The neighboring Emirate to Dubai and the seat of power of the UAE. Abu Dhabi, as the largest and wealthiest Emirate, is burdened with flying the spiritual flag for the nation. As a result, Abu Dhabi is more conservative and less tolerant of western dress sense and ettiquette. (Not that I've had any problems, and I was there during Ramadan!!)

You're much more likely to see men ambling around the streets in dishdashas, the traditional white garb which is, I'm reliably informed, cool in summer and warm in winter. You're also more likely to see women wearing veils that cover either their entire face (thin black netting) or else all but their eyes. During Ramadan, abayas (the black shoulder-to-ankle coveralls) are more-or-less standard issue for women, though younger, unmarried women do not always wear them throughout the year.

Abu Dhabi is more laid-back than Dubai, although it does come alive and have a vibe of its own in the evenings, after about 8pm. Or perhaps this is only during Ramadan, as Muslims celebrate Iftar each night, the breaking of the fast.

Alcohol is reputedly not sold at all in Abu Dhabi during Ramadan, earning it the scorn of many westerners, who label it boring and a waste of time. This is confirmed by omission by my Lonely Planet guide to Dubai, which mentions small places like Al Ain and Hatta (admittedly within the Emirate of Dubai), as well as other places much more remote than the mere 150km or so trip to Abu Dhabi.

The ruling Sheikh, Zayed the Second, has invested considerably in recreational facilities for his underlings. He is very popular and it is difficult to find somewhere that does not display a large portrait of him. The Al Wahdah sports complex, housing the national football stadium, is a sight to behold: 4 full sized emerald green football pitches. Most of the roads in Abu Dhabi are also tree-lined and the road between Dubai and Abu Dhabi traverses a section of the 90 000 ha man-made (albeit very young) forest.

The town (city?) is located on the main island off the mainland. The island is separated from the main land by a very narrow channel and there are two large bridges connecting the two.

All roads in Abu Dhabi seem to be 3-lane dual carriageways, with 5-lane intersections. Cabs are extremely cheap and you can get across the island for about 5Dh, or 1 pound sterling.

Abu Dhabi's economy is predominently based on oil ("Abu Dhabi has oil to burn", an ironic phrase as what else does one do with oil usually?) although the perimeter of the island is lined with large ports as well. Not on the scale of Dubai's ports by any stretch of the imagination, but constructing their own version of Jebel Ali when the oil wells eventually hint of running dry is well within their financial means. However, there are several smaller islands flanking Abu Dhabi, so perhaps a man-made port would not be necessary.

The largest emirate of the United Arab Emirates. It has a landmass area of approximately 26,000 square miles and a population of approximately 670,000.

The capital city of the United Arab Emirates, located in the emirate of the same name. It has a population of approximately 363,000.

Abu Dhabi (Arabic: Abu Zaby) is one of the emirates which makes up the United Arab Emirates (formerly called the Trucial States), the same name is also given to the city which is both the capital of the Abu Dhabi emirate and the U.A.E. As well as being the largest of the seven emirates which make up the U.A.E., Abu Dhabi is arguably the richest as well, with the majority of Abu Dhabi’s economic strength being built off of its rich oil fields, both onshore and off. The emirate itself is 73,060 square kilometers (28,210 square miles) in area and contains a population of 798,000, with much of that being centered on the city of Abu Dhabi.

The borders of Abu Dhabi stretch along the coast of the Persian Gulf for 450 km (280 miles), a stretch of land which is dotted by many areas of salt marsh and contains a vast quantity of coastal islands. Internally, Abu Dhabi borders, and half surrounds, the emirate of Dubayy, as well as sharing a short boundary with the emirate of ash-Shariqah. Internationally, the borders of Abu Dhabi meet with Saudi Arabia to the south, Oman to the east and Qatar to the west.

Abu Dhabi is, for much of its expanse, a hot region of deserts, both gravel and sand, and salt flats. The exceptions to this rule are the major cities of the emirate, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, which both rise as garden cities in the middle of the seemingly endless desert terrain. Abu Dhabi city, especially, is a city of tree lined avenues and large, lush parks that seem to rise from the desert coast like a vision, in a land where even the coast is dry and desolate.

The region, which Abu Dhabi is part of, is one of the hottest regions in the world. Though the coastal air tends to cool Abu Dhabi somewhat, comparatively to inland temperatures, the emirate still experiences very high average temperatures. From May to September, the average temperature is between 35C and 40C (95-104F), with high temperatures reaching 40 – 41C (104-106F) in July and August. Meanwhile, the winter is short, lasting only from December to February, during which the temperatures average around 25C (77F).

The economy of Abu Dhabi is almost entirely petroleum based. With the rich reserves found both in the Persian Gulf and on land, the emirate has been able to make massive inroads in modernization and development of a stable infrastructure. The first oil field discovered within Abu Dhabi’s environs was discovered in the Persian Gulf, at Umm ash-Shayf, in 1958. Lying at a depth of almost 9,000 feet, the petroleum reserves are pumped, via an underwater pipeline, to Das Island. Over the next few decades, many other oil fields would be discovered, both inland and out to sea. Das Island itself, once a completely desolate strip of land, has been transformed into Abu Dhabi’s main offshore oil terminal. With a tanker terminal, airstrip, gas liquification plant and other facilities, the new terminal began export operations in 1962.

Abu Dhabi has found itself a windfall in the discovery of petroleum. Overall, the emirate accounts for an estimated 10% of the world’s oil reserves. The state has spent large amounts of its oil profits in modernizing both Abu Dhabi city and the surrounding areas, and developing the infrastructure of the area. What once could only be described as one of the Arabian hinterlands, has rapidly transformed to become one of the premier cities of the Middle East.

Though the emirate’s capitol had originally been located in the area of the Liwa Oasis, the discovery, in 1761, of drinkable water, in the area around what would become the town of Abu Dhabi, would slowly move the balance of the settled population towards this new site. The Al bu Falah clan would move their headquarters to the town of Abu Dhabi by 1795 and began to rule their lands from there.

Originally a strong alliance was established between Abu Dhabi and neighboring Oman (then the sultanate of Muscat and Oman), against the Qawasim pirates, based out of al-Khaymah and ash-Shariqah. But the alliance would not last indefinitely. Over time, border strife broke out between Abu Dhabi and Muscat and Oman, as well as between Abu Dhabi and Najd (which would eventually become Saudi Arabia). The resulting border conflicts, which Abu Dhabi quite obviously survived, would rage intermittently over the years, and are even now not actually resolved between the three states.

It was at this time that Abu Dhabi threw itself in with a new power in the region, Great Britain. Signing the General Treaty of Peace, in 1820, the Maritime Truce, in 1835, and the Perpetual Maritime Truce, in 1853, Abu Dhabi had thrown its lot in with the British Empire. And though these treaties were geared more towards reducing the piracy that was rampant within the Persian Gulf, something in which Abu Dhabi had not dabbled, the leaders of the region had decided that tying themselves to Britain would be the best strategy.

By 1892 Abu Dhabi had ceased to be a truly independent state though, and through the Exclusive Agreement, signed in 1892, gave all control of its foreign affairs over to Britain. The peace brought newfound prosperity though and the reign of Zayd ibn Khalifad (1855 – 1908) would see Abu Dhabi as the premier power of the then Trucial States. But its start was to slowly fall in the early 20th century, as it was eclipsed by the then rising power of ash-Shariqah and Dubayy. The independent states though, were slowly growing more unified under the British umbrella, and when Britain announced its pending withdrawal from the Persian Gulf, in 1968, all would change.

Abu Dhabi, along with the six other Trucial States agreed to form a loose confederation amongst themselves. Though the group originally included Bahrain and Qatar, these two states proclaimed their own independence in 1971. Britain supported the union of these states and in short time Abu Dhabi had become a part of the newly created United Arab Emirates. One more windfall would come Abu Dhabi’s way as well, when the city of Abu Dhabi was chosen for the new nation’s capital. Though originally meant to only serve as the capital for five years, the city’s mandate would be renewed each time, and eventually made permanent by the early 1990s.

Abu Dhabi City

The city of Abu Dhabi is the capital of both the Abu Dhabi emirate and of the United Arab Emirates. With a population of 363,432, the city sits on Abu Dhabi Island, just off the coast from the mainland, and is connected to the rest of the emirate by a short bridge. What, less than a century ago, was a tiny town on the coast of the emirate, has swelled to become a major city within the Middle East. This growth was due in large part to the wealth of petroleum found within the environs of the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi did not exist as a town before 1761, when the Al bu Falah clan, of the Bani Yas, settled on the island, after discovering a drinkable water in the area. Indeed, the meaning of the name Abu Dhabi is ‘homeland of the gazelle’, from the gazelles who supposedly led the original inhabitants to the fresh water. Being a perfect location for a city, there were some small scale migrations to it throughout the next three decades, and by 1795, the center of the emirate’s government had moved to the town and Abu Dhabi had achieved, at the very least, a local importance within the emirate. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries though, Abu Dhabi was completely overshadowed by the nearby towns of Dubayy and ash-Shariqah, which were capitals of the nearby lands of the same names. During this period, there was some small scale pearl diving industry and a small amount of localized trade, but the town failed to achieve any regional power.

By the early 20th century, Abu Dhabi was still a small town of 6,000 people and showed no sign of growth. The development of the Japanese Pearling industry, along with the world wide depression, which began around 1929, devastated the town during the early years of the century. But Abu Dhabi’s luck would change in 1958, when a massive oil field was found offshore from the emirate. By 1962, commercial production of oil had begun and Abu Dhabi would have its chance to become a major city in the Middle East.

The first few years of oil revenue saw very little in the way of modernization for Abu Dhabi though, as conservative leader, Shakhbut ibn Sultan, of the emirate made little changes to the way things were run. Following the British assisted ousting of Shakhbut ibn Sultan and the resulting rise to power of Zayd ibn Sultan, in 1966, the future of Abu Dhabi would change on a massive scale though. The new Sheikh would now embark on a massive effort to basically develop the city of Abu Dhabi from the ground up, virtually eliminating much of the old town.

Among the new Sheikh’s first moves were to begin developing roads which would link Abu Dhabi with the rest of the nearby emirates, as well as building a large seawall along the northern end of the island. Starting in 1968, the town itself was put into a massively ambitious five year plan. During this time, the majority of the city's infrastructure was assembled. Running water, electricity, and sewage handling systems were incorporated into the new city. As well, many government buildings, hotels and housing blocks were built during this time. Effectively, within a decade of assuming control over Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayd had transformed a sleepy town of around 15,000 people into a modern city.

Following the British exit from the Persian Gulf, Abu Dhabi became the capital of the new United Arab Emirates. What once was to be only a five year mandate for the city would be continuously renewed, and eventually made permanent in the early 1990s. Abu Dhabi now found itself the center of one of the richest, per capita, and most progressive of the Middle Eastern nations, and quickly became a recognized center of power in the world. The city of today bears little resemblance to the tiny town of mud brick houses that existed here so short a time ago. With modern skyscrapers clearly visible across the city's skyline, and a sleek look to the whole of the city, Abu Dhabi has truly transformed itself.

And thank you to rootbeer277 for reminding me that Abu Dhabi is indeed where Garfield repeatedly tried to mail Nermal to.



Abu Dhabi. (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved June 25, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9003421
Abu Dhabi. (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved June 25, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9003421
Abu Dhabi (2006). Lonely Planet. Retrieved June 27, 2006 from Lonely Planet: http://uk.holidaysguide.yahoo.com/p-travelguide-1228210-abu_dhabi_history-i
http://www.welcome-to.com/Abu_Dhabi/Features/A_Lesson_from_History
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/aetoc.html

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