Abu Dhabi Gay Travel
Is Abu Dhabi safe for gay travelers? Learn about local etiquette & LGBT safety for your Abu Dhabi gay travel adventure, plus top things to do in Abu Dhabi.
The Gay Travel Experience: Abu Dhabi, UAE
You may find yourself wondering: should gay travelers visit Abu Dhabi? You may question if it is safe, or if it’s worth your vacation time. In this wolfyy gay travel guide, I’ll give you answers to these completely valid questions.
My gay best friend in college and I found no shortage of things to do in Abu Dhabi. The city is constantly building one new glitzy attraction after another. We experienced things we never before imagined. The fastest roller coaster in the world, water sport parks, F-1 racetracks…the list goes on. No matter what you like, Abu Dhabi has it.
As you will read later on in this Abu Dhabi gay travel guide, the gay community in the United Arab Emirates has no rights or protections. You may ask why I would want to visit such a place. Many travelers struggle with this issue: balancing exploration with supporting states that oppress the gay community.
My answer is that I love Arab culture and their language. Although it is sad that LGBT people cannot express themselves freely in UAE, this does not mean that there are not kind and open-minded people in the country. In a way, I am supporting the government of a country that would never support me. However, I still prefer the experience of meeting locals and understanding gay life in the United Arab Emirates.
Gay Abu Dhabi: Where to Stay
I stayed in a fairly standard hotel in the downtown Abu Dhabi portion of Al Danah. The exact location you stay in while visiting Abu Dhabi is not very important since the city is quite spread out.
For most places apart from the downtown, you will need a car to get to attractions. For this reason, location is of less importance and you should place more importance on the quality of hotel for your budget. Abu Dhabi without a car may be quite difficult to navigate. If you have the option to rent a car, it would be more than helpful.
Gay Couples Sharing a Bed in Abu Dhabi
Many gay men visiting Abu Dhabi or Dubai with their partner wonder if it is ok to share a bed as a gay couple. The answer is that it depends on which kind of hotel you will stay in.
If you are staying in a western hotel, then my opinion is that you can share a bed with your boyfriend or husband. Western hotels will have international standards and the staff should have enough cultural training to have no issue with two gay men sharing a bed.
If you opt for the more local route, this does not apply. Local hotels may not have international standards and so it may not be safe to book a single bed with a gay partner in Abu Dhabi. In this situation, it is best to book two single beds. It is best to err on the side of caution in this instance. I’d suggest checking out the fairly-priced Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Al Maryah Island Four Seasons or the Saadiyat Island St. Regis, all internationally renowned western hotels.
Remember that police are not patrolling hotels, searching for gay couples to arrest. I have never heard of this happening. It is simply better to avoid any trouble with hotel staff’s personal viewpoint. Since the UAE and specifically Abu Dhabi is quite conservative, it is best to adhere to the local customs while staying in local hotels.
Is Abu Dhabi Safe for Gay Travelers?
As a gay traveler in the United Arab Emirates, you must take certain precautions. Always respect the local culture, with which you should familiarize yourself before traveling to any Middle Eastern country. Before heading to the Middle East, and specifically the Arab world, it’s crucial to understand their customs and mannerisms.
Things to Do in Abu Dhabi
Go to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque as soon as you can, and bring your camera. This pristine place of worship is one of my favorite structures on the planet. You can lose yourself among the plentiful jewels and gold, and the massive domes will make you feel like the smallest spec in the universe.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an absolute must if you’re in Abu Dhabi. Make it a priority! Also, note the mosque is closed to tourists on Fridays.
How would you fancy the fastest roller coaster in the world? Head to Ferrari World on Yas Island! An indoor theme park, Ferrari World is perfect to escape the heat and enjoy some thrills. If you really like cars, they have a bunch of sweet Ferraris in a small museum.
If you have more time, consider checking out Masdar City, headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency. Masdar is a small planned city being built in phases that relies on renewable energy. There are tours available where you can get in a self-driving magnetic track vehicle to head toward the town’s center.
If you want a break from glamourous shopping, Dragon Mall is a sort of “flea market” where you can find cheaper goods. I stopped by here to pick up a duffel bag so I could store gifts and food I bought.
Although things at Dragon Mall are not high-quality, it can be a cheaper and entertaining place to visit. Since it is not a major tourist destination, you can embrace a little more of the local life.
Abu Dhabi Travel Tips
Summer temperatures are brutally high, so I would travel during spring of fall. If it happens to be hot during your travels, you will notice locals avoid the outdoors during the middle of the day. Not to worry in Abu Dhabi though! There are plenty of air-conditioned attractions to keep the gay traveler busy.
Abu Dhabi is a bit more conservative than neighboring Dubai. If you’re a female tourist, always wear clothing that completely covers the shoulders and knees. Any display of upper arms, chest or thighs will attract negative attention. For men, avoid any graphic t-shirts that could be misconstrued as something offensive.
Can You Drink Alcohol in Abu Dhabi?
Yes, it is legal to consume alcohol in Abu Dhabi, however local muslims that strictly follow religious teachings do not drink. Instead, you will see local Emiratis smoking flavorful Shisha, as is common in Muslim Middle Eastern countries. In the UAE, you will not find street-front bars and pubs. Instead, alcohol is typically served inside of hotel bars or nightclubs that have private entrances.
Appropriate conduct, especially in relation to consuming alcohol is very important. Appearing intoxicated out on the sidewalk or in other public areas is asking for a lot trouble, so be responsible. If you plan to drink a decent amount of alcohol, make sure to do so in close proximity to your hotel, if not inside your own hotel bar.
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Are There Gay Bars in Abu Dhabi?
The United Arab Emirates, and specifically Abu Dhabi is a very conservative Muslim state. As you may have guessed, there are officially no gay bars in Abu Dhabi. Many travelers ask around for underground gay parties in Abu Dhabi. They may exist or they may not, but even if you did find such an event by invitation, it would be quite risky to attend.
Instead of searching for gay events in Abu Dhabi, stay on the safe side and conform to the local customs. As you will read in the section below, gay life in the UAE is quite difficult. Gay men and women need to shield their sexuality so they can conform to societal norms. The UAE certainly has a long way to go.
Gay Life in the United Arab Emirates
Let me know how you like the Emirates! Are you also visiting Dubai? If so, check out the Dubai Gay Travel Guide.