Abu Dhabi’s unusual architecture delivers surprises

From its Bedouin past as a modest fishing and pearl diving port to the discovery and production of oil, Abu Dhabi has risen from the sands along the Arabian Gulf to become one of the world’s wealthiest cities.

Today, the capital of the United Arab Emirates is known not only by its prosperity, diversity and tolerance, but by its modern architectural wonders.

Here are some of the city’s extreme skyline attractions to see when you travel here.

Abu Dhabi Island

Sheikh Zayed Bridge

With its ultra-modern wave of symmetrical steel arches, the Sheikh Zayed Bridge makes a powerful statement to all who pass.

It offers a raised view of Abu Dhabi’s main island and serves as a defining illustration of the city’s dynamic, forward-thinking energy.

Designed by the late Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-born architect and the first woman to earn the Pritzker Prize, this arched construction is considered one of the most intricate bridge designs in the world.

Driving across the bridge is a breathtaking experience that screams “Welcome to Oz,” but the more humble Maqta Bridge offers an easily accessible walkway with fantastic views of the multicolored, evening light display that flows across the structure’s rippling curvature.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Built to unite cultural diversity within the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art, Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque is open to visitors of all faiths and can feel more like a monument to the UAE’s religious tolerance (and wealth) than a place of devout Muslim worship.

Still, Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque welcomes up to 40,000 worshippers during the Eid al-Fitr festival to mark the end of Ramadan.

One of the largest mosques in the world, the interior courtyard features the world’s largest marble mosaic, and the intricately designed interior floral carpet is considered the world’s largest prayer rug.

Smart travelers visit in the late afternoon to take in the mosque’s bright white marble and floral inlays, then stay through the echoing evening call to prayer as 82 domes and four minarets are lit in a purplish-blue hue, carefully curated to match the phases of the moon.

Capital Gate

When it comes to leaning towers, Pisa has nothing on Abu Dhabi. Capital Gate is recognized by Guinness World Records as the “world’s farthest leaning man-made tower.”

With an 18-degree twisting tilt (compared to Pisa’s mere four-degree lean), the 35-story building appears to bend with the desert winds.

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