Lifestyle in Abu Dhabi

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The expat lifestyle in Abu Dhabi has achieved nearly mythical proportion; many foreigners moving here conjure images of paradise and a life thick with lavish luxury.
Lifestyle in Abu Dhabi
And for a good number of expats it’s true that life is centred around shopping, relaxation and socialising. For many, material wealth is much easier to come by in the emirate and, initially, finding new cause to swipe the credit card is invigorating.

Malls abound, an energised nightlife beckons and with such a large community of foreigners there always seems to be something happening for everyone to take part in.

That said, for others with less lucrative salaries or for those who no longer value the pull of the spend, expats will have to be a little more ingenious when it comes to living the good life, especially in summer, when the oppressive heat eliminates any opportunity for outdoor fun.

Shopping in Abu Dhabi

There is no doubt that the shopping is excellent in Abu Dhabi. Plenty of souks (markets), malls and airport duty-free shops exist in and around the city.

Souks are where to go for oriental carpets, gold and antique jewellery, electronic gadgets, designer clothes, cosmetics, spices and souvenirs. Great shopping locations include the Souk at Central Market, the Fish Souk in the Mina Zayed Free Port, the Al Mina fruit and vegetable souk or the modern adaptation of a marketplace at Qaryat Al Beri. Typical gifts for expat family members back home include traditional coffee pots, Bedouin jewellery and antique chests.
Shopping malls open around 10am most days, and close late, even past midnight in some cases. In Abu Dhabi alone, there are more than 10 separate malls or centres, each with familiar Western outlets and cinemas. The two largest are Marina and Abu Dhabi malls. The famous Abu Dhabi Shopping Festival, held in March each year, offers amazing bargains and shopping prizes that lure visitors from all over the world.

Nightlife in Abu Dhabi

Lifestyle in Abu DhabiThe nightlife in Abu Dhabi is surprisingly lively, even if the city claims a reputation as being more “family friendly” than nearby Dubai. The parties start late, from 11pm, and dress codes are enforced at most clubs. Popular bars include the Jazz Bar at Hemingway's, Trader Vic’s in the Beach Rotana and the Belgian Beer Café in the Intercontinental. Look out for regular live music, happy hours, quiz nights and ladies nights to spice up the regular routine.

Local nightclubs tend to feature international DJs as well as traditional Arab singers and belly dancers – both on the same night if you’re lucky. The top nightclubs include Le Meridien's Sax Club, and Étoiles at the Emirates Palace Hotel.

For expats who are tired of the clubs and restaurants in Abu Dhabi, Dubai is only 90 minutes away. The nightlife scene is bigger and wilder in Dubai, and plenty of hotels offer weekend specials for those in need of an escape.

Kids in Abu Dhabi

At first glance, many expat parents feel Abu Dhabi has few options to entertain children, and while the hot summer days can certainly limit choice, there is actually plenty to do in the emirate.

Friday brunches are a family favourite, as parents can eat and relax while on-site entertainment occupies the little ones. Evening picnics in one of the city’s parks are also a great way to avoid sunburn while making time for BBQ and baseball.

Otherwise, check out the Marina Mall Fun City with its great range of cutting-edge arcade games and fun rides. Don’t miss the thrashing shark rollercoaster, the nippy little bumper cars and the intimidating, though quite harmless, 'Extreme Shock' machine. Another reliable option is paintball or table tennis at the Armed Forces Officers' Club. The Olympic-size swimming pool is a big hit on hot days.

For an icy day in the desert try out Hili Fun City, nicknamed the 'Disneyland of the Middle East' as it is the biggest theme park in the Gulf. Plenty of rides and attractions will have the whole family coming back for more.

Sightseeing in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi appeals more to working expats than sightseeing tourists, but it does have its share of worthwhile things to see and do.

Al Hosn Palace (White Fort)
Abu Dhabi’s oldest building is known locally as the White Fort and was built in 1793 to house the former ruling family. After extensive renovations in 1983, it now houses the Cultural Foundation – don’t miss the tile work over the entrance.

Heritage Village
This living museum is designed to showcase the skills and lifestyle of the Bedouin, original inhabitants of this region. The Heritage Village over the Abu Dhabi Corniche has tents, courtyard houses, a working ancient irrigation system and various workshops.

Al Ain
Head out of town for the day to the richly historic and picturesque city of Al Ain, 100 miles (160km) east of Abu Dhabi. The dry desert air and the oases in the area have made it a popular weekend retreat for many expats living in the emirate.

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