Day Trips Out of Abu Dhabi

From Abu Dhabi, several day trips (or overnight trips) make easy destinations for explorers. A 45-minute morning flight takes you to Muscat, in Oman, and has you back in time for a late dinner. Or, the entire family can enjoy Sir Bani Yas Island, where animals roam free. Both Dubai and Al Ain lie within easy driving distance. Dubai’s shops, cultural activities, and architectural sights will keep you busy for a day—or longer, if you can extend your trip.

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The Arabian oryx was hunted to extinction on the Arabian Peninsula by the mid-1970s, but became the first animal species upgraded from Extinct in the Wild to Vulnerable by the IUCN index when conservation efforts bolstered wild population numbers to over 1,000 by the early 2010s. Today you’ll see oryx all over the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, as well as the Arabian Wildlife Park on Sir Bani Yas Island, standing as a testament to humankind’s ability to reverse the ecological damage we’ve done to parts of the natural world. Flash traveled to Dubai with Goway Travel, the global leader in tailor-made experiences to Dubai, and has been curating experience-driven expeditions to the world’s most remarkable destinations since 1970. Goway can arrange custom trips to Dubai, the Arabian Desert, nearby Abu Dhabi, and beyond.
Sultan Qaboos St, ولاية بوشر، Oman
Proportions can be deceiving in a mosque that is littered with superlatives – largest, biggest, most, prettiest are common words you hear when researching the mosque that was completed in 2001. The mosque’s total capacity is 20,000 visitors/worshipers – larger in size than many of the cities in Oman. The dome rises 164 feet above the floor, and the chandelier illuminates a space of 46,000 square feet below. Walking into the main prayer hall is breathtaking, thanks to the chandelier made of Swarovski crystals with a diameter of 26 feet. But the hall is also graced by the world’s second-largest handmade Persian rug. The delicate rug took four years to produce and weighs in at 21 tons. 600 dedicated women tied 1,700 million knots to create this masterpiece. One of my favorite parts about the rug was the graduated color used to mimic the light reflection outward. More Info: Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the mosque every day, except Friday, from 8:30 until 11:00 am. Visitors are asked to dress modestly and in a way befitting places of worship. Women are also required to cover their hair.
Al Dhaid Rd, Near Sharjah Zoo - Sharjah - United Arab Emirates
A highlight of my time in the United Arab Emirates was the Desert Safari that I took on the recommendation of the friend who I was staying with. The tour company picked me up with a group of others at my accommodation in Dubai and drove us directly out to the Sharjah Desert. We cut off the road into the sand and joined about five other vehicles - all letting the air out of their tires before we all started spinning circles around the sand dunes. The expert Emirati drivers give riders quite a thrill - like a roller coaster ride on sand. Just in time for sunset, we parked and enjoyed seeing the sun sink through the hazy sky.
2 Jumeirah St - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
When it opened in December 1999, the Burj al Arab—a sail-shaped, all-suite skyscraper hotel built on an artificial island—put Dubai on the map as an over-the-top travel destination and became a landmark. Even today, the Burj al Arab sets the standard for outsized luxury with Rolls-Royce airport pickups, a helipad, gold-plated iPads, and butler-serviced duplex suites equipped with beds with mirrored ceilings, double Jacuzzi bathtubs, and full-size Hermès toiletries. The cool architectural exterior conceals a vivid interior with acres of gold leaf, dancing fountains, and room decor so distractingly jazzy that it may make guests feel as though they’ve drunk the world’s largest cup of Arabic coffee. (This is not the place for admirers of subtlety or minimalism.) The Terrace, an ambitious project even by Dubai standards, added nearly 2.5 acres of cabana, beach, pool, and restaurant space to the resort in 2016. Come sunset, though, the place to be is the 27th-floor Skyview bar.
26 34th St - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
The Dubai Spice Souk is a traditional market located in Deira, near the famed Gold Souk. It’s easy to overlook the Spice Souk if you’re not looking carefully; tucked into alleyways off of Baniyas Street, the souk is small, but manages to pack a pungent punch. If you plan on purchasing spices – from cardamon to cumin to turmeric to nutmeg, and everything in between – be prepared to haggle. A good rule of thumb is to cut the vendor’s opening salvo in half, and then barter upwards from there until you reach a number you’re both comfortable with.
Hessa bint Mohamed St - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates
Not as glamorous as Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi or the new royal residence taking shape in the Capital, the Al Ain Palace, former home to Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his family, is equally as interesting. The palace grounds are quite large and visitors are free to wander between the bedrooms, coffee rooms, store rooms, and majlis (sitting or receiving room). The palace was home to the founding father of the United Arab Emirates until 1966. On the day of my visit, the museum was celebrating Eid al Adha and several men, including the museum’s Visitor Services Manager, greeted guests and welcomed everyone with Arabic coffee and dates while Emirati men swayed to the traditional Al Ayyalah - a dance that tells a story by no less than 25 men waving camel sticks and beating drums. Known for its oasis, Al Ain is a comfortable little town in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, about two hours from the City of Abu Dhabi.
For an unusual wildlife experience, take a day trip to Al Ain’s Camel Market, one of the last remaining in the U.A.E. Watch livestock traders and merchants drive hard bargains and haggle mercilessly. It’s an excellent photo opportunity, but be respectful and ask permission before photographing any people. The Camel Market is open until sunset daily, but most trade takes place in the morning. Al Ain is about two hours by car from Abu Dhabi proper, with the camel market a few miles from town. Norbert Heidenbluth/Flickr.
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I’ve heard there is a nice shawarma stand at the top of Jebel Hafeet to go along with the view, but on my trip up the mountain, it was so busy with Eid celebrations, that I had to drive straight down again without finding any parking! On the United Arab Emirates border with Oman, just outside the city of Al Ain in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, are a series of jagged rocky hills. One such outcropping is Jebel Hafeet - the highest point in the UAE. The 1,249-meter mountain is a popular place to visit, barbecue, or just enjoy the scenery. A nicely paved road to the top is quite fun to negotiate by car. The mountain road is also a challenge for bicyclists who can climb the curves, switchbacks, and steep incline. Hikers, too, can find a route or two up the mountain. For those wanting to spend the night, the Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet Al Ain Hotel provides a comfortable four-star environment where you can be close to the stars at night and the sunrise at dawn.
Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates
Sir Bani Yas is a desert island five miles off the city’s Arabian Gulf coast with some curious residents, namely cheetahs, ostriches, and giraffes, among others. Three distinct properties allow visitors to make the most of the rustic wildlife refuge with game drives and one-of-a-kind animal encounters: the Desert Islands Resort & Spa, with its plethora of amenities and dining options; the safari-style Al Sahel Villa Resort, at the island’s rugged center; or the luxe shorefront Al Yamm Villa Resort, where barasti-style villas have turquoise infinity pools and a lagoon teeming with migratory birds. Though each property stands on its own, guests can take advantage of all the amenities with free transfers between them. Don’t miss the innovative Dining by Design experience, which lets you dine at different venues around the island, from a romantic dinner on the beach to a family picnic on safari plains.
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AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
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