About Abu Dhabi

Constituting more than 80% of the total landmass of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is the largest and most populated of the seven Emirates. From its origins as a centre for pearl diving and fishing, Abu Dhabi has developed at a phenomenal pace to become a truly 21st century city.

Since the discovery of oil in 1958, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan knew this natural treasure must be used to improve the lives of future generations. Thus, he set about turning that aspiration into a reality.

Among Abu Dhabi’s highlights, which are enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, are its world-class infrastructure, exceptional educational and healthcare institutions, as well as architectural wonders, an abundance of parks and recreational facilities along with luxury hotels embracing the Arabian Gulf. This has allowed Abu Dhabi to become a leading, global destination.

Local time

The UAE is four hours ahead of UTC (Co-ordinated Universal Time - formerly known as GMT) and there is no daylight saving.

Electric current/voltage

Standard voltage 220v 50 hz

Currency

The local currency is the UAE dirham (AED or Dhs) which is divided into 100 fils and is pegged against the US $ (US$ 1: AED 3.6725).

Credit and debit cards are widely accepted. Foreign currencies and travellers' cheques can be exchanged in licenced exchange offices, banks and hotels, a passport is required. Personal cheques can be a bit trickier and many places won't accept them. If you're shopping in the souks (markets) or in smaller shops, cash is the best option.

ATMs

Most banks operate ATMs, which accept a range of cards. Most ATMs, although linked to a specific bank, are part of a central network so you can transact with a bank card for a nominal charge. Common systems accepted around Abu Dhabi include American Express, Cirrus, Global Access, MasterCard, Plus System and VISA. ATMs can be found in all shopping malls, major supermarkets, most petrol stations and the airport. For international cards, the exchange rates used in transactions are normally competitive and the process is faster and far less hassle than using traditional travellers' cheques.

Money Exchange

‘Bureau de Change’ offices are all over Abu Dhabi and offer rates often better than the banks. You'll find them in all major malls and popular shopping districts. They are usually open Saturday to Thursday, from 8am - 1pm and 4.30pm to 8.30pm, and on Friday evenings. Many hotels will also exchange money and travellers' cheques at standard (non-competitive) rates.

Climate

This is a destination with almost year round sunshine, little rainfall and near perfect winter temperatures. Abu Dhabi has a sub-tropical, arid climate. Sunny blue skies and high temperatures can be expected most of the year. Rainfall is sporadic, falling mainly in winter (November to March) and averaging 12 cms per year in most of the emirate.

Temperatures range from a low of around 13C (50F) on a winter's night, to a high of around 42C (118F) on a summer's day. The cooler months, November to April, are the most pleasant time to visit, when temperatures are around 24C (75F) during the day and 13C (56F) at night.

What to Wear

Lightweight summer clothing is suitable for most of the year, but something slightly warmer may be needed for the winter months. Be sure to take some sort of jacket or sweater when visiting hotels or the cinema, as the air conditioning can be strong.

Although the attitude towards dress is fairly liberal throughout the Emirates, a healthy amount of respect for local customs doesn't go amiss, especially when shopping or sightseeing.

Malls, health clubs and resort facilities are generally more accepting of what's fashionable, but when visiting government offices it is best to cover your shoulders and legs.

Language

Arabic is the official language, although English is widely spoken and most road and shop signs and restaurant menus are in both languages. The further out of town you go, the more Arabic you will find, both written and spoken. Arabic isn't the easiest language to pick up, or to pronounce, but if you can throw in a couple of Arabic words here and there they will be warmly received.

Useful phrases

HiSalam
Good morningSabah el kheer
Good eveningMasaa el kheer
Welcome! (to greet someone)Marhaba
How are you?Kaifa alhal
I'm fine, thanksAna bekhair, shokran
And you?Wa ant?
Thank you (very much)!Shukran (jazeelan)
You’re welcome! (for thank you)Afwan
Good nightTosbeho ala khair
GoodbyeMa’a salama

Culture & Lifestyle

The combination of international influences and a strong commitment to local heritage has created an intriguing mix of new and old.

Abu Dhabi's culture is firmly rooted in Arabia's Islamic traditions. Islam is more than a religion; it is a way of life that governs everyday events from what to wear to what to eat and drink. The UAE's culture and heritage is inextricably linked to its religion, and it is a shining example of Islam's true commitment to tolerance and hospitality.

National Dress

UAE nationals usually wear traditional dress in public. For men, this is the kandura - a white full length shirt-like garment, which is worn with a white or red checkered headdress, known as a ghutra. This is secured with a black cord (agal).

Sheikhs and important businessmen may also wear a thin, gold-trimmed robe (bisht) over their kandura at important events.

In public, women wear a long, loose black robe (abaya) that covers their normal clothes - plus a headscarf (sheyla). The abaya is often of very sheer, flowing fabric with intricate embroidery and beadwork along the wrists and hemline.

Sheylas are also becoming more elaborate and a statement of individuality, particularly among the young. Headwear varies with some women wearing a thin black veil covering their face and others, generally older women, wearing a leather veil (burka), which covers the nose, brow, cheekbones and lips.

Photography

While tourist photography is acceptable, it is polite to ask permission before taking photos of people, particularly women. Photographs of government buildings, military installations and ports and airports should not be taken. Also, cameras may be banned in public areas designated for women and children only.

In emergency

The emergency phone number for Abu Dhabi Police is 999. Whether you need police assistance, an ambulance or for any other emergency 999 is the number to call.

If you’re involved in a traffic accident, it’s important to contact the police immediately. In case of a minor incident, move your car to the road side, as there are fines for obstructing traffic. You cannot file an insurance claim without a police report.

For other enquiries, Abu Dhabi Police operates a dedicated Tourism Police section which will advise and guide you on a range of matters. You can contact them on +971 2 800 2626 and +971 2 512 7777, or visit www.hr.adpolice.gov.ae/tourismpolice

In a medical emergency, Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (+971 2 610 2000) and Al Noor Hospital (+971 2 626 5265) both have Accident and Emergency units. If you’re injured in a traffic accident, you will automatically be taken to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

The Abu Dhabi Government portal (www.abudhabi.ae) provides an updated list of 24-hour pharmacies and medical services, including hospitals, clinics, and medical centres. If you don't have internet access you can call the toll free number 800 555 (+971 2 666 4442).