Ancient culture lies on the doorstep of a modern Abu Dhabi, and this itinerary will take you on a journey through hundreds of years of history, from a Bedouin desert camp to the ultra-modern Louvre.

The development of Abu Dhabi has been captured in its art and culture. What sets it apart is the way in which the city has managed to become one of the most architecturally advanced in the world, while still holding on to its Bedouin roots.

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DAY 1

Al Ain Oasis

Head to the inland city of Al Ain, west of Abu Dhabi, and see why it’s known as the Garden City. The centrepiece of this is the enormous Oasis, that stretches over nearly 3,000 acres in the centre of the city. It’s the UAE’s first curated UNESCO World Heritage site visitor experience, and features more than 147,000 date palms. This is a tranquil escape from the heat of the day, and lies in spectacular juxtaposition to the rugged landscape surrounding it. Visit the Eco-Centre to get a better understanding of the significance of the oasis to Abu Dhabi’s development, through a series of interactive exhibits.

Al Jahili Fort

Erected in 1891, the Al Jahili Fort is one of the UAE’s most historic buildings. It was first built with the role of protecting the city and its palm groves, and was also the house of the local governor. Today, it is a popular visitor destination, with an information centre and various exhibition spaces, both permanent and temporary. The Fort hosts an historical photography exhibition, and has previously displayed local music and equestrian events.

BBQ Al Qasr

After a day of exploring Al Ain, head back to the Emirates Palace and enjoy a romantic dinner at BBQ Al Qasr. The gazebos sit right on the sand, offering exceptional views of the water and the stars, as diners enjoy freshly grilled meals using the finest ingredients from around the world. It’s recommended that you book ahead for an evening meal here, as it is very popular.

DAY 2

Saadiyat Cultural District

Located on Saadiyat Island, the Cultural District will house some of the most incredible art on the planet, in five buildings that are works of art themselves. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is soon to be completed, and will be opening in late 2017, showcasing works spanning millennia, from ancient to contemporary. The Zayed National Museum will tell the story of the UAE through the life of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan al Nahyan, who unified the region. The newest Guggenheim Museum will also be housed on Saadiyat Island, and will be a centre for cutting edge contemporary art and design. In addition to these museums, the Performing Arts Centre will house multiple forms of artistic performance, in a building that itself reflects the fluidity of motion. Finally, the Maritime Museum will celebrate the UAE’s long relationship with the sea, it’s seafaring history and long reliance on the Arabian Gulf.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital

Take a tour of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital and learn about the long history of falcons and falconry in the UAE. Falconry in the UAE was traditionally crucial to the hunting and survival of the Bedouin people, and as such, the falcons have a special place in the hearts of Emiratis to this day. For an animal that is so revered, their health and wellbeing is taken equally as seriously, which is why the Falcon Hospital is the largest in the world. The tour will give visitors a chance to see first-hand how the birds are treated, and will also give them a chance to get up close to the majestic birds themselves. It’s without a doubt, a must-see for anyone visiting Abu Dhabi.

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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The architectural crown jewel of Abu Dhabi, the incredible Grand Mosque can house up to 40,000 worshippers. The white and gold pillars and reflective pools surrounding are spectacularly lavish, and provide a great place to wander at the end of a big day of sightseeing. It features 82 domes, over 1,000 columns and the world's largest hand-woven rug. The mosque is open daily for visitors, but is open Friday mornings for worshippers only. We recommend heading down in the late afternoon and getting some photos as the sun sets.

DAY 3

Jones the Grocer

If there’s one thing that most Australian and New Zealand travellers will seek out anywhere in the world, it’s a decent cup of coffee. Where better to do this in Abu Dhabi, than at a cafe and grocer that was first started in Australia? Jones the Grocer offers quality meals throughout the day, and some of the best coffee in the city, serving up their own house blend and single origin coffees to locals and travellers looking to kick start their day. With four locations in Abu Dhabi and surrounds, you will never be far from a good cup of coffee and a quality meal.

Warehouse421

Launched in 2015, Warehouse421 is a cultural space built from a former industrial space in the Mina Zayed - the port area of Abu Dhabi. It’s the centre of an initiative by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation to grow the arts and cultural community in the UAE. The centre hosts rotating exhibitions and special events, as well as regular talks, performances, film screenings and workshops through it’s ‘Wednesdays at the Warehouse’ programme.

Heritage Village

Step into a traditional oasis village, and see what life was like for a traditional Emirati. Run by the Emirates Heritage Club, the village is located along the Corniche breakwall, on Abu Dhabi Theatre Road. Guests will see first-hand what life was like in the desert, with goats hair tents, campfires and a falaj irrigation system. See traditional craftsmen doing metalwork and pottery, alongside weaving and spinning. This is a great interactive experience for the whole family!

Where to stay

Al Ain Rotana

This hotel is the perfect location to explore Al Ain, with rooms offering balconies with beautiful mountain views. The property features a large outdoor pool, international restaurants, and fitness centre.

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Shangri La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri

All guestrooms at this hotel have a balcony with either a garden view or majestic views of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Guests can ride in gondolas, shop at the Arabian market or swim in one of the outdoor pools.

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St. Regis Saadiyat Island

The elegant St. Regis hotel is located on the beachfront at Saadiyat Island. The property is built in a Mediterranean style, and features five pools, a spa, tennis court and an 18-hole golf course. The spacious rooms all feature private balconies and luxury amenities.

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