An Abu Dhabi Tour: Emirate Al Emirates

Posted by on December 2, 2013

Abu Dhabi Tour

Secluded Beach at the Palace Hotel

Abu Dhabi Palace Hotel.

The Emirates (pretty much as a whole) isn’t exactly my thing. It feels all about ostentation ‘bling’ and spending and consumption and less about connecting with people and seeing much of local culture. My last trip through there started to change my attitude on this a little bit, thanks primarily to a really cool CouchSurfing host in Dubai who convinced me that maybe it isn’t the worst place in the world.

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Abu Dhabi Heritage Village

And I mean, I suppose I see it. Abu Dhabi, for example, seemed a little more real and a little less flashy than Dubai. They have the big Palace Hotel, of course, but also normal fresh markets and fish markets where people go to shop. Open beaches where even the migrant workers can enjoy the sun and sand.

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Abu Dhabi Fish Market

Fish Market Friends

Abu Dhabi Fish Market Friend

Yet at the same time, this town too is built on the backs of the sub-continent and SouthEast Asia. I think the only Emirates I met were the gentlemen who stamped me in at Customs, but I DID meet plenty of Pakistanis and Indians and Pinay and Sri Lankans and even a Maldivian.

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Migrant Workers on the way home at the end of the day.

That, perhaps, is where I started to see some joy in the Emirates. True, I still have no idea what ‘Emirati’ culture is. But the UAE is an AWESOME place to connect with really friendly folks from all over the world who have moved there to support their families and work hard and eventually go back home. These, to me, are the interesting stories here and what made the whole Abu Dhabi tour worthwhile.

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Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sure, there are sites to be seen. Abu Dhabi has a pretty Grand Mosque and a cheeky Cultural Village and the fastest rollercoaster in the world (I’ve really gotta go into Ferrari World at some point). More importantly, though, is that it has tons of people who seem super friendly and happy to chat. This, I’ve begun to think, is where the real beauty of the country lies. Go see the sites, but make sure to chat with the driver or your seat-mate on the way!


I visited Abu Dhabi primarily as a photographer working with GetYourGuide on one of their guided tours and then a quick bus tour. You could visit any of the ‘sites’ on your own, but to be honest the public transport network is somewhat cumbersome and slow (especially if you want to go anywhere outside of the city center like the Sheik Zayed Mosque). Taxis are cheap, so if you’re in a hurry in Abu Dhabi I’d suggest either going with GetYourGuide on an Abu Dhabi tour or hiring a cab for the day.

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