Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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Abu Dhabi Guide – Spend Less, Do More

Sheikh Zayed mosqueYou've taken that obligatory camel-riding desert safari photograph out on some of the biggest sand dunes in the world. You've marvelled at the grandeur of the giant domes and archways – Macedonian marble polished to perfection – at the imposing Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, arguable Abu Dhabi's number one tourist site. At this point you're starting to grow tired of palaces, as striking as they are, so you take a stroll along eight remarkable kilometres of manicured waterfront known as the Abu Dhabi Corniche and get a fix of history at the Heritage Village. Abu Dhabi has so much more to offer those looking for something a little different.

When the polished architecture and crisp white tablecloths become too much...

Escape to nature for a day. Visit the most substantial mangroves in the United Arab Emirates and get up close and person with the wildlife by canoe or kayak. From flamingos to herons to Arabian red foxes, the mangroves are a refuge from the rich opulence of the city. If you are an animal lover and interested in the history of the falcon in the UAE (it is a national symbol), visit the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital the world's largest falcon hospital. It is estimated that 7,000 falcons are treated at the centre every year. Middle Eastern culture has always honoured a partnership with the majestic bird for their hunting skills. These birds are a protected species and have their own passports – entitling them to travel in the cabins of Etihad Airways, the country's national carrier. Take a tour and interact with the marvellous birds while you're in town.

Intrigued by the innovative big ideas that seem to come out of the region?

Sheikh Zayed mosqueFor the environmentalist in you, why not hire a car and take a day trip out to Masdar city, a city that hopes to rely completely on solar and other renewable energy sources – a zero carbon, zero waste city. It has not become the revolutionary hub that the developers hoped for when the idea was conceived, but it is still one of a kind. It is open to the general public daily to explore at your leisure.

You've saved on your accommodation...

So why not splurge big time? This is, after all, a city of everything that glimmers and shines (they have gold-dispensing ATMs). While everything that glitters is not gold, head up to the observation deck, Abu Dhabi's equivalent to Dubai's Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world), and take in the glittering skyline as the sun goes down. Have a late high tea high up in the sky with the city buzzing beneath you.

If you have days free, stay a couple of nights at Yas Island, an entertainment destination within a half hour of Abu Dhabi. There you will find the Yas Marina Circuit (Formula 1 is a big deal in the UAE) and Yas Waterworld for the adrenaline junkies. Get on the world's first and largest 6 person waterslide – the best part of it is that it is hydromagnetic powered – and the world's largest surfable sheet wave. Here in Abu Dhabi, they are clearly good at doing the everything the biggest, tallest, grandest and fastest, so why not take a day for the world's largest indoor theme park: Ferrari World – even the name sounds large and fast. It boasts the world's fastest roller coaster, if you think you can handle the heat. For those who are into more laid back luxury, play a game of golf at Yas Links Abu Dhabi, with its ocean views, designed by the best (one of the world's leading gold course designers Kyle Phillips) – obviously award-winning just like everything else in town.

Spend Less, Do More

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