In March 2017, my partner and I had the pleasure of visiting the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi. When temperatures in England were just about climbing above 10 degrees, we enjoyed the luxury of a 36 degrees climate. However, we didn't just come here for the weather but of course the culture, one so different to our own.
On the first full day we visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a site of great importance in Abu Dhabi and close to where we were staying. We like to walk to places (I personally learnt that the hard way; blisters and all) so thought nothing of the 15 minute trip to the Mosque, but with disappearing pavements and pedestrian crossings that end up in bushes, we soon learnt that Abu Dhabi is not a walking city. Taxis are a very popular mode of transport and if a driver sees you walking down the street, they will honk to get your attention as they think that the only reason you are walking is because you didn't see a cab.
Visiting the mosque is a must do when in Abu Dhabi. Its stunning architecture is well worth a morning of your time. Guided tours are offered or audio self-tour if preferred, although sometimes it can be best just to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the surroundings.
Once we had seen a bit of cultural UAE we decided to check out Downtown Abu Dhabi to see what it had to offer, this took us to Marina Mall. Malls in the UAE aren't like your local shopping centres or even like your Oracles or Bullrings, there is something oddly 'nouveau riche' about them, as if you need to dress up to go out shopping. The smell of Oud pouring out from different areas of the labyrinth like mall gave it a distinctive yet pleasant aroma.
It is very easy to get lost there so remember the shops as you walk in as this will help you find an exit later on. If you do happen to be in that part of Abu Dhabi, it is worth having a wander around just to see the cultural differences and watch people go about their day.
The first impression we got from Abu Dhabi is that it is new, clean and cash rich and although we saw some of this downtown, we also experienced the rich cultural heritage of the UAE that makes the Emirati people so proud of this young nation.