Abu Dhabi has it all. Period.
UAE’s capital city is geared to welcome visitors with all kinds of interests. Little wonder that this city of skyscrapers and F1 racetrack has developed into a fantastic and wholesome tourist destination. This is definitely a holiday haven – both for local and international tourists.
In this post, I am going to list out the museums and galleries that will help your Arabian experience. Whether you are making your first trip to Abu Dhabi, or are on a return visit, whether exploring its natural islands or learning the ancient sport of falconry or experiencing an adrenaline rush on the world’s fastest roller coaster, you can never have enough of Abu Dhabi.
With a long and interesting history, Abu Dhabi has numerous museums, galleries and historic places to visit. While the mention of museums may immediately bring to mind images of ancient artifacts and dusty rooms, the museums and art galleries in the emirate are in a dfferent league. Adding to the existing museums, new, state of the art museums have been planned on the Saadiyat Island, which when open, will take the cultural and art scene to a new level of excellence. Some of the museums that are set to open include a state of the art Zayed National Museum (2016) which will tell the story of Sheikh Zayed bin Sulthan al Nahyan and his unification of the UAE.
Abu Dhabi is heavy on art and galleries and a visit to these diverse galleries is enough to sample works of artists from all over the world. You can either choose to buy if something in particular takes your fancy or simply just marvel at the creativity out there.
Salwa Zeidan Gallery
A contemporary art space which acts as a platform for internationally recognized and Middle Eastern artists. The exhibitions held here covers artists from a wide spectrum of nationalities. Paintings, sculptures, photography are displayed and performance arts are held here.
Art, craft and gift items from the Arab world. Prints and paintings inspired by UAE landscape, as well as traditional Bedouin jewelry, ceramics and a picture framing service.
Ghaf Art Gallery
This new gallery features monthly exhibitions where local and international artists show their works
The Mother Tongue
Learn a little of Arabic on your visit. The Mother Tongue’s tastefully decorated premises, high-tech teaching equipment and in-house textbooks and cds make it the best place to study the local language.
MUSEUMS / HERITAGE SITES
Classic Cars Museum
(www.alainclassiccarsmuseum.com; Al Ain Sportsplex)
This is not just a site for old cars, this modern piece of building is also a source of information. Combining history and style, this museum collects, preserves and exhibits vehicles and informative books related to the evolution of transportation in the UAE. The museum has something for everyone, from seasoned petrol-heads to those with only a fleeting interest in automobile antiquities.
Emirates National Auto Museum
(www.enam.ae; Hamim Road, Al Gharbia)
Half hours’ drive from the south of Abu Dhabi, this pyramid like structure houses over 200 cars that belong to HH Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan. Being here is like being on Top Gear – in fact this museum was featured on the BBC TV show Top Gear too. The collection includes off-road vehicles and classic American cars, the Sheikh’s Mercedes rainbow collection and the world’s largest truck. Visitors heading to or from Liwa find it a pleasant diversion to stop and look at the massive collection of wheels. The museum is open from 9am – 6pm every day and an entry fee of AED10 applies.
UAE University Natural History Museum
For those interested in the UAE’s flora and fauna, this museum is a small but informative centre run by the UAE University, Al Ain (Ph 03 7133381). This is also known as the Museum of Living Resources and the venue includes a herbarium and collections of various species of animals and birds. A collection of rocks, minerals and fossils is also on display.
Women’s Handicraft Centre
This Centre (Ph 02 447 6645, Near Immigration Office) showcases handicrafts made by local women. Run by the Abu Dhabi Women’s Association, this small museum within is the chance to examine and learn about local artists’ handiwork. The building around the museum houses workshops where female artists display distinctive Arabian oils, handmade souvenirs, incense, local dress, silver thread work, and weaving. You should remove your shoes before entering each hut, and ask for photography permission. You could get a simple henna design painted on your hand, which will last about two weeks.
(Ph 02 681 4455; www.torath.ae)
Run by the Emirates Heritage Club, this reconstruction of a traditional oasis village provides an interesting glimpse into the emirate’s past. Traditional aspects of the desert way of life, including a campfire with coffee pots, a goats’ hair tent, and a falaj irrigation system, are attractively displayed in the open museum. There are workshops where craftsmen demonstrate traditional skills, such as metal work and pottery, while women sit weaving and spinning. The craftsmen are happy to share their skills, and may occasionally give you the chance to try them out. The little spice shop is a treat – you can get a range of dried herbs, handmade soap and plenty of chatter.
Al Bateen Shipyard
A beautiful place found close to the Intercontinental Hotel lays an ancient art of making boats presented by Bateen Shipyard. A traditional process of building ships are shown in this shipyard that is found at the island of Al Bateen. During this event, wooden dhows are seen with wonderful carvings and traditional markings. Bateen Shipyard continues to preserve its traditional way of catching and delivering fish. Several boat builders continue to create classic but elegant crafts that show how rich the culture in Abu Dhabi is. See for yourself this wonderful creation of nature and be inspired by the rich cultures and traditions shown by various evidences from the carved dhows. Grab the chance of seeing this famous shipyard in Abu Dhabi. This is open for traveller’s every day except on Fridays.
Dhow Harbour Abu Dhabi
The rich maritime history on offer within the Bateen Shipyard is also worthy of some time. For travelers wishing to watch some shipboats being used in Abu Dhabi, a visit in the Dhow Harbour will definitely give an amazing view on the sailing races. These dhows were immensely carved by skilled craftsmen as to where new materials are being used to add elegance in the newly built ship. At present time, the Dhow Harbour is being used as a Freeport for tug boats and even as vessels in oil rigs supply. The development of Dhow Harbour in Abu Dhabi has brought great impact on the tourism in Abu Dhabi. Indeed, this harbour is a must see for tourists looking for a place to visit. Do not miss the chance of seeing the beauty and development of the place.
SPECIAL – Archeological site on Sir Bani Yas Island
Believed to have been built around 600 AD, this important archeological site was initially discovered on the island during excavations in 1992. Almost two decades since its discovery, and more than a thousand years since it was built, the public can visit the site and experience another piece of the rich tapestry that makes up the UAE’s fascinating history. Open to the public, this is the UAE’s only discovered Christian monastery. A new phase of work is currently underway by archaeologists, and treasures are still being unearthed, making the site a significant focal point for history enthusiasts worldwide.