After spending what can likely be described as the perfect weekend at Qasr Al Sarab, we had an afternoon to kill in Abu Dhabi before our flight left in the morning. So, we made a list of the sights and decided to see how many things could be crossed off. Two things had to be booked in advance – Qasr Al Watan and the Louvre.
We debated back and forth about whether we wanted to visit Qasr Al Watan (palace) vs the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center and decided that since the temps would be well past 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the palace would be a better choice. The mosque is very clear on its website about the required dress code, but after a thorough search on the palace’s site, we couldn’t find any similar requirements.
Which is why I was more than a little surprised to be asked to put on not one, but TWO, scarves when we entered the visitor’s center at the palace. This palace is not a religious structure, it’s not even a historical one! It was built in 2017 and opened to the public in 2019. Despite the drama, from the photos below, you’ll understand why we wanted to visit.
The grounds are absolutely ridiculous. The palace was built out of white granite and limestone and positively sparkles in the sun. The garden is shockingly green for existing in a desert and we would have loved to explore it more, but, as you can imagine in 100+ degree heat with two scarves on, I just wasn’t going to be spending much time outdoors.
The grounds also provided lovely views of the downtown area as well.
But if you thought the outside of the palace was opulent, just wait until you see photos of the inside!
I don’t think there was a single thing inside the palace that didn’t glimmer – from the extravagant chandeliers to the mosaic walls to the dome with a diameter of 37 meters (121 feet).
This palace had clearly been built to photograph. Other than being a major tourism site in Abu Dhabi, the palace is also used for official purposes like hosting foreign leaders and meetings of the country’s supreme council and federal cabinet.
We spent about an hour at the palace before we were ready for something a lot more fun! We used Careem to get us to Soul Beach and our first stop was lunch at Black Tap. A craft burger and beer joint originating in NYC, it had just enough vegetarian options to tempt us. But what really had me hooked was their CRAZYSHAKE. It’s just what it sounds like – a whole lot of ice cream with a whole lot of toppings. I picked something with peanut butter and chocolate and sugar on top! Photographed below, you’ll understand why I only made it through half.
After all that sugar, I needed a walk, which was perfect because between us and the Louve was the boardwalk by Soul Beach. It was a little hot for my preference, but the white sand and water were lovely – definitely made us wish we’d brought our swimsuits! However, our entry time at the Louvre was fast approaching, so we decided to come back that evening for dinner.
Now, if you’re wondering if you read correctly, yes I did type: The Louvre. Apparently, this museum’s origin story begins in 2007. The UAE and France decided to exchange some culture and voilà, a world-class museum was born…eventually. It actually took another 10 years to open.
We didn’t quite know what to expect from this museum. We knew that it worked with curators in the UAE, as well as in France, but not much more. For us, one major surprise (and point of excitement) was that the museum was not organized geographically, but chronologically. The museum claims to explore shared themes that reveal and connect humanity.
We had a total flashback to our time in Germany at the Bode-Museum‘s Beyond Compare exhibit. The first room in the Louvre took different themes and showcased three country’s interpretation of them. The rest of the museum was equally interesting. Below were some of our favorite pieces.
Untitled (vase) by Keith Haring . Ariadne, A Cretan princess (Roman statue after a Greek model) from Italy [100-200 CE]. Under the Wave off Kanagawa, from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji by Katsushika Hokusai .
But my ACTUAL favorite piece is photographed below. A woodblock print titled Hanging of a Kakemono by Isoda Koryusai [1764-1788]. Because, come on, the cat!
After our time at the Louvre, the only thing left was dinner back on Soul Beach. We’d passed Alkalime Restaurant earlier in the afternoon and knew it’d be a perfect balance to our earlier lunch. Advertised as tasty dishes + tranquility, it was a delicious way to end the day. Below is a photo of my main course: Oodles of Noodles, but we also ordered starters AND desert – not something we do often.
We may not have spent much time in Abu Dhabi, but we enjoyed the time we were there. I can’t say we’ll be back soon, but I’m glad for one final international trip before we move back to the US.