A Week in the Gulf: QR J, EK J, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE
- Introduction, Planning, and Booking
- Qatar Airways JFK Check-in and British Airways Galleries Lounge Review
- Qatar Airways A350 Business Class JFK-DOH
- 24 Hours in Doha
- DOH oneworld Business Class Lounge and Qatar Airways Economy Class DOH-MCT
- Grand Hyatt Muscat Review
- MCT Priority Pass Lounge and Emirates Business Class MCT-DXB
- Aloft Abu Dhabi
- Abu Dhabi Observation Deck at 300 and Cyacle Bikeshare
- Le Méridien Fairway Dubai
- Emirates Business Class Lounge, DXB Concourse A
- The Electronics Ban
- Emirates A380 Business Class DXB-JFK
Observation Deck at 300, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
One of the more “touristy” attractions in Abu Dhabi and one that I had not previously been to is the Observation Deck at 300 in the Jumeirah hotel at the Etihad Towers. While not as high up as its counterpart up the highway in Dubai, the observation deck is both more reasonably priced and seemingly more worth the money. I have not personally been to the observation deck in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, opting instead for At.Mosphere when I’m at the Burj, but from most accounts the observation deck is nothing if not a tourist trap. The Observation Deck at 300 in Abu Dhabi, while still undeniably touristy, is a bit more refined of an experience. The Etihad towers is a complex of five skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi, near the southern tip of the Corniche by the Emirates Palace hotel and the UAE Presidential Palace. The observation deck is located in Tower 2, which is among the top three tallest buildings in Abu Dhabi. This, along with the location of the Etihad Towers, i.e., removed from the downtown area containing most of the city’s skyscrapers, allows for some fantastic views of the area.
The observation deck is open from 10 AM to 7 PM daily, and I was easily accommodated with no reservation, though it should be noted I was there during Ramadan, when things are generally a bit slower. Admission is a very reasonable 85 AED (~$23 USD), of which 50 AED (~$13 USD) is given back to you as a voucher for food/beverage at the cafe inside the observation deck. There is also an afternoon tea service, of which I did not partake. A quick elevator ride takes you to the 74th floor, which contains only the observation deck and cafe. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
The observation deck is essentially one large room that takes up the entire space of the 74th floor. High ceilings and large windows that wrap 360 degrees around the entire floor allow for some truly phenomenal views. There is ample seating, and I can’t imagine this place ever getting overcrowded. With Abu Dhabi to the north and northeast; the UAE Presidential Palace, Marina district, and the glimmering Gulf to the East; and desert to the west, it’s not difficult to lose yourself taking everything in.
In my time at the observation deck, there were at most a dozen other people there at one time, which helped to enhance the experience. I was free to walk around, take photos, and linger wherever I wanted. There is plenty of seating throughout the observation deck, and the service was pleasant and largely hands-off so as to allow guests to take in the views. It’s exciting to see all of the land reclamation going on in Abu Dhabi, and I couldn’t help but think of Singapore, especially with the MBS look-alike looming in the distance.
There is a cafe at the observation deck that serves some basic sandwiches, desserts, and drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). Servers roam around the observation deck and provide table service.
I ordered the beef sirloin sandwich (all of the sandwiches are 50 AED, which is the exact value of the voucher given with admission) and some water. The sandwich was nothing special but perfectly adequate, especially considering it was more or less “free”.
I spent about 60-75 minutes at the observation deck in total, and thought it was a very good experience. I’d highly recommend it for anyone who wants some great views of the city.
Cyacle Abu Dhabi Bikeshare
While looking for something a little less touristy and a little more “active” to do, I stumbled upon the Abu Dhabi bikeshare program. Named Cyacle, the bikeshare program in Abu Dhabi works just like CitiBike and other large bikesharing programs in the US. There are numerous bike docking stations spread throughout the city and a corresponding mobile app. While signing up was a bit of a hassle (only UAE addresses could be registered), I was able to get my account up and running and had a bike unlocked within 15 minutes. There are a number of subscription plans, and I chose the 24-hour package. Pricing was comparable if not a bit a cheaper than what you’d pay for 24 hours in New York, Chicago, etc.
It was far too hot for me to run comfortably, so this was the next best thing. I had a good bit of fun riding along the Corniche and then away from the water towards the center of the city. Like other bikeshare programs, bikes must be returned after 30 minutes, so it was a bit annoying to have to continually keep an eye on the clock and to plan my rides so that I didn’t stray too far from areas with bike docks.
While there are a good number of docks and plenty of bikes, the docks are grouped together in certain areas of the city while other parts are completely devoid of docks. The Corniche, Yas Island, and the area around the airport have the highest concentration of docks; if you’re trying to ride around in other parts of the city, you’re out of luck.
I spent about 3-4 hours one evening and 1-2 hours the next morning riding around. For those who have hit all of the high points in Abu Dhabi, the bikeshare program offers a fun, cheap, and easily accessible option for exploring (certain parts of) the city. Given the very reasonable cost, I’d say it was highly worth it.