Married to an Emirati man and mother of a two-year-old son, Mizra Al Hosani calls herself an American girl in an Emirati world.
“While the actual city of Abu Dhabi is quite small, the emirate of Abu Dhabi is vast,” she says. “There’s so much to explore.”
“Jebel Dhanna has the most beautiful beach in the entire UAE. The water is crystal clear and the fish swim right up to your feet. It’s one of the most magical spots in Abu Dhabi.”
Sir Bani Yas is a 20-minute boat ride from Jebel Dhanna.
“This island holds a special place in the hearts of people of the UAE,” she notes. “Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE, wanted to create a sanctuary for animals.”
Roughly 10,000 protected animals, including gazelles, cheetahs and hyenas, now roam freely around the island’s Arabian Wildlife Park.
“It’s an outdoor deck area with shisha and a beautiful ocean view. The menu has sushi and Arabic food. You don’t usually see these two cuisines in one, but Azura makes it work. And the lobster roll is to die for!”
And for a morning meal?
“Ultimately, although everything seems luxurious and over-the-top, locals here prefer to keep things traditional,” she adds. “Homemade meals and weekends spent with family are the things we most look forward to.”
The vegan foodie
“I blog honestly and from my heart,” says the Scottish-born writer, who has witnessed the vegan scene develop in the Middle East.
“I definitely think it’s growing. I’m seeing more vegan cafes and restaurants popping up throughout the UAE and I’m gaining more and more Abu Dhabi-based vegan followers.”
“The food is out of this world,” she says. “The interior is great and I can watch everything being cooked.”
“It’s stunning and the food is gorgeous. The banana blossom fritters and the tofu satay are a must for any veggie.”
Note: The foxes are rescue animals and Smit doesn’t encourage people to buy these animals.
The tech guy
“It tends to surprise people how less rushed Abu Dhabi is compared to Dubai. There’s overall a slower pace of life and movement,” he says.
“It’s got amazing views. I park up, take a walk and discover the city in a way that’s immersive yet relaxing.”
“I can hunt for gold, pre-owned luxury watches, traditional garments and enchanting Arabian perfumes, all while haggling, which is really fun.”
“The UAE in general can offer some steep discount on gadgets, but it requires shopping around.”
“The outdoor seating is nice all year round, and the uncluttered menu serves up camel burgers.”
While she’s seen coastlines near and far, Karam’s most recommended spot in Abu Dhabi is definitely Saadiyat Beach. “It’s massive and the sea is different from the rest of the GCC. I always love going there when we need to escape the city life.”
“It’s great as it has the Grand Mosque as a backdrop.”
This upscale stop is also home to the quirky but popular spaghetti ice cream, a dish created by passing homemade vanilla ice cream through a potato ricer, then topping it all with strawberry “marinara” sauce.
This exclusive venue offers camel rides, falconry and dune-bashing.
“I know it’s not really hidden, but it’s certainly an Abu Dhabi gem.”
Danae Mercer is a freelance travel journalist who lived in the UAE for more than two years.