My 36 Hours in Abu Dhabi

by Erin Michelson

Last week I spent 36 hours and about $834 in Abu Dhabi. I had to leave after a day and a half – I couldn’t afford to stay any longer! Since I knew I was there for only a short time, and because I didn’t necessary think I’d be back, I had to make the most of my brief visit. Here are my three recommended activities during a flash visit to Abu Dhabi:

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Photo by Erin Michelson.

I’ve been to several famous mosques – Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and Morocco’s Hassan II Mosque – but I have to say the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is my favorite. Mainly because it’s so beautiful. Sparkling white, shimmering-in-the-sunlight beautiful.

The design of the Mosque is described as a fusion of Arab, Moorish and Mughal architecture. The interior walls and outside floor are an intricate mosaic of Italian marble. The chandlers are from Germany and the colorful stained glass windows are breathtaking. It houses the world’s largest carpet at 5,627 meters / 60,570 sq ft, which was made by 1,200 weavers.

Women are given a long black abaya to wear over their clothes and veil to cover their hair. Men are also provided a robe if they’re wearing shorts. Really informative tours are given at 10:00 am most mornings by personable young women.

The mosque was opened in 2007 and can hold 40,000 worshipers, although usually about 1,500 people attend during a weekday and about 12,000 on a Friday. You can get there as one of the stops on the Hop-on Hop-off bus or with a $25 cab ride from the city center.

Desert Dune Driving

Photo by Erin Michelson.

Driving through the dunes in a 4-wheel drive car was a blast (if not a tad bit scary!) I mean one of the trucks in our car caravan rolled down a dune, and another got stuck teetering on top of a dune, all four wheels spinning in the air. We needed to drive up nose-to-nose and give it a tow.

Our guides stopped after about a mile in (at a camel farm) and let some of the air out of our tires so we’d have more traction. Then off we went for a full 40 minutes of skidding our way down the sand slopes and careening around corners. Super duper fun!

Ferrari World

Photo by Erin Michelson.

Speaking of super duper fun, you need to check out Ferrari World! I went because they claim the fastest rollercoaster in the world at 240 kilometers / 150 miles per hour.

I went at 7:00 pm during a school night, so the place was deserted – just me and about a dozen courting couples. It was great, since there were no lines. In fact, some of the rides I rode practically solo!

The Formula Rossa, the fastest rollercoaster, was as surprise. You gain the most speed directly out of the gates, so it’s a bit unexpected. So unexpected, in fact, that I closed my eyes and screamed in sheer terror. After that bit of fright, the rest of the 2-mintue ride was no big deal.

Because I was a chicken the first time around, I had to go back for another go. This time I was prepared and made myself keep my eyes peeled during the entire (well, nearly anyway) burst of speed at the beginning. It was exhilarating!

So that’s it — Three remarkable experiences during my nano-second visit! I had so much fun, I’m considering going back. A Liwa oasis safari and a visit to the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital are both drawing me. Not to mention the famous Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. I’m sure I could easily fill another 36 incredible hours!

Erin Michelson is a social entrepreneur and world traveler. A self-styled Adventure Philanthropist, Erin is embarking on a 2-year global giving adventure called Erin Goes Global. Starting in Fiji on New Year’s Day 2011, Erin Michelson will travel to more than 70 counties on 7 continents during 2011-2012. Along the way, Erin will be volunteering with global non-profit organizations, including building wells in Uganda and tutoring young girls in Bangladeshi boat villages. She’s donated $25,000 and is holding monthly polls to see which worthy nonprofits receive the grants! You can follow Erin’s living and giving adventures at

3 thoughts on “My 36 Hours in Abu Dhabi

  1. I’ve visited the Mosquee and went to the dunes in 2008. I loved it! If I would go again I would love to go to Ferrari world, the roller coaster has to be awesome!

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