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How to live like a Local in Abu Dhabi

Lonely Planet Local Lindsey Parry has been living in Abu Dhabi for more than five years, amongst its welcoming community and wealth of historical charms. It can take a while to get under the skin of Abu Dhabi, but after exploring for this long, she holds the city dear.

Skyscrapers as seen from a beach in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Image by Aleksander Karpenko / ShutterstockAbu Dhabi spreads along the Gulf coast, meaning that the skyscrapers nearly touch the sand © Aleksander Karpenko / Shutterstock

I have one kid… who can’t get enough of the beach. Abu Dhabi has some fabulous beaches, but the best has to be Saadiyat Beach. With long stretches of white sand and clear blue sea, it’s just like being on holiday, except we’re lucky enough to call this home. A typical weekend involves an early-morning paddle in the water with my son, followed by coffee and a bite to eat at Tashas Cafe in Al Bateen Marina.

For cheap eats… eat Middle Eastern food. You can’t beat Lebanese or Emirati food. For an authentic taste of the region, it doesn’t get much better than Lebanon Mill or Najd Palace. Neither of these places look like much from the outside, but don’t be deceived.

Qasr Al Hosn, an ancient fort in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Image by Leonid Andronov / ShutterstockUncover Abu Dhabi’s humble origins at Qasr Al Hosn © Leonid Andronov / Shutterstock

When I have friends in town… I make sure they visit Qasr Al Hosn. As the oldest building and symbolic birthplace of the city, it’s a fascinating place to see but also houses an excellent exhibition recounting the story of the emirate, which really gives you a sense of how much life in the city has changed in a very short time. Mina Port is also well worth a visit to see the age-old way of life in action. Don’t miss the all-out assault on the senses that is the fish market or the rows of traditional fishing dhows docked in the harbour.

The best place to go on a date is… anywhere with a sea view. You can’t get much closer to the sea than at BBQ Al Qasr at the Emirates Palace, a beautiful, romantic restaurant and bar situated right on the sand. The Beach House Rooftop at the Park Hyatt hotel is also a wonderful place for sundowners and to tune into the quiet murmur of lapping waves after dark.

View of the Unesco-listed oasis in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Image by trabantos / ShutterstockSee the lush side of the desert at the Unesco-listed oasis of Al Ain © trabantos / Shutterstock

When I want to get out of the city… I head to Al Ain. Known as the Garden City for its greenery and lush oases, visiting Al Ain is like stepping back in time. Quieter and more traditional than both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Al Ain is well known for its royal roots and as a result has more than its fair share of historical and heritage sights to visit. Qasr Al Muwaiji, Al Jahili Fort, Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum and the traditional camel souq are all highlights that shouldn’t be missed.

For my birthday I splurged at… The Galleria Mall. It’s the best place in Abu Dhabi for shopping when you’re looking for that extra-special something, but it’s also a fascinating place to people watch and marvel at the lives and pastimes of wealthy locals. The Galleria also has plenty of top-notch restaurants. My favourite is Zuma; their black cod is to die for.

Walking along Saadiyat Beach, Abu Dhabi. Image by Lindsey Parry / Lonely PlanetWinding down with a walk along Saadiyat Beach, Lonely Planet Local Lindsey Parry’s favourite in Abu Dhabi © Lindsey Parry / Lonely Planet

I know I’m an Abu Dhabian because… I love the laid-back lifestyle here. Abu Dhabi is very different to Dubai: it’s much quieter and is more community led, which is great for families, and there’s much more emphasis on a work-life balance here. Abu Dhabi has it all. 



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