The current pandemic might have devastated your travel plan this year in 2020 and now you probably are still being grounded at home. But your wandering spirit doesn’t have to be.
At this time (July 2020), the World has started slowly opening up and the UAE also partially relaxed travel restrictions with Dubai welcoming visitors back on July 7th.
In the capital – Abu Dhabi, even though there are still some restrictions going on, but thanks to modern technology, you are still able to visit many of the best attractions in town with your smartphone or laptop.
The Department of Culture and Tourism (Abu Dhabi) initiated a “Stay Curious” program that helps you virtually explore the capital of the UAE without traveling in this difficult time.
So, here are the top 15 inspiring virtual travel experiences in Abu Dhabi for you to enjoy during the coronavirus pandemic
#1 Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (SZGM)
Official website: https://www.szgmc.gov.ae/en/
The mosque named after the UAE’s founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is always in every tourist’s top-thing-to-see checklist in Abu Dhabi. It is the biggest mosque in the UAE and also one of the biggest ones in the world that attracts millions of visitors every year.
A simple search on Google with the keyword “Abu Dhabi” or on any platforms that distribute visual content, you will be easily flooded with images of a giant white mosque. Yes, it is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
With the mosque virtual tour, you will enjoy the marvelous architecture with an immersive 360-degree view as if you are there.
Tell me how did you feel about it in the comment section below? Did you see the world’s largest hand-made 35 tons carpet in the main prayer hall? And don’t forget to look up and see the chandelier that is made of millions of Swarovski crystals.
The mosque’s official Instagram (@szgmc_ae) even hosts a weekly Tuesday live virtual tour (Arabic) and Saturday (in English) at 11:00 am.
#2 Louvre Abu Dhabi
Official website: https://www.louvreabudhabi.ae/
Entrance fee: Admission for adults 18+: AED 63 (VAT included). There are different ticket fees (or free) for other types of visitors, kindly visit the official website for more information.
Current open timing: 10:00am – 6:30pm. Closed on Monday.
This is one of the first attractions in Abu Dhabi reopened for visitors after over 100 days of closure because of the impact of coronavirus. The museum reopened on the 24th of June, but the virtual tour that the museum is providing is still there for visitors on the website.
I wrote an article about their first online virtual tour here about “Furusiyya: The Art of Chivalry between East and West”. And there will be more exhibitions like this in the future.
For those who are lucky to be here this time and can’t wait to go out, here is some highlight about new rules of the museum: tickets can only be bought online through the website (e-ticket), the time slot is fixed, you should arrive 10 minutes early and everyone has a maximum 3 hours to visit. You need to prepare and wear a mask and gloves all the time during the visit. Some more useful detailed information about it here.
#3 Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Official website: https://www.ferrariworldabudhabi.com/
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the largest indoor amusement park located in Yas Island, thrill lovers usually spend a full day or even more to enjoy the fastest (Formula Rossa) and another highest roller coaster (Flying Ace) in the world.
The park has Formula 1 and particularly Ferrari themed, an excellent place to know about the F1 team’s history and their milestones.
Curious what’s inside the Ferrari World virtual theme park tour?
Look for Mamma Rosella and Italian Street where you could see a small but beautiful glimpse of a typical Italian town. Or wandering next to even smaller Italian cities on the replica of Ferrari brand cars in Bell’Italia
#4 Yas Waterworld
Official website: https://www.yaswaterworld.com/en
Virtual tour link: https://www.yasisland.ae/360/vtours/waterworld/index.html
Located next to the Ferrari World theme park is Yas Waterworld. This place is the only Emirati-theme water park in the UAE. Why? Because the park was designed in a way that reflects Emirati’s pearl history, one of the most important industries in the past.
The park was built around a fairy tale “The Lost Pearl”, it’s about a village called Qaryat Al Jewana that was once prospered by the pearl harvesting but they all vanished in one day. The stories passed generations after generations, and one day, a little girl called Dana after hearing the story, she decided to go for a dangerous adventure with her friends, to hopefully find all the pearls.
And the challenges she met were our over 40 rides, slides, and attractions today. Look at the virtual tour and let me know if you can spot the giant white pearl?
#5 Wahat Al Karama
Official website: https://www.wahatalkarama.ae/
Wahat Al Karama is also known as the Oasis of Dignity, is a war memorial and monument. If you ask me why you should be interested in this attraction, it is because of its unique architecture.
Immediately you will be fascinated with 31 massive learning tablets clad in aluminum that symbolizes the unity, solidarity, and mutual support between the leadership, citizens with the servicemen and women who have been protecting the country.
Other reasons are it’s sitting next to the famously Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel to give you another unique perspective view about the mosque.
#6 Manarat Al Saadiyat
Official website: http://manaratalsaadiyat.ae/en/
This is an ideal place for art and culture lovers who want to discover contemporary art from local and international artists. And what I like about this place through this virtual tour is you will see a lot of Emirati patriots express love to the country through their artworks.
Manarat Al Saadiyat is located on Saadiyat island, some of the nearby attractions are Louvre Museum, Zayed National Museum, Saadiyat public beach, and it’s also close to New York University Abu Dhabi.
#7 Warehouse 421
Official website: https://www.warehouse421.ae/en
From a warehouse in a historical district of Zayed port and near the traditional Fish and vegetable market…it is a creative space for all kinds of art-related activities, learning opportunities for creativity lovers, workshops, and exhibitions throughout the year.
#8 Al Ain Oasis
This is one of the most important landmarks in the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, Al Ain Oasis or the Spring Oasis is the UNESCO world heritage site.
Its location is in Al Ain city and is about 2 hours away from Abu Dhabi, the place gives us a glimpse about the local life thousands of years ago through a three-layers ancient agricultural system and particularly Falaj system which people used to take fresh water from underground in the mountain to grow dates and other important plants.
Update: Al Ain oasis was open on the 24th of June 2020 after being closed by the coronavirus pandemic.
#9 Qasr Al Muwaiji
Official website: http://qasralmuwaiji.ae/en/
Qasr Al Muwaiji was built in the 20th century in Al Ain city. The place was initially a palace where Sheikh Zayed was still a ruler’s representative. It’s also where the current president of UAE was born – Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed.
The Department of Culture and Tourism transformed the place to become a museum for visitors who are curious about an important part of Abu Dhabi’s history.
Update: You can now visit the place as it was open on the 24th of June 2020 after being closed by the coronavirus pandemic.
#10 Al Qattara Arts Center
The art center in Al Ain city where you can learn historical heritage through creative activities such as Arabic calligraphy, drawing, oil painting, photography, crafting, etc.
As you can see from the virtual map above, it has a very Emirati vibe with old architectures. The center also hosts a seasonal festival every October – November with a local souq (aka market), traditional dancing, and activities.
#11 Qasr Al Hosn
Official website: https://qasralhosn.ae/
Entrance fee: AED 30 for adults over 18 years old.
Update: Qasr Al Hosn now is open for visitors (reopened on June 24th)
I would say this is a place where unfortunately tourists barely know about, especially for someone who heard about Abu Dhabi for the first time. People many times get surprised as it’s so beautiful architecture and rich in history.
Because the 259 years old palace is the oldest landmark in Abu Dhabi island, it was initially just a watchtower then transformed into a palace.
You would feel vividly the old history meets the new modern city as most parts of Qasr Al Hosn were well maintained and the Qasr ( or “Palace” in English) is surrounded in the many sky-high buildings.
To have a better experience during this time, I suggest you read more about the precautionary measures here.
#12 Cultural Foundation
Official website: https://culturalfoundation.ae/
Update: Currently, it’s open for visitors with precautions, read more here
With just a walking distance from the Qasr Al Hosn, you will discover a little bit of old building and it’s called Cultural Foundation. It was built in 1981 and a place where a lot of locals and residents nurtured their love for art and culture.
As you can guess from the name, the Cultural Foundation usually hosts many art events, workshops, and exhibits…
#13 Wandering around the city with a local
Wanna stroll around the city with a local inside some luxury cars? A 2 minutes ride will cover some of the city’s main attractions, such as Emirates Palace, the Abu Dhabi theater, the corniche, or even dessert…
#14 Pearl Diving
Before the discovery of oil, the pearling industry was the biggest contribution of wealth to the local citizens. Until the early 20th century, due to many negative reasons, the economy went south because pearls were no longer valuable, mostly because cultured pearls were invented.
But it is still a proud memory for every Emiratis nowadays, and the virtual experience made us feel it alive again.
Let’s together watch how they harvested the pearls before.
#15 Yas Marina Circuit
Every year, Abu Dhabi hosts many international events, one of them is the Formula 1 which takes place in Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island.
You will enjoy a virtual high-speed drive next to a professional racer. It’s virtual, so you don’t have to wear a seatbelt!
There is even more…
Did those virtual experiences in Abu Dhabi trigger your travel mood again? I hope they inspire you! Check out the Abu Dhabi event website if you are interested in some local virtual events, or want to see the more virtual experience you can have a look at this youtube list or visit “Stay Curious” project’s website.
Post illustration credit: Epik Stories.