Ramadan may be a time for spiritual reflection in Abu Dhabi, but there is still plenty to do for visitors
The month of Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection, improvement, increased devotion and worship in Abu Dhabi. The locals fast during the hours of sunlight, working hours are decreased and they are encouraged to read their holy book, the Quran.
However, as 70% of Abu Dhabi's population are expats, there are still some daytime activities available. And at night, when the Ramadan fast can be broken, the place comes alive.
Here is our hit list of things to do in Abu Dhabi during the month of Ramadan:
Easier said than done in 50 degrees! In true British style, we were determined to get a suntan, so despite the unbearable heat we ventured out to lay on the beach.
The beach was an unexpected treat. The beachfront is very well manicured, with emerald-green waters, fine white sand and a wooden parade. Some 30,000 to 50,000 visitors flock to the Corniche every month, enjoying three separate sections for families, singles and the general public. There are more than 1,100 free parking spaces with a five-minute walk of the beach, which charges AED 10 (US $2.7) entry to the family and singles sections. Entry to the public beach is free.
If you can stand the heat, you can walk or ride a bike all the way along the front. There are lots of smoothie shops, cafes and restaurants, which are generally closed during the day in the month of Ramadan, but some do open at sunset.
This is such a nice beach and is far too good to miss so it’s worth a visit even if you just dip your toe in the sea! We recommend going at about 5pm, two hours before the sun sets and the beach is closed for the day. Then swing by one of the cafes to enjoy a Ramadan Iftar!
Head up to the observation deck of the Etihad Towers to get a full 360 degree view of Abu Dhabi. We managed to get a Groupon voucher, so instead of costing £73 for two people, it was just £35.
Whenever I’m in a large city, I love to head to the top of one of the tallest skyscrapers to get a bird's-eye-view of the city, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. You can see right out across the Persian Gulf in one direction, and discover Abu Dhabi’s impressive skyline in the other.
There was a large range of specialty teas to choose from. We tried a Japanese tea infused with cherry blossom which was delicious, and the best part was you can have as much tea and coffee as you like. They served a selection of mini cakes and ‘fancifuls’ including macaroons, miniature scones and truffles. We ate so many sweet things we felt a bit queasy afterwards.
There was also a selection of sandwiches but they were very tiny so it might be a good idea to eat something savoury before you go. The service was impeccable, the views were stunning and the selection of delights on offer was fantastic. This one comes highly recommended!
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one the world’s largest mosques, with a capacity for an astonishing 41,000 worshipers. It features 82 domes, over a 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. The main prayer hall is dominated by one of the world’s largest chandeliers – 10 metres in diameter, 15 metres in height and weighing 12 tonnes. The mosque’s first ceremony was the funeral of its namesake, Sheikh Zayed, who is buried at the site.
We actually visited the day before Ramadan started, but the only difference is that during Ramadan there is no afternoon tour, which usually goes at around 5pm. You must visit for the morning tour at either 10am or 11am.
Be prepared as it was extremely hot, especially when wearing an abaya! Ladies don’t worry if you don’t have suitable clothing for the mosque they provide an abaya free of charge, but you must wear the hood up to keep your head covered.
Luckily most of the tour is inside the mosque which is air-conditioned. I’d highly recommend the tour as we learned a lot about where the various parts are from including the carpet, the chandeliers, the clock and the importance of worship in Muslim culture. Best of all it’s completely free, and during Ramadan there is also a free Iftar running every night after sunset!
Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi is the UAE’s first mega water park, set across 15 hectares of the exciting entertainment complex that is Yas Island. The park offers 43 rides, slides and attractions that will thrill the whole family. Visitors will experience fun and adventure on rides and attractions never seen before in water parks, such as the world’s longest, fastest tornado water slide, the region’s first looping water slide and the world’s first interactive water and laser roller coaster. Tickets are around £40 each but the park is open from 10am -8pm during Ramadan, so arrive early to get your money's-worth.
... By going scuba diving. We were very impressed when we discovered that the scuba diving is very reasonable priced. For £60 you will get a two-tank dive, equipment hire, and complimentary drinks on the boat. There are a few different dive shops (and they might vary in price slightly) but we found Emirates Divers Centre to be very good.
During Ramadan they cut the trips down to just Fridays and Saturdays, so the group was fairly large, however they hired an extra boat so there was a comfortable amount of divers on each boat (approx. eight to ten people). The first location was about 40 minutes out to sea, and then we drove for around 20 minutes in the direction of the shore before we dropped the anchor at the second location.
And if that’s not enough, you can jump on an air-conditioned coach to Dubai for just £4!
We're Beth & Gaz, two young souls from Yorkshire, England. In the last two years we've visited the USA, the Caribbean, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Vietnam, Cambodia and the United Arab Emirates. We’ve both become Advanced Divers and fallen in love with life by the sea; surfing, kite-surfing, swimming, sunbathing, we can’t get enough. Our next stop will be Indonesia, followed by the Philippines.