deadline extension of nearly 250%. Only 5% of the original “greenprint” has been completed as of today. Masdar City is now a green ghost town. Except that it’s not even that green. After the mission was declared a failure, the city planners abandoned the zero-carbon concept and are now constructing the rest of the city to be 50% carbon-neutral.
2. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan is widely regarded as the father of the UAE. As the country’s first president, he worked to bring the UAE into the modern era, and he was caught in a crossfire between modernity and tradition throughout his reign. In 1996, he began construction on the Grand Mosque as a lasting memorial to his struggle.
Sheikh Zayed died in 2004 and was buried on the mosque grounds. The impressive building, which cost $545 million to build, finally opened its doors to the public three years later. It is one of the world’s largest mosques, with a capacity of 40,000 worshippers. However, its size is not its most remarkable feature. The world’s largest carpet, weighing 35 tonnes and covering 60,000 square feet, is housed within the prayer hall.
The carpet, which has over 2.3 billion knots, represents the mosque’s monumental effort. The prayer room also has several massive chandeliers adorned with Swarovski crystals. The mosque, which attracts more than just worshippers, has carried on Sheikh Zayed’s fight between the modern world and traditions.
3. Ferrari world
Ferrari’s world-famous supercars are completely made in Maranello, Italy, but the world’s only Ferrari-themed amusement park is located over 2,800 miles away in the arid deserts of the United Arab Emirates. The exorbitant wealth of Ferrari is on full display at this outrageous supercar emporium. Ferrari World is the world’s largest indoor theme park, spanning over 900,000 square feet and resembling a massive three-pointed star from above, complete with a 215-foot version of Ferrari’s yellow prancing horse logo on the curved red roof.
Inside the theme park, visitors can visit an operating Ferrari factory, ride in a real Ferrari, and browse a gallery of 70 years of Ferrari models. The “Bell’Italia” ride transports visitors on a Ferrari through a miniature diorama of Italy’s wonders, such as Venice, the Roman Colosseum, the Amalfi Coast, and, of course, Ferrari’s hometown of Maranello.
The park also has the world’s tallest roller coaster loop and the famous “Formula Rossa,” a thrill ride that sets the world record for roller coaster speed with a top speed of 149mph. Ferrari World has been named one of the best tourist attractions in the Middle East, and the amusement park is set to expand to Spain and Orlando in the coming years.
4. Yas Island Hotel
The otherworldly lights seen off the coast of Abu Dhabi are being provided by the recently built Yas Viceroy Hotel. Yas Island, one of the city’s major investment projects, includes the hotel. The new F1 Yas Marina Circuit, which the hotel is built over, is the island’s main attraction. Bridges span directly over and above the F1 race circuit, connecting two elliptical hotel towers. The Grid Shell, a 217-meter curving, semi-transparent canopy that houses the world’s largest LED lighting system, covers both towers.
This LED-lit, color-changing canopy is the focal point of the luxury hotel and can be seen from several kilometres away. Inside, the hotel’s 499 rooms are equally modern, and there are twelve dining and entertainment options. The F1 circuit has been in operation since the 2009 season, and it is the Middle East’s second F1 circuit after the track in Bahrain.
When no races are held, the circuit allows anyone to experience the exhilarating speed of an F1 circuit, either as a driver or as a passenger. The motorsports-themed amusement park, Ferrari World, the world’s first theme park by the sports car manufacturer, is located near the hotel and the race track. Once completed, Yas Island will house another theme park, a water park, two marinas, several hotels, and two golf courses. Yas Island was named the world’s premier tourism project in 2009 by the World Travel Awards.
5. Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
Aside from visiting a zoo, getting up close and personal with large birds of prey is uncommon. Rows of mighty, sharp-taloned falcons, tamely and peacefully perched side by side on green AstroTurf stands with hoods covering their eyes as they wait to be seen by clinic staff, are a sight to behold. This behind-the-scenes look is one of the highlights of a 2-hour tour in which you will learn everything you ever wanted to know about falcons: their history, physiology, and, most importantly, their role as the national bird in Abu Dhabi’s culture. The falconry was established in 1999 with the sole intention of caring for falcons.
Since then, the hospital’s offerings have grown, including the introduction of this tour programme and the provision of general veterinary services for pets. The facility is close to Abu Dhabi International Airport. Keep an eye out for the lone signboard that pops up along the expressway. Watch the birds being examined, the clinic staff tending to their charges, and perhaps even the resident falcon perching on your hand and nibbling at your fingers.
6. Fossil Dunes of Al Wathba
The Al Wathba Fossil Dunes are a little-known attraction on Abu Dhabi’s outskirts. The vast desert feels like a scene from any of the “Star Wars” films, with the huge sun setting in the distance. These petrified fossil dunes are much smaller in person than they appear in photographs. When the area was covered by water a few million years ago, eroded sediments settled at the bottom of these bodies of water.
Other layers of sediment covered the fine-grained sand over time. Different minerals, mostly salt crystals, compacted and cemented the layers together, forming stable structures.The formations were formed by the interaction of wind strength and sediment supply. Despite relatively consistent prevailing wind directions in the modern-day UAE, dune patterns and alignments vary significantly from area to area.
This enables geologists to gain a better understanding of the history of landforms and rock formations. These dune patterns are works of art, each with their own distinct shape. During the early morning hours, the location is ideal for a picnic, and in the evenings, it is ideal for camping. The sand formations are extremely fragile and some have already fallen victim to human negligence, so please admire them from afar and avoid climbing on them.
7. Capital Gate
The curvaceous Capital Gate Skyscraper is a distinguishing feature of Abu Dhabi’s skyline. It is one of the city’s tallest buildings, standing at 525 feet (160 metres). The eye is drawn to the 35-story building’s seemingly gravity-defying incline rather than its height. Capital Gate construction began in 2007 and was completed in 2011.
To build such a tilted structure, the architectural firm behind the skyscraper, RMJM Architects, had to get creative. The core was built with 15,000 cubic metres of concrete reinforced with 10,000 tonnes of steel and has a slight incline in the opposite direction of the building’s eventual lean. As the structure grew taller, the skyscraper was supported by the pre-cambered core, which was gradually pulled up and compressed into a vertical position.
Without the building’s solid foundation, this battle against gravity would not have gotten very far. The skyscraper is supported by 490 pilings, the largest of which is three feet and three inches in diameter (one meter). These extend 89 feet (30 metres) below ground, providing stability against the incline’s gravitational pull. And how steep is the ascent? The Capital Gate, on the other hand, has an 18-degree westward incline.
That’s four times the weight of Pisa’s Leaning Tower, which now leans about 3.97 degrees. Capital Gate has been named the world’s “farthest manmade leaning building,” breaking the record previously held by the mediaeval Leaning Tower of Suurhusen. Another notable feature of the building’s exterior is the sculptural stainless steel “splash” that flows down the front of the skyscraper. It flows out horizontally near ground level, creating a canopy over the hotel’s entrance and acting as a solar shield to keep the building cool.
8. The Emirates National Automobile Museum
Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan may be the most obnoxious and extravagant billionaire on the planet. He might tell you that, and he’d probably accept the title proudly. Then he’d probably show you his most prized possession: a museum housed in a custom-built pyramid housing a car collection that would rival any music video.
After his personal car collection grew so large and bizarre, he decided to give back to the community by establishing a museum to house all of his famous automobiles. Sheikh Hamad, known for going above and beyond, built a massive white pyramid to display his cars on the island of Al Futaysi, where he has also carved his name in the sand.
The museum is filled to the brim with vintage cars, convertibles, and, of course, Sheikh Hamad’s custom-made vehicles. His famous earth-shaped mobile home and the crowd-pleasing Mercedes monster truck round out his collection. His other mobile home, which resembles Jabba’s flying palace in Return of the Jedi, is arguably the oddest of his collection. It is the world’s largest mobile home on two wheels.
9. The First Gold-Dispensing ATM in the World
Based on the idea that flowers are “more expensive as a man, you don’t get as many points at home as if you bring gold. “The German company TG Gold-Super-Markt began providing the public with a service that it longed for: ATMs dispensing funds in cold, hard bullion instead of cash. After a single day of testing in a Frankfurt train station, the world’s first gold bar-dispensing ATM debuted in the lobby of Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace hotel in 2010.
Since its debut in the UAE, a small but mighty swarm of these perplexing little machines has sprouted up all over the world, the most fitting of which can be found in the lobby of Las Vegas’ Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino. By eliminating the overhead costs of a physical store, Gold to Go’s representatives suggest that the service it provides its clients is of exceptional value, bolstered by the opportunity to invest in economically stable, tangible goods that are available in the blink of an eye.
However, when catering to a demographic for whom traditional displays of wealth and thoughtful gestures simply aren’t enough, it’s critical to diversify the product being offered, as the novelty of owning a one-size-fits-all gold bar quickly fades. As a result, in addition to offering 24-carat bars in 1, 5, and 10 gramme sizes, the ATM also includes a built-in “gift box” option.
The gold coins embossed with symbols such as a maple leaf, kangaroo, and others can be churned out inside these gift boxes as lavish tokens of affection that will avoid the aforementioned dreaded wilt of fresh cut flowers. The machine contains a computer that monitors the gold market price in real time. To prevent money laundering, failsafes are built in, such as a limit of three purchases per day and a required ID scan with all purchases exceeding 1,000 euros. The machine itself is plated in gold leaf, making it a delightfully literal gold ATM, which balances out such practicalities.
10. Hamad in the sand
Where do you turn when hundreds of luxury cars, custom-made mega trucks, and a personal island are not enough to show off your wealth? Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan decided to spend some money to have his name carved into a beach on his private island, Futaisi. Futaisi already has a resort and a golf course, but the massive sand carving of “Hamad” will undoubtedly put the island on the map. Al Nahyan, a member of the UAE ruling family, conceived the idea and hired workers from Pakistan and Bangladesh to complete the project, which resulted in 1000-meter-high letters stretching along two miles of Arabian Gulf beach.
To prevent the carving from being washed away by the tides, Al Nahyan dug the letters deep enough to form waterways, effectively absorbing the water rather than caving in on itself. The giant “Hamad,” written in block lettering, is so large and deep that it can be seen from space. Many people who have seen the carving have wondered why the name was written in English rather than Arabic swoops. Although it is unclear, it appears that Al Nahyan desired as much global appeal and fame as possible. If this contentious display of wealth is not the largest written word in the world, it is undoubtedly the largest name carved into the earth and certainly qualifies as an odd accomplishment.