Monday, Oct. 13, 2008

Abu Dhabi

The United Arab Emirates' capital has long lived in the shadow of its brasher, brattier brother down the road. But Abu Dhabi is increasingly attracting visitors looking for a break from Dubai's breakneck pace. The city's cultural scene is gathering steam, with Abu Dhabi's very own outposts of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums (the latter designed by Frank Gehry) scheduled to open by 2012. For those of you who are more interested in racing than Renoir, the Formula One will roar into town in 2009 for the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. So there's plenty in the pipeline, but what can visitors expect to see this year? For now, a smaller, less crowded Dubai.

Abu Dhabi is 150 km (93 miles) southwest of Dubai down Sheikh Zayed Road. You can rent a car or jump in a taxi, which will cost AED 250 if you flag one from the street or AED 150 if you pre-book with Al Ghazal Express (02-444-5885), but the cheapest way of getting to the capital is by bus. Minibuses leave the Bur Dubai bus station regularly, the route is timetabled, but most drivers tend to wait until the bus is full before leaving. This may mean a crowded and slightly claustrophobic experience, but for AED 15 you can't really complain. You will be dropped off at the central bus station in Abu Dhabi from which local taxis (which are cheaper than their Dubai counterparts) are available.