PhotoSecrets Abu Dhabi

A Photographer’s Guide

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Abu Dhabi

23 views to photograph
Ferrari World Abu DhabiAziz Hayat/Flickr
Formula RossaJazon88/Wikipedia
telephone box in Abu DhabiTanya Hart/Flickr
Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi HotelRob Alter/Wikipedia
Beach RotanaJP Bowen/Wikipedia
Sheikh Zayed BridgeMohannad Khatib/Wikipedia
Yas Marina CircuitRob Alter/Flickr
Khalidiya Palace RayhaanGilles Messian/Flickr
Abu Dhabi International AirportRalf Roletschek/Wikipedia
Emirates PalaceGuilhem Vellut/Flickr
Louvre Abu DhabiWikiemirati/Wikipedia



About PhotoSecrets



A great travel photo­graph, like a great news photo­graph, requires you to be in the right place at the right time to capture that special moment. Professional photo­graphers have a short-hand phrase for this: “F8 and be there.”

There are countless books that can help you with photo­graphic technique, the “F8” portion of that equation. But until now, there’s been little help for the other, more critical portion of that equation, the “be there” part. To find the right spot, you had to expend lots of time and shoe leather to wander around, track down every potential viewpoint, and essentially re-invent the wheel.

In my career as a professional travel photo­grapher, well over half my time on location is spent seeking out the good angles. Andrew Hudson’s PhotoSecrets does all that legwork for you, so you can spend your time photo­graphing instead of wandering about. It’s like having a professional location scout in your camera bag. I wish I had one of these books for every city I photo­graph on assignment.

PhotoSecrets can help you capture the most beautiful sights with a minimum of hassle and a maximum of enjoyment. So grab your camera, find your favorite PhotoSecrets spots, and “be there!”

About Bob Krist

Bob Krist has photo­graphed assignments for National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Travel/­Holiday, Smithsonian, and Islands. He won “Travel photo­grapher of the Year” from the Society of American Travel Writers in 1994, 2007, and 2008.

For National Geographic, Bob has led round-the-world tours and a traveling lecture series. His book In Tuscany with Frances Mayes spent a month on The New York Times’ bestseller list and his how-to book Spirit of Place was hailed by American Photo­grapher magazine as “the best book about travel photo­graphy we’ve ever read.”

The parents of three sons, Bob and his wife live in New Hope, Pennsylvania.


Thank you for reading PhotoSecrets. As a fellow fan of travel and photo­graphy, I hope this guide will help you quickly find the most visually stunning places, and come home with equally stunning photo­graphs.

PhotoSecrets is designed to show you all the best sights. Flick through, see the classic shots, and use them as a departure point for your own creations. Get ideas for comp­osition and interesting viewpoints. See what piques your interest. Know what to shoot, where to stand, when to go, and why it’s interesting. Now you can spend less time researching and more time photographing.

The idea for PhotoSecrets came during a trip to Thailand, when I tried to find the exotic beach used in the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun. None of the guidebooks I had showed a picture, so I thought a guidebook of postcard photos would be useful for us photographers. Twenty-plus years later, you have this guide. Thanks!

Now, start exploring — and take lots of photos!

About Andrew Hudson

Originally an engineer, Andrew Hudson started PhotoSecrets in 1995. His first book won the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best First Book and his second won the Grand Prize in the National Self-Published Book Awards.

Andrew has published 38 nationally-distributed photo­graphy books. He has photo­graphed assignments for Macy’s, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Men’s Health and Seventeen, and been a location scout for Nikon. His photos and articles have appeared in Alaska Airlines, National Geographic Traveler, Shutterbug Outdoor and Nature photo­graphy, Where, and Woman’s World.

Andrew has a degree in Computer Engineering from Manchester University and a certificate in copyright law from Harvard Law School. Born in Redditch, England, he lives with his wife, two kids, and two chocolate Labs, in San Diego, California.


At a Glance

Name:Abu Dhabi
GPS:24.467, 54.367
Address:Abu Dhabi, UAE
Fame:Capital and second largest city in the United Arab Emirates
Capital of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi
Where:On a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf
Population:1.5 million (2014)
Country:United Arab Emirates
Emirate:Abu Dhabi
Time zone:UAE standard time (UTC+4)

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and of the United Arab Emirates (a group of seven emirates). With 1.5 million people, it also the UAE’s second largest city (after Dubai), and contributes about two-thirds of the UAE economy.

The city of Abu Dhabi is on the southeastern side of the Arabian Peninsula, on a T-shaped island jutting north into the Persian Gulf. Most of Abu Dhabi city is located on the island itself, but it has many smaller islands and suburban districts on the mainland.

The name Abu Dhabi means “Father of the Gazelle,” an animal which was once common in the Arabian region. Inhabited since the third millennium, the island of Abu Dhabi was discovered to have fresh water and Bani Yas bedouin migrated there in 1793. This included the Al Nahyan family which makes up the rulers of Abu Dhabi today.

In the 19th century, Britain became the predominant influence in the area to protect the trade route to India from pirates, hence the earlier name, the “Pirate Coast.”

A primary business was selling pearls from oysters. Pearl divers dove for one to two minutes, and would have dived up to thirty times per day, without air tanks.

In the 1930s, as the pearl trade declined, oil was discovered and developed. Various offshore fields were struck in 1958–1965.

In 1967, the city was planned under the guidance of Sheikh Zayed by Japanese architect Katsuhiko Takahashi. Land reclamation was started in 1988 and completed in 1992 and today there are many man-made extensions and islands.

West Abu Dhabi

Emirates Palace

Abu Dhabi > West Abu Dhabi

Emirates Palace was the most expensive hotel ever built when it opened in 2005. There are 394 luxury residences, 115 domes, and two helicopter pads.

Addr:West Corniche Road,
Abu Dhabi
Look:North-northwest Far:210 m (680 feet)

Ideas for Emirates Palace

Main gate

Abu Dhabi > West Abu Dhabi > Emirates Palace
Addr:Emirates Palace,
North Abu Dhabi Island,
Abu Dhabi Island,
Abu Dhabi
Look:Northwest ↖Far:60 m (190 feet)

Etihad Towers

Abu Dhabi > West Abu Dhabi

Etihad Towers is a complex of five towers, the tallest has an observation deck on the 75th floor (305 meters high).

Addr:Corniche West Street,
Abu Dhabi
What:Building complexWhen:Afternoon
Look:East →Far:150 m (490 feet)

From east

Abu Dhabi > West Abu Dhabi > Etihad Towers

Viewed from the InterContinental Abu Dhabi hotel.

Far:0.64 km (0.39 miles)AKA:InterContinental Abu Dhabi

From north

Abu Dhabi > West Abu Dhabi > Etihad Towers

Viewed from the Emirates Palace hotel.

Far:420 m (1370 feet)AKA:Emirates Palace

Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan

Abu Dhabi > West Abu Dhabi

Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan is a 5-star family-resort with one of the biggest pools in Abu Dhabi.

Addr:Corniche Road,
Al Khubeirah,
Abu Dhabi
Look:South ↓Far:60 m (180 feet)

Ideas for Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan

North Abu Dhabi

Telephone box in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi > North Abu Dhabi

Keep calm and call from this British telephone box near the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Addr:Al Zahiyah,
Abu Dhabi
What:Red telephone boxWhen:Afternoon
Look:East-southeast Far:19 m (62 feet)

Beach Rotana

Abu Dhabi > North Abu Dhabi

Beach Rotana is a five-star hotel with 565 rooms.

Addr:10th Street,
Al Zahiya,
Abu Dhabi
Look:East-southeast Far:100 m (340 feet)


Abu Dhabi > North Abu Dhabi

[start]Al Ittihad Square features monumental Emirati cultural symbols, including a coffee pot (dallah), a traditional incense burner (mabakhir), and a conical palm-frond food cover (makkabah).

Addr:Al Ittihad Square,
Abu Dhabi
Look:North-northwest Far:100 m (320 feet)

South Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Abu Dhabi > South Abu Dhabi

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in Abu Dhabi. Designed by Syrian architect Yousef Abdelky, the Grand Mosque was constructed between 1996 and 2007 and covers more than 12 hectares (30 acres), excluding exterior landscaping and parking.

The mosque is named for Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the late president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who launched the project, trying to unite the Islamic world with modern architecture.

Four minarets rise about 107 m (351 ft) in height and surround a courtyard with a floral design, considered to be the world’s largest marble mosaic.


Abu Dhabi > South Abu Dhabi > Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Addr:Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque,
Abu Dhabi
Look:Northwest ↖Far:80 m (270 feet)


Abu Dhabi > South Abu Dhabi > Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Addr:Sheikh Rashid Road,
Abu Dhabi
Look:North ↑Far:0 m (0 feet)

Ideas for colonnade


Abu Dhabi > South Abu Dhabi > Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Addr:Sheikh Rashid Road,
Abu Dhabi
Look:West ←Far:70 m (240 feet)

Ideas for courtyard

Star fountain

Abu Dhabi > South Abu Dhabi > Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Addr:Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque,
Abu Dhabi
Look:West-northwest Far:100 m (320 feet)


Capital Gate

Abu Dhabi > South Abu Dhabi

Capital Gate is the world’s furthest leaning man-made tower, inclining 18°. Completed in 2011, the “Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi” is achieved with an off-center concrete core, and 490 piles drilled 20–30 meters underground. Appearing to lean on one side is a diagrid, a framework of diagonally intersecting metal to absorb and channel the forces created by wind and seismic loading.

Addr:Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street,
Abu Dhab
Look:East-northeast Far:360 m (1190 feet)
AKA:Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi, Coin BuildingWik:Capital_Gate

Sheikh Zayed Bridge

Abu Dhabi > South Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Bridge is an arch bridge with a dynamic lighting design of flowing colors. Designed by Zaha Hadid and opened in 2010, the 842-metre-long (2,762 ft) bridge is named for the country’s principal architect and former president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Addr:Khor Al Maqta,
Abu Dhabi
Look:North ↑Far:330 m (1080 feet)

East Abu Dhabi

Yas Island

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi > East Abu Dhabi > Yas Island

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the first Ferrari-branded theme park and the largest space frame structure ever built.

Addr:Yas Island,
Abu Dhabi
What:Amusement parkWhen:Anytime

Ideas for Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

Formula Rossa

Abu Dhabi > East Abu Dhabi > Yas Island > Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

Formula Rossa is the world’s fastest roller coaster with a top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph). The initial acceleration from standstill reaches 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) in two seconds, beating the best commercially available supercar.

Addr:Ferrari World Abu Dhabi,
Abu Dhabi
Look:East →Far:350 m (1150 feet)

Yas Marina Circuit

Abu Dhabi > East Abu Dhabi > Yas Island

The Yas Marina Circuit is a Formula One race track for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Designed by Hermann Tilke, it opened in 2009 with a capacity of 60,000. The track passes through the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi Hotel.

Addr:Yas Island,
Abu Dhabi
What:Race trackWhen:Morning
Look:South-southwest Far:120 m (390 feet)

Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi Hotel

Abu Dhabi > East Abu Dhabi > Yas Island > Yas Marina Circuit

Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi Hotel is a hotel over and around a Formula One race track. Designed by Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture, the 499-room hotel opened in 2009. One tower inside the track connects via a bridge over the track to another tower in the marina itself.

Addr:Yas Marina Circuit,
Abu Dhabi
Look:Northeast ↗Far:210 m (700 feet)

Mainland Abu Dhabi

Aldar HQ

Abu Dhabi > East Abu Dhabi > mainland

Aldar HQ (also known as the “coin building”) is the first circular building of its kind in the Middle East. Completed in 2010, its shape is achieved with a diagonal grid of structural steel.

Addr:Al Raha Beach,
Abu Dhabi
What:Office buildingWhen:Morning
Look:West-northwest Far:110 m (340 feet)
AKA:Aldar Headquarters BuildingWik:Aldar_headquarters_building

Ideas for Aldar HQ

Abu Dhabi International Airport

Abu Dhabi > East Abu Dhabi > mainland

Abu Dhabi International Airport is located 30 km (19 mi) east of Abu Dhabi city. It is the home base of Etihad Airways, the UAE’s national carrier.


Saadiyat Island

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi > East Abu Dhabi > Saadiyat Island

Louvre Abu Dhabi is the largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula. US$525 million was paid by Abu Dhabi to be associated with the Louvre name.

The museum is part of a US$27 billion tourist and cultural development for Saadiyat Island, a complex which is planned to include three other museums.

Addr:Saadiyat Island,
Abu Dhabi
Look:Northwest ↖Far:230 m (750 feet)


Thank you to the many wonderful people and companies that made their work available to use in this guide.

Photo key: Tap the camera icon to see the photo. The two letters reference the distributor and license. Key for distributors: f:Flickr; s:Shutterstock; w:Wikipedia. Key for license: a:CC-BY-SA; b:CC-BY; h:Shutterstock standard.

Cover image by .Rob Alter ( wa); JP Bowen ( sh); Patrik Dietrich ( wa); Fritzdacat ( fa); Tanya Hart ( fb); Aziz Hayat ( fb); Norbert Heidenbluth ( wa); Jazon88 ( wb); Mohannad Khatib ( sh); Patryk Kosmider ( sh); Vladimir Melnik ( fb); Gilles Messian ( fa); Kathrin Mezger ( fa); Agenda for the New Millennium ( fa); Andrew Moore ( fb); Phareannah ( wb); Ralf Roletschek ( fb); Alberto Gonzalez Rovira ( wa); Shaibalahmar ( fb); Guilhem Vellut ( sh); Ventdusud ( wa); Wikiemirati ( wa). Some text adapted from Wikipedia and its contributors where noted by the URL path in the “Wik” table field, used and modified under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) license. Map data from OpenStreetMap and its contributors, used under the Open Data Commons Open Database License (ODbL).