The capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is the very model of a modern Gulf petro-city: thoroughly contemporary, shamelessly wealthy and decidedly staid. Abu Dhabi’s lightning change from obscure fishing village into modern city-state within the past thirty years is perhaps the most dramatic of all the stories of oil-driven transformation that dot the region, and although the city’s endless glass-fronted high-rises and multi-lane highways can seem fairly uninspiring on first acquaintance, locals take understandable pride in the city’s remarkable recent metamorphosis. For the casual visitor, modern Abu Dhabi is mainly interesting for how it contrasts with its more famous neighbour – an Arabian Washington to Dubai’s Las Vegas. Specific sights are relatively thin on the ground, and much of the pleasure of a visit lies in wandering through the city centre and along the handsome waterfront Corniche Road.
The city’s two standout attractions are the stunning Sheikh Zayed Mosque, one of the world’s largest and most extravagant places of Islamic worship, and the ultra-opulent Emirates Palace Hotel. Other attractions include the memorable new souk at the World Trade Center, and the contrastingly traditional Heritage Village, offering superb views of the Corniche Road.