Active recovery: 10 things to do in Abu Dhabi

Whether competing or spectating, make the most of your downtime on an early season trip to the United Arab Emirates


Triathletes are an inquisitive bunch who don’t just want to experience different races but sample the local culture too. While 200km hunkered down over aerobars might leave us feeling competitively sated (if physically wrecked), it’s not going to make for the most enjoyable sightseeing.


The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon takes place a week on Saturday, and if you are looking for some pre and post-race R&R, here are 10 delights of the emirate to get stuck into…

1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

With a bigger capacity than Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane, it’s one of the world's largest and most impressive mosques. Displaying the world's largest hand knotted carpet, whether packed with 41,000 worshippers or not, it’s a sight to behold. Named after Sheikh Zayed  (its first ceremony was his funeral) the bling factor is taken up a level with a 12-tonne chandelier that’s 15 metres high and 10 metres wide. The surrounding pools reflect the moonlight and amplify the mosque’s beauty, but are not suitable for triathletes attempting pre-breakfast 20 x 100m swim sets. For more details visit

2. Desert safari in the Liwa Region

Billed as having golden sand dunes as high as skyscrapers (that’s a bold claim in the United Arab Emirates), the Rub Al Khali – or Empty Quarter – claims to be the world’s largest expanse of unbroken sand. To make the safari to the south of the emirate even more memorable, book in for an overnight stay at the five-star Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, the Liwa Hotel or the Tilal Al Liwa. For reservations, log on to

3. Wadi adventure

Thrill seekers can go white-water rafting, kayaking or surfing with this purpose-built facility in the foothills of the Jebel Hafeet. Like all Abu Dhabi adventures it’s entertainment on a grand scale. The park's 3.3 metre man-made surf wave is the world's largest and its 1.7 kilometre kayaking channel network the longest. Lessons are provided by certified trainers and guests can bring their own equipment, rent or buy gear from the resort. For further information and directions, log on to

4. Heritage Village

The locals also like to peddle and the charming Heritage VIllage overlooking the Corniche is full of bazaars ready to sell regional charms from metal work to pottery to spices. It’s home to a mini-museum featuring artefacts such as diving tools, jewellery, weapons and coffee pots and is also on the bike route for the Abu Dhabi tri. Even if you’re not thirsting for local history, the mention of coffee and cycling, should make a few triathletes ears prick up. For further information, log on to

5. Camel racing at Al Wathba racetrack

Ungainly creatures clomping about in the heat and ending up with the hump. Sound familiar? It’s not your average age-group triathlete trying to return from a winter break, but a bunch of camels pelting round the specially made Al Wathba race track about 45km east of Abu Dhabi. They normally tear up the course on a weekend morning and it’s spectacular stuff, although they could probably do with some work on their pose method. For more information call The Camel Racing Federation at Al Wathba on +971 2 583 9200

6. Al Ain

The emirate’s heritage heartland, one of the world's oldest continually inhabited settlements, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its six oases and the archaeological sites are testimony to human occupation of a desert region since the Neolithic period. Even the irrigation system links back to the Iron Age, proving that even thousands of years ago long distance triathletes knew the importance of hydration. For further information, log on to

7. Ride the track at Yas Marina circuit

No matter how aero your bike set-up is you’ll struggle to match the speeds that are on offer at the Yas Marina Circuit. Even the rollercoaster in the adjacent Ferrari World whizzes around at 150mph! It’ll be louder and faster still when you go full-throttle and book up for a driver or passenger experience day at Yas Marina. Those who really fancy themselves as the next Jenson Button can even take a racing license course. For more info, visit

8. Desert camping

It’s not quite the rolling green countryside and occasional bogs of Ironman UK at Wimbleball, but the Al Badeyah desert camp, nestled in the desert dunes of Al Khaznah, gives visitors a chance to enjoy an authentic Arabian experience under the stars. Offering different desert safari services, it is a glampers paradise, boasting five permanent tents with beds, bathroom facilities, a trampoline and even a petting zoo of goats and sheep. For more information and booking, log on to

9. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

As Jenson and Nico Rosberg will attest, triathlon can strike a chord with racing car drivers, but now visiting multi-sporters can turn the tables with a trip to the world's first Ferrari theme park. Fast, furious fun for all ages, its 20 exhilarating and educational rides, shopping and dining experiences give a flavour of the much-loved racing car brand. There’s a full display of cars from 1947 through to the present and the world's fastest rollercoaster, Formula Rossa, hitting a adrenaline boosting 240 kmph. For more information visit:

10. Yas Waterworld


Once you’ve gone through the gears at Ferrari World, cool off in the waters of Yas Waterworld – an impressive trip of 238 metres if you head for the longest slide. Its sprawling 15 hectares and 43 attractions can accommodate up to 6,000 people. It’s like a mass start at Dig Me beach but with bigger waves (up to three metres for avid surfers), not so many nerves and no impending lava fields of doom. For more information on the Yas Waterworld: