Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi


The emirate of Abu Dhabi is by far the largest and richest of the seven United Arab Emirates (UAE). The capital of the same name is also the capital of the UAE. The name Abu Dhabi means "father of the gazelle" in Arabic.

Article overview Abu Dhabi

Population and area

According to official estimates, almost 2015 million people lived in the emirate of Abu Dhabi in mid-2,8. Around 1,2 million live in the capital Abu Dhabi City. The metropolis was built on a 70 square kilometer main island in the mangrove belt of the Persian Gulf. A ring of offshore islands, some of which were artificially raised, offers additional settlement space. The second largest city in the 73.060 square kilometer emirate is the city of al-Ain. Almost 500.000 people live there. The distance between the two cities is 170 kilometers. The road to al-Ain mostly leads through sandy desert.

Abu Dhabi skyline

Abu Dhabi skyline


History

The emirate was founded more than 200 years ago. In 1791, members of the Bani Yas Bedouin tribe founded a settlement at a freshwater spring. Four years later, Qasr Al Hosn Fort was built to protect the settlement.

The sheikdom achieved relative prosperity through pearl fishing and the pearl trade. In 1833 the settlement already had 12.000 inhabitants. The emergence of Japanese cultured pearls in the 1930s caused the pearl business in Abu Dhabi to collapse. The emirate became impoverished. In the 1950s there were no public schools in Abu Dhabi apart from a simple Koran school. At the beginning of the 1960s, the now magnificent capital of the emirate consisted of modest houses. Most buildings lacked electricity and sewage. The emirate changed with the start of oil production. It achieved immense prosperity and Abu Dhabi's metropolis was developed in a grid pattern based on a master plan.

A bird's eye view of Abu Dhabi

A bird's eye view of Abu Dhabi


Economy, finance and transport

Thanks to its abundant crude oil and gas reserves, Abu Dhabi is the wealthiest of the seven emirates. According to a report, the country's reserves will last for the next 150 years. The metropolis of Abu Dhabi City has inexorably developed into one of the richest cities in the world since the start of oil and gas production.

Skyscraper in Abu Dhabi


Skyscraper in Abu Dhabi


Abu Dhabi - seen from the Corniche in the evening


Abu Dhabi - seen from the Corniche in the evening 


In order to continue to exist and secure prosperity, the emirate is investing in shipyards, port management and airports, healthcare, education and the expansion of transport routes. Abu Dhabi has long aimed to become a hub of industrialization in the Middle East. The sheikdom also relies on tourism, trade and finance.

Abu Dhabi manages the third largest sovereign wealth fund in the world after the People's Republic of China and Norway. The emirate's fund assets were valued at $2023 billion as of January 790 (source: SWF Institute, Statista, finanzen.net).

Abu Dhabi City has an international airport, an efficient port and a well-developed road network. To calm traffic and for reasons of environmental protection, the government planned to build a metro and several tram feeder lines for the metropolis. However, due to a temporary collapse in the price of oil and the hesitant acceptance of the metro lines in the neighboring emirate of Dubai, the major project has not yet been implemented.    

Abu Dhabi - port facilities

Abu Dhabi - port facilities


Education and culture

As mentioned at the beginning, there were no public schools in the 1950s. This situation changed with oil production and increasing prosperity. The UAE's first university was founded in Al-Ain in 1976. The emirate currently has a minimum of eleven renowned national and international universities.

Abu Dhabi is proud of its Islamic culture, rooted in the traditions of the Arab world. One of the emirate's highlights is al-Ain, one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world. The UNESCO World Heritage Site includes six oases as well as the archaeological sites of Bida bint Saud, Hafeet and Hili. UNESCO recognized 4.500-year-old, round stone tombs, fountains and numerous buildings made of mud bricks as World Heritage sites: houses, towers, palaces and administrative buildings.

Other highlights of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi are the spectacular Sheik Zayed Mosque and the cultural center, which is currently being expanded.

Abu Dhabi - Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque

Abu Dhabi - Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque


Its location is within sight of the Abu Dhabi cruise terminals on the 26 square kilometer island of Saadiyat. After years of development work have been completed, 145.000 people will live there, surrounded by several cultural institutions and three outstanding museums. Existing highlights include the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Abrahamic Family House complex. The Zayed National Museum and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi are currently under construction.

Saadiyat Island - Louvre in the foreground, Zayed National Museum behind

Saadiyat Island - Louvre in the foreground, Zayed National Museum behind

Abu Dhabi for cruise ship guests

Abu Dhabi's marketing strategists are highlighting the country's maritime heritage. Before the discovery of oil, Abu Dhabi's sailors sailed on simple Arab dhows to East Africa to sell dates, pearls and mangrove wood. All of this is history. Nowadays, cruise ships regularly call at the Al Mina cruise terminal. 

Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal - exterior view


Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal - exterior view


Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal - Interior


Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal - Interior 


Under Abu Dhabi attractions we present the city's most important attractions, and below Day trip to the oasis city of Al Ain we describe an organized visit to the oasis city of Al Ain, 170 kilometers from Abu Dhabi.

Update January 2024

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