As Abu Dhabi is one of the most important commercial centers in the Middle East, you may find yourself headed there soon on a business trip. Few destinations offer the combination of state-of-the-art business services alongside unique team-building opportunities, from dune bashing to dinners around a campfire under the star-filled desert skies.
You may also be passing through Abu Dhabi en route to some other corner of the world, thanks to Etihad Airways’ network, which serves more than 100 destinations on six continents. After a week of meetings, consider staying on for some extra time in Abu Dhabi—or extending a layover there—to explore the emirate beyond its boardrooms. Our itinerary is designed to make the most of a weekend after your work is done and you have time to explore before returning home. Abu Dhabi’s Business Traveler page provides a wealth of information for everyone headed there for work—it’s an especially invaluable resource if you’ve been entrusted with organizing such a trip.
At the end of this itinerary, we’ve provided some suggestions if you want to take advantage of any free windows you have during your business trip. Be honest: If a morning meeting gets moved back a couple hours, would you rather use the time to catch up on emails or to go kayaking through mangroves?
Itinerary / 5 DAYSPLAN YOUR TRIP
DAY 1Start the Weekend
To begin to unwind, head to Emirates Palace for a drink at one of its bars or lounges. Perhaps you’re in the mood for a tropical drink at the Havana Club, named as one of the world’s best cigar bars by GQ magazine. At the Breeze Lounge you can pair your cocktail with light Mediterranean dishes. Or, for an only-in-Abu Dhabi experience, order a 24-karat, gold-flaked Palace Cappuccino at Le Café.
Later, board a traditional dhow for an Al Dharfa dinner cruise with views of the sea and the bright lights of Abu Dhabi as they begin to sparkle under a darkened sky. You’ll also enjoy a dinner of typical and delicious Emirati dishes. The crews on the ships are experts at accommodating groups, ensuring a flawless evening if you want to include it as an activity for clients or employees.
DAY 2Golf and More
In the afternoon, head out of town to the Al Ain Raceway and take a spin on the 1.2-kilometer go-kart track. The raceway is the principal attraction at the Al Ain Sportplex, but you’ll also find soccer fields, cricket pitches, and a paintball course. The friendly competition of trying to outrace your coworkers or land a shot with a paintball gun are also great team-building activities. And if someone back home is expecting a gift from Abu Dhabi, the heritage village here has 32 stalls selling local handicrafts.
Before or after your trek out to Al Ain, take flight on a helicopter tour for bird’s-eye views of the city. Falcon Aviation’s tours provide an unforgettable perspective on the emirate’s landmarks.
DAY 3Polo and a Desert Outing
In the afternoon, head out into the desert on a dune-bashing outing. Conquering the enormous dunes of Abu Dhabi’s desert can feel like a roller-coaster ride—albeit one with an expert driver piloting a specially equipped SUV. Outings often include a demonstration of the ancient sport of falconry, practiced by Bedouin for centuries. The majestic birds work in tandem with saluki (an Arabian hound) to pursue their prey—typically bustards, a game bird found in the Abu Dhabi desert. After a dinner under the stars around a roaring campfire, head back to the city. As with dinner cruises, tour operators who offer desert excursions are pros at accommodating business groups and creating an unforgettable experience.
DETOURSQuick Abu Dhabi Escapes
Explore the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Abu Dhabi’s most important religious site, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, is conveniently located in the heart of the city, not far from the Grand Canal. This iconic landmark is enormous (with a capacity for some 40,000 worshippers) and dazzling—it’s covered in white marble and adorned with semiprecious stones. Unlike many mosques, it enthusiastically welcomes non-Muslims to visit and tour.
Visit a Mall
Abu Dhabi’s malls are gleaming—and air-conditioned—hubs of activity, and much more than merely a place to go shopping. You’ll often find musical performances taking place, multi-screen movie theaters, and cuisines from around the world served at their restaurants. Many malls have their own signature amenities or features, like the ice-skating rink at the Marina Mall, or the Arabian souk at the World Trade Centre. Some of the other top malls include the Yas Mall, the Abu Dhabi Mall, and the Mushrif Mall, home to the Arabian Peninsula’s largest food court.
Grab a Bite
Whether you’re hosting a meal for business guests or dining on your own, you have a veritable feast of culinary choices in Abu Dhabi. The emirate, long at the crossroads of trade, today sits at a culinary crossroads—a hub for European, Asian, and, of course, Middle Eastern restaurants. (You’ll find many American restaurants If you’re missing home and want a burger or steak.) The Abu Dhabi Dining page allows you to search by cuisine, neighborhood, and price range to find a restaurant that will leave you sated. It’s also a great source of ideas if you need to find a restaurant to host a meal for clients or coworkers.
Follow a Local
While Abu Dhabi’s excellent infrastructure and welcoming locals make it easy to explore the emirate on your own, Abu Dhabi Experiences can open doors to some otherwise inaccessible parts of the city. Perhaps you’d like to have a meal in the home of a local family and learn about life in Abu Dhabi. Or choose to visit a studio famous for its handmade sandals and learn about this traditional craft. Whether you have a few hours or a half day, you’ll find opportunities tailored to every interest.
Get Back to Nature
Beyond the emirate’s gleaming towers and architectural wonders, Abu Dhabi also boasts a wealth of natural beauty. Kayak tours as short as two hours explore the unique ecosystem of the Mangrove National Park. Or, if you have a half day or longer, consider visiting the Al Ain Oasis, roughly 90 minutes from Abu Dhabi. Covering some 30,000 acres and planted with thousands of date palms, the oasis has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for both its historic and ecological significance. Do both activities if you’re looking to get your business team’s creativity flowing and have an unforgettable day of bonding.