Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital#12 in Best Things To Do in Abu Dhabi
One of Abu Dhabi's more obscure attractions is the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital: This functioning animal care unit is devoted to the health of falcons, which have long played an important role in Emirati society. Falconry has been practiced in the UAE for thousands of years: Bedouins used falcons to help them hunt and scavenge for food. Today, falconry is more of a sport than a necessity as hunting is now restricted in Abu Dhabi. But the birds are still revered — domesticated falcons are even granted their own UAE passports. Having opened in 1999, the ADFH cares for more than 8,500 falcons each year.
If you're interested in learning more about falconry, the hospital offers two-hour guided tours of its facility. The tour stops at several points of interest, including the falconry museum, the hospital's exam rooms and the aviary, where the birds are free to fly around at their leisure. "Not only is the tour informational, it was exciting," one TripAdvisor user recalled. "We got to watch a minor surgery, grooming, and much more." Another highlight of the tour is the opportunity to balance a falcon on your arm — souvenir photos are included in the cost of the tour.
You'll find the ADFH near Abu Dhabi International Airport on the mainland, about 25 miles east of central Abu Dhabi city. The easiest way to get there is by taxi. Tours are offered between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Admission is 170 AED (around $46 USD) for adults and 60 AED (just over $16 USD) for children ages 5 to 9; children younger than 5 years old can tag along for free. To learn more about the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, visit the facility's website.
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#1 Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Constructed between 1996 and 2007 at the request of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder and first president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is by far the most popular of Abu Dhabi's sights, and it's easy to see why. One of the largest mosques in the world, this house of worship features 82 domes, more than 1,000 columns and a white and gold facade. What's more, this is one of only two mosques in the UAE open to non-Muslim tourists. That means that visitors from all around the globe can walk across the world's largest hand-woven rug, gaze up at one of the world's largest chandeliers and admire the fusion of Fatimid, Mamluk and Ottoman architectural styles, representing three different Islamic dynasties.
Although it's not Abu Dhabi's oldest attraction, those who have visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque say that a stop here is a must for those who want a better understanding of the city's religious identity. The site is one of the world's most significant examples of contemporary Islamic architecture. You are welcome to explore the mosque on your own, but many travelers recommend tagging along on one of the free guided tours; tours take between 45 minutes and an hour and can be reserved in advance, or you can simply show up and wait for the next scheduled English tour. "Our guide was outstanding; no religion, just amazing facts and with his commentary we understood the incredible engineering, art [and] workmanship that make this so very special," according to one TripAdvisor user. Previous visitors highly recommend touring the mosque in the evening when the sunset reflects off the marble courtyard.
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