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Venue Guide: Abu Dhabi

Kuala Lumpur: With a month to go until the 2019 AFC Asian Cup kicks-off in the United Arab Emirates, we explore the four host cities, starting with the capital Abu Dhabi.

Home to 18 of the 50 AFC Asian Cup matches, the UAE capital is an Island city, accessible from the mainland through three bridges. Abu Dhabi is home to the UAE's federal government offices and is the country's second most populous city.

City: Abu Dhabi

Population: 1.8 million

Local Clubs: Al Wahda, Al Jazira

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The Grounds

Zayed Sport City

This iconic 43,000-seater stadium, inaugurated in 1980, was granted its biggest tournament to date when it hosted the opening match and the final of the 1996 AFC Asian Cup.

Since then, the FIFA U20 World Cup and two FIFA World Club Cups have all graced the ground before it underwent a major renovation. A traditional, open-air stadium that is defined on its exterior by iconic arches, Zayed Sports City Stadium will be the perfect setting for the 2019 curtain closer.

Standout matches to watch here

UAE vs Bahrain (The opening match)

January 5, 20:00 UTC+4

Saudi Arabia vs Qatar

January 17, 20:00 UTC+4

Oman vs Japan

January 13, 17:30 UTC+4

The Final

February 1, 18:00 UTC+4

Al Nahyan Stadium

Abu Dhabi’s newest stadium offers a unique setting against a backdrop of high rise buildings from its location at the heart of Abu Dhabi’s downtown. It is directly connected to the modern Al Wahda Mall and sits opposite the city’s main bus terminal.

The permanent residents of Al Nahyan Stadium are four-time UAE Pro League champions Al Wahda who have seen their stadium upgraded from 11,400 to 15,000 fans in preparation for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

Standout matches to watch here

Thailand vs India

January 6, 17:30 UTC+4

Vietnam vs IR Iran

January 12, 15:00 UTC+4

Korea Republic vs China PR

January 16, 17:30 UTC+4

Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium

Home to the 2016-17 UAE Pro League champions Al Jazira. Built in 1979, the capital’s oldest football stadium saw a complete overhaul that lasted three years between 2006 and 2009, upon its reopening, the stadium’s capacity was increased from 15,000 to 42,000 fans.

Centrally located in Abu Dhabi’s Al Muroor district, the premises at Al Jazira Club include a hospital, a boutique style hotel and an Olympic size swimming pool. The stadium was also home of the UAE national team in their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers campaign.

Standout matches to watch here

IR Iran vs Yemen

January 7, 20:00 UTC+4

The Philippines vs China PR

January 11, 17:30 UTC+4

Palestine vs Jordan

January 15, 17:30 UTC+4

Semi-Final 2

January 29, 18:00 UTC+4

Insider Tip:

One of the best features of the UAE is the proximity of its four main host cities to one another. A 2-hour bus or car ride can take you from any of the host cities to the other.

Buses usually run between 5 AM to midnight, but if you find yourself needing to travel after midnight, little-advertised shared taxis and minivans run overnight. They leave as soon as there are enough passengers, and cost between AED 45-75 (USD 12-20) per person.

Hidden Gems:

The Corniche is Abu Dhabi's most popular waterfront destination, but venture further to the west along the coast, beyond the large flagpole and you will find yourself at "Breakwater"; this rocky end of the island stretches into the Gulf, offering stunning views of the city, especially at sunset or at night. Get a hot coffee or "Chai Karak" from one of the vending machines available there to wam up the chilly winter evenings.

Looking to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city without going far? Head to the Eastern Mangroves National Park and rent a Kayak, either on your own or with a guided tour, and paddle your way through the narrow water canals, take a break at any of the small islands dotted around the park and enjoy bird watching against the backdrop of Abu Dhabi's Skyline.

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