Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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Cruising to Abu Dhabi

The heart of the Emirates

While Dubai may have a reputation for being brash and bold, it's Abu Dhabi that is the real powerhouse of the United Arab Emirates, being the federal capital and most populous city in the country. It's here that most of the major oil companies have their headquarters, and where its neighbour might be more flashy in the way it spends its cash, Abu Dhabi is a much more refined sort of place, and has an authentic Arabic soul that isn't quite so tainted by all this new money.

That's not to say that the emirate isn't a thriving modern city, and it is in fact considered to be one of the most forward-thinking and cosmopolitan metropolises in the world. One trip to Yas Island will confirm this, as it's here that you'll discover the true extent of the Emirati sense of ambition. The Yas Marina Circuit, for example, is one of the most exciting tracks in Formula One, while the nearby Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is home to the world's fastest rollercoaster.

As with the rest of the emirates, shopping comprises a major part of the modern lifestyle in Abu Dhabi, with the city boasting some of the largest and most extravagant shopping malls on the planet. Abu Dhabi Mall, Marina Mall, and Al Wahda Mall are all home to the biggest names in retail, while the Central Market is the place to go if you want to pick up some authentic local gifts and handicrafts. Here, you'll be able to buy things like Persian rugs, antiques, and all manner of Arabian textiles.

Going back to that authentic Arabic soul, Abu Dhabi is home to the Qasr al-Hosn - or White Fort - where the ruling families lived from 1761 to 1966, and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the sixth largest Islamic place of worship in the world.

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