"Being a tour guide gives me insight into my own culture," admits one guide
The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) has curated a list of authentic Emirati cultural experiences hosted by some of the UAE capital's most passionate tour guides.
Connecting Travel spoke with three of them about their careers and the tours they have collaborated with DCT Abu Dhabi on, which will be featured on both the DCT Abu Dhabi website and on the global holiday rental website Airbnb.
Tour guide Abdulrahman Al Zaabi
Abdulrahman Al Zaabi, one of the city's dedicated Emirati tour guides, was inspired to share his city with tourists after travelling the world and learning about different cultures through each destination's locals.
"In Abu Dhabi, Emirati representation is vital when it comes to guiding guests through the city,” he said. “So, seeing the need for more, I decided to take it upon myself and pursue that. Being a tour guide gives me a lot of insight into my own culture, something people expect us to know by nature, but we often don't realize how much we don't know.
"As much as I am helping our visitors learn about our valued Emirati culture, discovering the hidden gems of the city and its people, I'm also learning a lot myself."
Tour guide Nasser Sabaan
Local guide Nasser Sabaan became a tour guide after volunteering around Abu Dhabi and realising that many expat residents have only scratched the city's surface.
Talking about his motivations, Sabaan said: "Residents, even after living in Abu Dhabi for a long time, still don't know a lot about the history and culture of their adopted home. By becoming a tour guide, I'm proudly representing my city, educating and informing those interested all about the unique identity of the UAE, its authentic culture and historical traditions."
Tour guide Ebrahim Al Harbi
Diversifying his business offering, tour guide Ebrahim Al Harbi switched his focus from outbound travel to inbound, creating unique, tailored experiences that tell the story behind Abu Dhabi and its formation.
Al Harbi says: “I am extremely proud to represent my country to a world audience. Thus far, I have served nearly 70 different nationalities since 2018, sharing a historical narrative that combines land and sea.
"With my tour experience to the local fish and date markets, together we discover the significance of the ocean in the creation of Abu Dhabi and regaling stories from pearl diving and how fishing was, and still is, an important resource for the Emirati family. With the dates market, we explore the importance of date palm farming and how the fruit has become a staple in Emirati cuisine and a healthy source of nutrition.”
Each tour is designed to provide an opportunity for visitors to delve deeper into the UAE's heritage. Now available to book, the experiences take in traditional cuisine, bustling souqs, exciting sports and landmark sights.
Examples of the tours include the Emirati breakfast experience. Not only do visitors get to sample dishes such as chebab (Emirati pancakes with date syrup), they will also learn about cultural nuances and gestures, and the sartorial art of wearing traditional clothes and incense.
Another is the Urban Treasure tour, in which guests will discover beloved local hotspots, including Al Ibrahimi Restaurant and Malik & Shaheed Stores, as well as the Fish Market and Carpet Souq, all of which have history.
For more information, visit visitabudhabi.ae/en/plan-your-trip