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Illustration by Fatima Alrebh

The Abu Dhabi Entertainment and Recreation Sector is Up and Running (Sort of)

A round up on some of the most recent changes made to guidelines in Abu Dhabi’s entertainment and recreation sector as they begin to open up.

Following months of closures induced by the Covid-19 pandemic, Abu Dhabi’s entertainment and recreation establishments are once again functioning, albeit with some necessary health measures and restrictions in place.
Theme Parks
Theme and amusement parks were among the first establishments to resume operations. Warner Bros. World, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Clymb [reopened in July] ( However, the experiences on offer are now different as strict measures have been adopted to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
These include thermal screening cameras, physical distancing markers and reduced capacity on rides and at venues within the establishments. Tickets now cannot be bought on site and have to be purchased online in advance.
Cinemas in the Emirate reopened in late August. They are required to operate at 30 percent capacity and to sanitize screening rooms at the end of each day as well as after each show. Guests are required to practice physical distancing and only two consecutive seats can be occupied. Every alternate row of seats is also left empty. All physical materials, including tickets, pamphlets and touch screens, will be removed from circulation, and physical contact will be minimized.
In addition to this new multiplex experience, drive-in cinemas are opening up across the UAE, including on Yas Island. Vehicles are ushered to a designated parking spot and have to tune into a radio frequency which will receive audio from the movies. Only three occupants are permitted per vehicle. However, this limit can be increased to five if they are members of the same family.
Guests will have their temperatures checked and are required to wear masks if they step outside or if the vehicle’s doors or windows are open.
Director of Wellness at NYU Abu Dhabi, Wayne Young, has been to cinemas in the Emirate a couple of times since they reopened. He has observed a fall in the number of moviegoers since the pandemic began.
Suman Ansari, Class of 2022, who has been to the new drive-in cinemas, stated that the experience — while not technically better than the traditional form — is more comfortable considering the privacy of one’s own vehicle.
Both Young and Ansari emphasized that cinemas continue to provide a sense of shared experience and community, regardless of the changes.
Gaming Centers
Last week, the Abu Dhabi government announced that entertainment centers and gaming halls can reopen while adopting similar safety measures. They will operate at 60 percent capacity — the limit set for all shopping mall outlets — and all equipment will have to be sanitized frequently. E-payment channels are encouraged, and employees are subject to an initial Covid-19 test as well as regular temperature checks.
Other Enterprises
Desert safaris, marine activities and private beaches are among other recreational activities recently given the green light to operate. For updated information on this topic, refer to the Department of Culture and Tourism’s and the Department of Economic Development’s websites.
As is the case elsewhere in the country, all visitors are expected to wear masks while participating in any of these activities.
Implications for Tourism
The primary reason the government is so keen on reopening these establishments is that the entertainment and recreation industry is a key player in bringing tourists to the country.
Before the pandemic, it was estimated that spending at theme parks and other entertainment centers could increase by about $100 million this year. However, as a result of the initial closures, the region was set to lose about 102 billion dollars in revenue, 79 percent of which could be a result of shutting down the entertainment and recreation industry.
Naeema Mohammed Sageer is Deputy News Editor. Email her at
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