Insider Tips: Abu Dhabi

Insider Tips: Abu Dhabi

Helena Frith Powell is a journalist and a novelist. She lives in Abu Dhabi, where she edits a glossy weekly magazine called M Magazine. Here, she gives us her best inside tips on the UAE’s capital city…

What’s the first piece of advice you’d give to Abu Dhabi visitors?

Prepare for the heat and dress demurely. You will feel uncomfortable showing too much flesh – Abu Dhabi is far more conservative than Dubai. Also, if you do stay at ahotel, I suggest you will freeze in shorts and a boob-tube: the AC is on 24/7, set to COLD.

If you only had one night to stay in any hotel in Abu Dhabi, which would it be?

The Emirates Palace Hotel – it is everything you expect from the bling Middle East with a cashpoint that dispenses gold, as well as countless five-star restaurants, a glorious beach-front complete with camels and luxurious tents to lounge about in.

If you only had one day in Abu Dhabi where would you eat, and why?

For a total contrast to the five-star luxury of the Emirates Palace Hotel, I would go to the old fish market, one of the few truly authentic places left in the city. Buy the fish fresh off the boat and watch them gut and cook it with a curry coconut sauce.

Of the famous tourist sites in Abu Dhabi, which would you avoid, and which would you try not to miss?

Forget the bus tour. There really isn’t much to see and it is too hot to sit on a bus anyway. But don’t miss the Great Mosque: visit it and enjoy the sun setting over it from the pool bar at the Shangri-La Hotel. Personally I don’t like Ferrari World, and I do like Ferraris, but if a ride on the world’s fastest roller-coaster is your idea of a good time then go for it.

What’s your best insider tip to Abu Dhabi?

You don’t often think of Abu Dhabi as a cultural centre, but if you time your trip well you could see the Bolshoi or some of the world’s greatest musicians – Yo-Yo Ma and Daniel Barenboim who have both performed here. Check out the concert season at Or if you’re into more modern stuff then come during Womad. Great music, for free, on the beach, Womad usually happens in November.

Helena Frith Powell’s latest novel, Love in a Warm Climate, is available from Gibson Square.

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