An hour and a half from Dubai by car, Abu Dhabi barely existed before oil was discovered in the region in 1958. Today, the capital of the United Arab Emirates is one of the safest and tourist friendliest Middle Eastern cities. Here are the key reasons you should visit this trendy destination in 2020.
Abu Dhabi has recently invested heavily in developing attractions Emiratis and international travelers alike will want to visit, starting with the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque. Designed to resemble the Taj Mahal, the mosque boasts marble interiors and exteriors, 24-karat gold leaf accents, Szarkowski crystal chandeliers, and the world’s largest carpet.
For even more marble and gold leaf, head to the new Qasr al Watan (Palace of the Nation). You can take a guided or self-guided tour of the palace, which receives presidents, prime ministers, and other world leaders, and houses some of the nation’s greatest treasures.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi, opened in 2017, is another architectural wonder. Consisting of dozens of buildings linked by an incredible 590-foot, layered dome, it showcases a combination of artwork owned by the UAE royal family and on loan from the Louvre in Paris. Want a different perspective on its unique architecture? Bring a change of clothes in your backpack and book a kayaking tour of the building.
Animal lovers won’t want to miss the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, one of the few clinics dedicated solely to treating the national bird of the UAE. Tours include a visit to the in-patient procedure area where you can pose with a falcon perched on your arm and watch it be fed.
Looking for a thrill? Satisfy your need for speed on the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari-themed adventure park Ferrari World. Or, go off-roading through the sands outside of Abu Dhabi, sand board (and ski) the dunes, camp in the desert, and ride a camel. Whatever the adventure, pack sunscreen, a hat, closed-toed shoes, and a long-sleeved shirt in your heavy-duty bag. A separate packing cube makes it easy to access desert essentials.
From October 2020 through March 2021, the UAE will host Expo 2020 halfway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. More commonly known as world’s fairs, these expos showcase cutting edge technologies and celebrate the world’s cultures. While at Expo 2020, you can explore more than 190 country pavilions, taste cuisines from around the globe, and watch parades, firework shows, and concerts by to-be-announced Billboard artists.
Light rail will connect the Abu Dhabi to the 1,100-acre expo grounds, making it an ideal base for the expo, especially if you want to avoid overtourism by supporting lesser known destinations. Tickets go on sale in April 2020 and can be purchased for one day, three days, month-long, or the entire season.
When packing for an event like Expo 2020, think in terms of what you’d need for an outdoor musical festival: good shoes for walking and standing, clothes to layer, weather necessities (such as sunscreen and hats), a waist pack to keep things close, and cash.
If you can’t make it to Abu Dhabi in 2020, there’s plenty more on the horizon. The Zayed National Museum, which will tell the story of the UAE and its founder, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, is scheduled to open in 2021, followed by the research-, rescue-, and rehabilitation-focused SeaWorld Abu Dhabi in 2022.
The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which will display pieces on loan from the Guggenheim in New York City, is expected to open in 2024 with a new maritime museum and an architecturally stunning performing arts center (think Sydney Opera House) anticipated around the same time.
With so many fascinating activities and things to do, the reasons to visit Abu Dhabi are clear—the only question is when you’ll pack your bags and head that way.
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Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
3 Trending Destinations in 2020
5 Ways You Can Battle Overtourism on Your Next Trip
What to Pack for a Music Festival