Nightlife in Abu Dhabi

IExpats will find that Abu Dhabi has a thriving nightlifen a country with a population of only 20 percent locals, foreign pockets abound and the nightlife in Abu Dhabi reflects this.

As most expats immediately realise, there are two centres to the Abu Dhabi social scene: the mall and the hotel. Malls are places to see and be seen, to go to the cinema, or to shop. Hotels have everything else, and under one roof: happy hour, dinner, drinks and the nightclub.  

Islamic culture does not affect the nightlife scene, even in Ramadan, when the observant fast all day and take it easy at night. During this holy time malls still bustle until 3am, and the liquor stores still open their doors.

Nightlife in Abu Dhabi

When work lets out, one will find various segments of the expat community gathered around the local hotel bars (liquor licences are a must). Whether it’s the chic Le Royal Méridien, the old school Beach Rotana, or the 3 billion-dollar Emirates Palace, there are plenty of watering holes on offer.

For ladies, every evening of the week is an occasion to take advantage of an Abu Dhabi nightlife staple - "Ladies Nights". 

For those who are interested in shisha and a beer, try the Novotel, or the Fairmont outside of town.

Recommended shisha spots

  • The roof of the Central Souk
  • Le Boulanger on the Corniche
  • On the docks of Mina Harbour

Recommended bars

  • Trader Vic’s in the Beach Rotana
  • Hemingway’s in the Hilton Abu Dhabi
  • The Belgian Beer Café in the Intercontinental
  • For the adventurous: the many floors of the Emirates Plaza (not Emirates Palace) Hotel
  • For info about Ladies Nights, check out Time Out Abu Dhabi

Recommended clubs

  • Allure Nightclub by Cipriani, Yas Island
  • Étoiles, Emirates Palace Hotel
  • Sax, Le Royal Méridien

Performing arts, cinema, and intellectual pursuits

While hotel bar house bands tend to be the most consistent form of music and theatre in Abu Dhabi, there are some world-class acts that come and go with some regularity. Every April, WOMAD (World of Music, Arts, and Dance) organises a full weekend of international headliners. After the summer, the Abu Dhabi Classics season brings in orchestras from around the world, such as the Berlin Philharmonic and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, among others.

Every mall has a cinema playing box office favourites from Holly(and sometimes Bolly)wood, but only the El Dorado on Electra Street, with its glitzy neon façade and films in Tamil and Malayalam, can transport a person back to the 1960s — with décor to match.

The New York University Abu Dhabi Institute also hosts occasional film screenings that would appeal to a more high-brow crowd. This is in addition to their extensive programme of public lectures given by visiting and local authors, politicians, musicians, and scholars from across the academic spectrum.

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