Abu Dhabi Travel Guide

A Comprehensive Guide for Families Travelling to Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi sits comfortably on an island in the Persian Gulf, making it the ideal capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). One of the upscale, fast-paced cities of the Arab world, Abu Dhabi doubles as the epicentre of commerce and recreation.

This city is at the intersection of luxury and beauty, making it one of the choicest tourist destinations in the world. While it is slightly less popular than Dubai, this imperial city is just as eminent and just as surreal as Dubai.

Mapping the boundary of this beautiful city are golden sandy beaches. However, touring the heart of Abu Dhabi will bring you face-to-face with state-of-the-art architectural wonders and prime edifices.

Everything to Know About Abu Dhabi, Its Culture, and People

Abu Dhabi is a city with a deeply rooted culture and history. While it remains at the frontier of development in the region, it continues to pay homage to its desert origins and its religion. This city is one of the seven Emirates of the UAE and also doubles as the country’s capital. Flanking the borders of Abu Dhabi are the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and it’s located at a point between Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Foremost in the identity of Abu Dhabi is the recognition that it is an economic giant and a pacesetter amongst other nations. Over the years, it has transformed from a lowly desert to a business hub and a centre of excellence, with the discovery of oil accounting for a good part of its development. 

A Brief History of Abu Dhabi

The UAE gained independence from British colonial rule on the 2nd of December, 1971. It was initially made up of six Emirates: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Sharjah, Ajman, and Umm Al-Quwain. The year after this, Ras Al-Khaymah became part of the country, thus consisting of seven Emirates in total. The discovery of oil led to the acceleration of growth and development in the country.

Abu Dhabi’s Language

The official language of Abu Dhabi is Arabic. However, because Abu Dhabi’s population consists of foreigners that form an abundant expatriate community, other languages are spoken in the city, especially English. These other languages include Hindi, English, Persian, Urdu, Chinese, and Bengali.

Abu Dhabi’s Culture and Traditions


Islam is the predominant religion practised in Abu Dhabi as the nationals are majorly Sunni Muslims. Political and social discourse is governed by Sharia law, which is Islamic law. Despite this, Abu Dhabi is highly tolerant of other religions and accords them the freedom to practise their religion insofar as it doesn’t affect the Muslims.

Code of Conduct

While there is no expressly laid down code of conduct in Abu Dhabi, there are some rules by which the Emirati live. For instance, they dress modestly, and their women cover their heads at all times. It’s also rare that you will find a citizen playing music loudly from the car stereo or touching a woman in public.

Major Festivities/Celebration

Festivities in Abu Dhabi are a combination of secularly-influenced activities and Islamic festivals. Islamic holidays are influenced by the Islamic calendar and vary based on the Islamic Lunar Calendar. They include Eid al-Fitr, Arafah Day, Eid al-Adhr, Mawlid, and Israa Wal Miraj Night, all occurring at different times of the year.

The secular festivities include the New Year’s celebration, the National Day celebration, the Commemoration Day celebration, and so on.

Gender Roles

If the report of the World Economic Forum in 2016 is anything to go by, it listed the UAE as a forerunner in the region for gender equality. Although Abu Dhabi stems from a patriarchal society, it has continued to accommodate the gender equality mantra. Women are allowed to own properties, be educated, and be gainfully employed. However, there remains some work to be done as married women can only be employed with the permission of their husbands, and there’s no constitutional penalty for domestic violence.

Food in Abu Dhabi

Cuisine in Abu Dhabi has over the years been influenced by various cultures. Because this city is situated on an island, you will find that their staple food consists of a variety of seafood. However, the regional favourite seems to be stuffed camels and a dish called shawarma. Of course, you will find that several nationalities are represented in the cuisine scene in Abu Dhabi, ranging from Chinese dishes to Moroccan cuisine. There are also some traditional dishes like harees, makboos, madrooba, luquaimat, etc. that are spicy and delicious. As a Muslim nation, they do not eat pork.


Dining is a great avenue for socialization in Abu Dhabi. It is generally accepted that visitors should come 15 minutes later than agreed. You’re also expected to eat with your right hand because the left hand is believed to be dirty. Emiratis are only allowed to eat with their left hand if they’re left-handed, and it should be done with a spoon. They eat with their bare hands, so hand hygiene is extremely important to them.

People can opt to sit on the floor with cushions when eating. Declining offers to eat with a family is considered rude. When eating with cutlery, you’re expected to place the cutlery facing up and place it at the centre of your plate after you’re done eating. It’s nice to pay more than the price of the meal after eating at a restaurant.

Etiquettes and customs

The Emirati greet one another warmly, which often involves hugs and handshakes, especially if they’re of the same sex. People of the opposite sex do not greet one another by making contact; they place their hands over their hearts and bow their heads briefly. When they shake hands, they use their right hand as a sign of respect for the other person.

When a woman marries, she retains her family name while her children take the name of their father. The first name of an Emirati is their personal name. This is followed by ibn, which translates to son, followed by the name of their father, then ibn again and the name of their grandfather, followed by the family name. For women, ibn is replaced by bind where applicable.

It is generally prohibited for people of the opposite gender to make eye contact. However, people of the same gender can do so freely. Men are required to show respect to women and to be courteous at all times.

Music and the Arts

Abu Dhabi has a unique music culture that is based on a style of music called Khaliji. Khaliji involves the use of flutes, drums, and a violin, similar to Bedouin music which involves the use of tambourines and drums. Emirati music frequently focuses on the UAE’s history and sometimes tells a story.

For religious reasons, men and women dance separately. These dances are often organized into some sort of formation, so they aren’t haphazard. They form a circle or line and dance to the rhythm of the drums. Some of these dances include Ayyalah, Liwa, belly dancing, mate, etc.

Abu Dhabi is also blessed with some of the finest art pieces in the world, ranging from poetry to pottery to beautiful paintings.

Abu Dhabi Holidays

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