Abu Dhabi Travel Guide: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Emirates Palace & More

abu dhabi grand mosque

While traveling in Dubai, I took a road trip to Abu Dhabi. Well, not really a road trip, since it takes less than 2 hours in the car. The drive itself is not the most scenic, but it is a comfortable drive on a straight highway. I spent a total of three days at Abu Dhabi, which should be plenty of time but I was stuck in a sandstorm for a day (documented in my vlog), so it ended up being the perfect amount of time. If you have two extra days in Dubai, I highly recommend renting a car and driving to the capital city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In this travel guide, I’ll focus on talking about the two places I loved from Abu Dhabi: the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Emirates Palace.

abu dhabi grand mosque domes

Grand Mosque

The Grand Mosque at Abu Dhabi is grand in size – it can hold up to 40,000 worshippers – and also in the level of extravagance. The design of the mosque takes inspirations from many countries around the world, but when pieced together, represents the quintessential Arabic style.

abu dhabi grand mosque floral mosaics on wall

Some of the can’t-miss elements include:

  • Floral columns: You can see the beautiful materials and the craftsmanship on the columns of the courtyard. Semi-precious stones are cut, polished, and made into shapes of flowers and leafs, then inserted into white marble.
  • The carpet in the main prayer hall: This carpet is considered to be the biggest one in the world, measuring 5,627 m2
  • Chandeliers: There are 7 chandeliers in the mosque, all made with gilded steel and brass, completed with glass panels and Swarovski crystals. The one in the main prayer hall is the second biggest in the world.
  • The water mirror: The pools along the arcades reflect off the sunlight during the day. The blue of the water also complements the white of the mosque.
abu dhabi grand mosque water mirror

Since the Grand Mosque is a religious landmark, there are a few things to take note of when visiting:

  • Dress code: The dress code is pretty strict for women. I actually researched extensively into it prior to the trip, but I was still asked to put on an abaya when entering the mosque. I didn't mind it too much though since the abaya is clean and comfortable, and I think being respectful is the most important. Also, women need to have heads covered at all times, so either bring your own scarf (like I did) or put on the hood that’s attached to the abaya. Find the official dress code on the Grand Mosque website.
abu dhabi grand mosque
  • Mosque manners: If you happen to visit the mosque with a friend who’s an opposite sex, make sure you keep a distance at all times! Even when you’re posing for photos. Absolutely no arm-over-shoulder, hand holding, hugging, kissing…..you get the idea. You would be thrown out, and you don't want that.
abu dhabi grand mosque
  • Posing for photos: No excessive posing. Hand on the head, hand on the hips, any gesture that suggests you are posing would be a no-no. Rihanna got thrown out for provocative posing when she visited the Grand Mosque. We love RiRi, but we have to be respectful!
abu dhabi grand mosque dome

Visiting times: 9 am to 10 pm on all days except Friday, which opens at 4:30 pm since Friday prayers happen in the morning

abu dhabi grand mosque water mirror

Emirates Palace

Prior to visiting, I actually thought the Emirates Palace is an actual palace, but nope. It’s really a luxurious 5 star hotel. A Kempinski hotel, to be exact. But if you drive around the place, it actually looks like a palace. It looks more like a palace than many actual palaces I’ve been to around the world. For one, it has a private beach. Two, it has many lawns and gardens. And three, it’s so extravagant inside.

Abu Dhabi (8 of 181).jpg

The cost of building the hotel is around $6 billion USD. It’s the second most expensive hotels ever built. The most expensive hotel in the world is the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. I wasn’t too impressed when I stayed there last time. Except the pool. The pool was really nice. I have pictures to prove it.

abu dhabi emirates palace green lawn garden

Since I’m not a big believer in cranking out lots of cash on hotels (see my previous post on refusing to spend more than 30 USD on the Burj Al Arab), I decided to just visit the Emirates Palace instead of actually staying there. But if you’re wondering, it costs around 600 USD per night. For the most basic room.

Disclaimer: This is NOT the basic room Source: Global Hotel Alliance 

Disclaimer: This is NOT the basic room
Source: Global Hotel Alliance 

Most of the areas of the hotel are restricted to visitors (no access to the beach club? Dammit.) The lobby is very beautiful though. If you stand on the marble floor and look up into the dome, you’ll see geometric shapes decked in, you guessed it, gold.

abu dhabi emirates palace

From the outside of the hotel, you get a view of the high-rise buildings of Abu Dhabi.  

abu dhabi high rise buildings

OTHER PLACES TO VISIT in abu dhabi

  • Ferrari World: The Formula Rossa roller-coaster in the theme park is the fastest rollercoaster in the world at 140 km/hour
  • Yas Mall: Ferrari World is located in this mall. Since we ran into a sandstorm on the drive to the Yas Island (captured in my vlog), we were stuck at the mall for a day. Even though it’s not as big as the Dubai mall, it surprisingly has all the right stores
  • Yas Marina Circuit: The F1 Racetrack. You can drive some race cars here if you reserve ahead of time. And if you don't run into a sandstorm. Most of the drive times are early in the morning.
  • Rosewood Hotel: Nice hotel with a great location and beautiful decor. (Note: This is for staying, not for visiting.) The price is quite reasonable for about 200 USD per night for a room with a view of the Arabian Gulf. And the vanity table is decked out with the best lights! (#Selfie) Also, the Galleria Mall next store is decent for luxury shopping
  • Cultural District on Saadiyat Island: There is a branch of the Louvre located here as well as many other art centers. We tried to go but unfortunately these places were under construction.

STYLE TIPS

  • For the Grand Mosque, adhere to the dress code or wear the abaya given to you. Also, before entering the main prayer hall, you have to take off your shoes. If you’re wearing your Choos or Louboutins, well, better hope there are no shoe thieves that day.
  • For all three days I was at Abu Dhabi, the wind had been very merciless. Bring an additional layer for early morning and late night.  

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Plan your days at the Abu Dhabi: Two days should be enough, but try and be flexible in case of severe weather
  • The best way to get to Abu Dhabi from Dubai is to drive 150 km towards the South. Otherwise, there is also a bus that departs from Bur Dubai.

QUESTION FOR YOU

  • What did you think about this Abu Dhabi guide? 
  • Do you have plans to visit Abu Dhabi or Dubai anytime soon?
  • WRITE TO ME in the comment section below!

OUTFIT DETAILS

Abaya: Borrowed at the Grand Mosque
Scarf: Cashmere scarf bought at a specialty store in Shanghai
Matching Top & Pants: MIIA (Similar Here)
Leather jacket: Maje (Similar Here)
Bag: 3.1 Phillip Lim
Shoes: Oriental Traffic (Similar Here)
Sunglasses: Chanel (Similar Here)


For an even more visual and comprehensive look at my Abu Dhabi trip, check out my vlog below!


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