Abu Dhabi

A roller coaster city
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
A massive $500 million mosque

Find Dubai, Abu Dhabi & Sir Bani Yas Cruises

Abu Dhabi

The pleasure of untamed luxury

The United Arab Emirates’ capital, Abu Dhabi, where your MSC cruise ship awaits your return, offers an intriguing contrast to its freewheeling neighbour Dubai, a little over an hour’s drive down the coast.


Leading attractions on your Dubai, Abu Dhabi & Sir Bani Yas cruises to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates include the extravagant Emirates Palace hotel and the even more spectacular Sheikh Zayed Mosque, while the various attractions of Yas Island, home to the vast Ferrari World theme park, lie just down the road. 
 
The blockbuster attraction at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island is a dream excursion for any F1 fans. The “world’s biggest indoor theme park”, it offers a wide range of Ferrari-themed rides and displays which will appeal both to kids and grown-ups, including the chance to drive an F1 simulator or to ride the Formula Rossa roller coaster (the world’s fastest) or to experience race-day acceleration in the G Force “tower of speed” – as well as numerous gentler family-oriented rides. 
 
Dedicated motorsports enthusiasts will also enjoy the big display of classic and contemporary Ferraris, and the virtual tour of the firm’s famous Maranello factory. Some 15km from central Abu Dhabi, the mighty Sheikh Zayed Mosque dominates all landward approaches to the city, its snowy-white mass of domes and minarets visible for miles around and providing a spectacular symbol of Islamic pride at the entrance to the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
 
Completed in 2007, the mosque was commissioned by and named after Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, who lies buried in a modest white marble mausoleum close to the entrance. The mosque is one of the world’s biggest and certainly the most expensive, having taken twelve years to build at a cost of around US$500 million. It’s also unusual in being one of only two mosques in the UAE open to non-Muslims.

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    United Arab Emirates

    Diamonds shining in the desert
    Diamonds shining in the desert

    Dubai is actually just one of the seven statelets which collectively form the United Arab Emirates, or UAE, a loose confederation founded in 1971 following the departure of the British from the Gulf.

    Technically the seven emirates are considered equal, and preserve a considerable measure of legislative autonomy, rather like the various states of the USA – which explains, for instance, why local laws in Dubai are so different from those in neighbouring Sharjah.

    In practice, however, as a cruise to the Emirates can show you, a clear pecking order applies. Abu Dhabi, easily the largest and wealthiest of the emirates, serves as the capital (even if Abu Dhabi city is barely half the size of Dubai) and wields the greatest influence over national policy, as well as providing the UAE with its president.

    Dubai ranks second, followed by Sharjah and then the other emirates of Umm al Quwain, Ras al Khaimah, Ajman and Fujairah, which remain relatively undeveloped and even surprisingly impoverished in places.

    The fact that the union has survived despite the sometimes considerable differences of opinion between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is a glowing tribute to local diplomacy, even though it is has also created the anomaly whereby Dubai, with its headline international standing, isn’t even the capital of its own low-key country.