One of the highlights of 2022 was certainly a weekend trip to Abu Dhabi as a family in November. Living so close to the UAE, flights here from Kuwait are mega cheap (we paid £40 each return, but have since seen them regularly for £24). And so we decided to take advantage of that, and packed a backpack each, hopped on a plane after school on the Thursday, and spent 2 nights in Abu Dhabi – It was both memorable and surreal, and we all absolutely loved it!
Kuwait to Abu Dhabi
One of the highlights of been an expat anywhere are the travel opportunities it opens up to neighbouring countries and cities, offering new places to explore and discover. This certainly is true out here in the Middle East; with so many fantastic countries on our doorstop, and most of which are under £80 for a flight to (often much cheaper).
Abu Dhabi is definitely the cheapest place to get to (with Saudi \Arabia, Jordan and Oman not much further behind). Flights can often be found for £12 each way and is only a quick 1hr and 15 mins flight (hence totally doable after school). It’s also a great option to fly here if you want to do Dubai, as then its only another hour by car or bus to Dubai.
Our weekends here are Fridays and Saturdays, and so we left after school on the Thursday and returned Saturday late afternoon. Being such a short flight, it was totally fine with the kids (well mostly… lets say that most people by the end of the flight knew who Oscar was!)
Where we Stayed
We looked at both Air BNB’s and Hotels to stay in but in the end booked 2 nights at The Eclipse Boutique Suites (via Booking.com) which offers hotel apartments, and was both an ideal and budget friendly option too. It was clean, comfortable, peaceful and met our needs. We didn’t spend a huge amount of time in our accommodation – it was mostly for sleeping, but it was fun on the first night to have space to hang out watching the World cup with a couple of Pizzas and then also the space for the kids to spread out a bit! There was a LULU supermarket right around the corner, so we grabbed croissants and juice for brekkie and laid it out on the table!
It was a quiet area and offered easy access to the places we wanted to visit via taxi!
Our first morning in Abu Dhabi was spent visiting The Louvre – a beautiful and modern Art gallery located on Saadiyat Island that works in collaboration with The Louvre gallery in Paris. The Louvre Abu Dhabi offers visitors four major special exhibitions each year which are created in collaboration with their French museum partners and feature works loaned from their permanent collections.
I was excited to visit, however for a brief moment, we almost decided not to as it was a little rushed. We did only spent a couple of hours here and barely scraped the surface of it, as we were booked onto a Desert Safari in the afternoon, but we are so glad we went and the kids absolutely loved it (and want to go back). It is such a beautiful building, and super family friendly – especially the children’s museum where we spent most of our time (exploring the emotions of Art)!
The Louvre is £14 each to visit (63 AED) and the kids were FREE. It is easy to get to from both Dubai and around Abu Dhabi, and, like most things in the Middle East it stays open really late!
Desert tours are a must when in the UAE and there are LOADS of providers offering various packages. This was 100% at the top of our list for this trip and one that I think we will all remember for a very long time. For me it was my birthday gift, and an experience like nothing else – we had so much fun dune bashing, camel riding and a buffet dinner at sunset while watching a host of entertainers! It was a total dream come true.
We underestimated how long it took to get out to the desert Safari location (about 2 hrs by sweaty bus) but once there we had an absolute blast together. It was busy, but also totally fine and fun too. We booked with Desert Safari Abu Dhabi, who by far were one of the most budget friendly; offering the transport, activities and food (with unlimited drinks) for only 67 AED each (it cost around £75 for the whole family for the evening). You can also borrow a board and try dune boarding (which we did) or pay a little more once there for quad biking or a longer camel ride (which we didn’t do, as the other activities at this time, with the kids ages was ample). I think in the future I would definitely go again and let the kids quad bike and camel ride for longer, as we all loved the experience.
FYI – the bus journey was tight and very sweaty (and almost unbearable with a 1 year old). But, at the same time, it isn’t enough to put me off doing similar again, because what awaited, and the evening we had for the price, was more than worth it – it was incredible and we had so much fun and smiles together! And, it’s all part of the fun of travelling right?
The tour guides were friendly and helpful and communicated well via what’s app leading up to it.
The Grand Mosque
You can’t go to Abu Dhabi and not visit the Grand Mosque! It is the most exquisite and beautiful mosque I have ever seen and as a free visit, a massive part of Middle Eastern Culture and iconic landmark, it is an absolute must!
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the worlds biggest mosques and is the one that looks like it stepped right of Aladdin! It features 82 domes, more than 1,000 columns, 24-carat-gold gilded chandeliers and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. It is obviously a place of worship – and so it is required that visitors respect this and women dress appropriately. This includes ankles, wrists, necks and heads all covered. If you’re wearing trousers, a long sleeved top/shirt and headscarf, then you will be fine. Alternatively you do walk through the old Souq to enter the mosque, and there are ample salesmen ready to sell you various Abayas and head scarves – which is a fun cultural experience.
You can book online for a free visit via their website, but do remember that it is a place to be respected, used for daily prayer and it might be good to remember too that thousands gather here on Ramadan (which this year is March to April). Our kids loved it though and marvelled at the architecture, huuuugggee handmade carpet and generally having the chance to go into such an amazing Mosque!
We had a fantastic weekend in Abu Dhabi and found it to be such a calm, peaceful and greener place to be – I love how family friendly it is too. We loved how much there was to see and do, and made memories to last a lifetime. I cannot believe that all this was available to us in a weekend trip.
Next time we will probably rent a car – we spent quite a bit on Taxi’s, and so there wouldn’t be a huge difference there cost wise. It would also enable us to go further out and explore other places too. Regarding sites in Abu Dhabi itself, we had on our list the Falcon Hospital, Yas Island water park and just visiting some of the beaches too. I’m sure the kids would love to see Farrari world and the Aquarium … but it’s safe to say that being to close, and having so many options for activities and entertainment, we will 100% be spending more time in Abu Dhabi (and hopefully see Dubai too from there) – inshallah!