Fast facts:
Currency- Dirham
Language- English, Arabic
Religion- Islamic

Abu Dhabi. A glittering middle-eastern mecca, home to both Arab Emirates and ex-patriots from around the globe. A city of contradictions. A city shrouded in immense wealth and the teachings of the Quran. A city where the heat of the sun is always felt. A city so unlike my own that it almost seems like a mirage; one that exists in another time, place and space.

With a relatively short history of just 42 years, Abu Dhabi entered into the modern world when oil was discovered. The city is quite compact but quickly expanding as visitors will note construction happening all around them.

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Abu Dhabi is the perfect place for a stopover on your way to Europe! These are my top picks for what to do in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

1.The Grand Mosque: A trip to Abu Dhabi isn’t complete without visiting the breathtaking centre of Islamic worship; the Grand Mosque. A sprawling pure white complex, the Grand Mosque is utterly resplendent with ceilings covered in gold foil, walls with textured floral patterns and plush carpets underfoot. Ladies must dress in an abaya and a hijab, which makes the experience feel all the more authentic. The Grand Mosque is truly the place to gain some kind of appreciation or understanding of the Islamic religion.

2.  Emirates Palace: Although called a palace, Emirates Palace is in fact, a hotel. But it’s not just any hotel- it’s a majestic, enormous 7 star complex that looks just what one would imagine an Arabian palace to be like. The exterior is sandy coloured with beautiful water fountain displays lining the entrance, whilst the interior is covered in gold foiling ceilings, shining marble tiles and beautiful sunlight that streams through large glass windows. The scent of burning incense flows through the hotel imparting a real sense of being in an Arabic country. For real novelty, check out the ‘gold ATMS’ inside the hotel, that print out gold pendants.

3. Scotts Restaurant: This high-class seafood restaurant inside the 7 star Jumeirah Hotel is truly impressive. Indulge your tastebuds to first class cuisine while you relax looking out to stunning waterside views. You can even see the residence of the Rainbow Sheik from here, something you won’t see at the Scott’s in London!

4. Marina Shopping Mall and Tiara revolving restaurant: Shopping malls are a plenty in this city, so why not visit the biggest one here that also boasts a revolving restaurant?! Stroll through the mall before you venture up the glass lift to Tiara. Enjoy a gourmet meal or afternoon tea as your surroundings gently and slowly revolve giving you 360 degree views of Abu Dhabi.

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5. Drive past Sheik and Sheikhas palaces: Although you’re unable to enter the real palaces, you can certainly catch a glimpse of the luxurious abodes of Arabian royalty.

6. Leisurely stroll along the Corniche: Finally take some time to relax and go for a leisurely stroll along the picturesque Cornice. This strip stretches right along the waterside and is full of both cafes and exercise equipment.

Immerse yourself in the Emirate culture, listen out for the call to prayer five times per day and dress modestly. A trip to the capital should be a must on your travel list, if only to experience a culture caught between the Western and Islamic world!

Images courtesy of  Think VIP, eatours, Ritz Carlton, Scotts Restaurant and Vist Abu Dhabi

For more reasons to visit Abu Dhabi: http://visitabudhabi.ae

About The Author

A Melbourne city girl through and through, Olivia is a Communications student at RMIT. After dreaming of crossing international waters her entire life, she has spent the last six months studying in Leeds, England. As cliched as it is, she believes travel really is the only thing that makes you richer and intends to spend the rest of her life exploring and discovering the world. A lover of the arts, good food and quality wine she realises the importance of being an enthusiast in life. Because honestly, lukewarm is no good for anything. Twitter: @oliviawindsor Blog: http://exchangeonaplatter.wordpress.com

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