Abu Dhabi

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Countries; Middle Eastern Countries

City of Abu Dhabi
أبو ظبي
Skyline of City of Abu Dhabiأبو ظبي
Official flag of City of Abu Dhabiأبو ظبي

[[Flag of City of Abu Dhabi
أبو ظبي|Flag]]

Emirate Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan
 - City 6700 km²
 - City (2006) 1,850,230
 - Density 293.94/km²
Website: www.abudhabi.com (unofficial)
View of Abu Dhabi
View of Abu Dhabi
Satellite image of Abu Dhabi (March 2003)
Satellite image of Abu Dhabi (March 2003)

Abu Dhabi (Arabic: أبو ظبيʼAbū Ẓaby, literally "Father of Gazelle") is the largest of the seven emirates that compose the United Arab Emirates and was also the largest of the former Trucial States. Abu Dhabi is also a city of the same name within the Emirate that is the capital of the country, in north central UAE. The city lies on a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf from the central western coast. An estimated 1,000,000 people lived there in 2000, with about an 80% expatriate population. Abu Dhabi city is located at 24.4667° N 54.3667° E. The Emirate has approximately 70% of the country's entire wealth. Al Ain is Abu Dhabi's second largest urban area with a population of 348,000 (2003 census estimate) and is located 150 kilometres inland.


Parts of Abu Dhabi were settled as far back as the 3rd millennium BC and its early history fits the nomadic herding and fishing pattern typical of the broader region. Modern Abu Dhabi traces its origins to the rise of an important tribal confederation the Bani Yas in the late 18th century, who also assumed control of Dubai. In the 19th century the Dubai and Abu Dhabi branches parted ways.

Into the mid-20th century, the economy of Abu Dhabi continued to be sustained mainly by camel herding, production of dates and vegetables at the inland oases of Al Ain and Liwa, and fishing and pearl diving off the coast of Abu Dhabi city, which was occupied mainly during the summer months. Most dwellings in Abu Dhabi city were, at this time constructed of palm fronds (barasti), with the wealthier families occupying mud huts. The growth of the cultured pearl industry in the first half of the twentieth century created hardship for residents of Abu Dhabi as pearls represented the largest export and main source of cash earnings.

In 1939, Sheikh Shakhbut Bin-Sultan Al Nahyan granted petroleum concessions, and oil was first found in 1958. At first, oil money had a marginal impact. A few lowrise concrete buildings were erected, and the first paved road was completed in 1961, but Sheikh Shakbut, uncertain whether the new oil royalties would last, took a cautious approach, preferring to save the revenue rather than investing it in development. His brother, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, saw that oil wealth had the potential to transform Abu Dhabi. The ruling Al Nahayan family decided that Sheikh Zayed should replace his brother as ruler and carry out his vision of developing the country. On August 6, 1966, with the assistance of the British, Sheikh Zayed became the new ruler. (See Al-Fahim, M, From Rags to Riches: A Story of Abu Dhabi, Chapter Six (London Centre of Arab Studies, 1995), ISBN 1-900404-00-1.)

With the announcement by the UK in 1968 that it would withdraw from the Gulf area by 1971, Sheikh Zayed became the main driving force behind the formation of the United Arab Emirates.

After the Emirates gained independence in 1971, oil wealth continued to flow to the area and traditional mud-brick huts were rapidly replaced with banks, boutiques and modern highrises.


Abu Dhabi is bordered by the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Abu Dhabi is bordered by the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

The emirate of Abu Dhabi is located in the oil-rich and strategic Persian Gulf region. It adjoins the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman. The emirate borders the emirate of Dubai to its north.

Abu Dhabi city is on an island located less than a quarter-kilometer from the mainland and is joined to the mainland by the Maqta and Musaffah Bridges.

Language and literature

The majority of the inhabitants of Abu Dhabi are expatriate workers and professionals from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Philippines, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. English, Hindi, Malayalam, and Urdu are widely spoken.

The native-born population are Arabic-speaking Gulf Arabs who are part of a clan-based society. The al-Nahyan family, part of the al-Falah branch of the Bani Yas tribe, rules the emirate and has a central place in society.

Buildings and structures

Abu Dhabi city is a modern city with broad boulevards, tall office and apartment buildings, and busy shops. Principal thoroughfares are The Corniche, Airport Road, Sheikh Zayed Street, Hamdan Street and Khalifa Street. Many streets are known for specialized businesses that tend to cluster on them. Hamdan Street is the main shopping street, Khalifa Street is lined with banks, Al Najdha Street is known for hardware stores, Defense St is filled with mobile telephone shops and Sheikh Zayed St (Also known as Electra Street) is the computer street.

Abu Dhabi city is known in the region for its greenery; the former desert strip today includes numerous parks and gardens. Key buildings include the Qasr al-Hosn (a.k.a. Old Fort or White Fort), Clock Tower (now demolished due to construction of the new Corniche), headquarters of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and its many operating-company subsiduaries and the Cultural Foundation. The Corniche, which was re-developed in 2005, is now one of the best sea front parks in the Gulf.

The current developments in Abu Dhabi, like its neighbour Dubai, reflect a number of architectural masterpieces by, among others, Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry.

Other urban centers in the Abu Dhabi emirate are Al 'Ain and Ruwais. Al Ain is an agglomeration of several villages scattered around a valuable desert oasis; today it is the site of the national university, UAEU. Al Ain is billed as the Garden City of the UAE. Other work includes the 1st prize international competition of the Abu Dhabi Library and Cultural Centre won by the Architects Collaborative, designed by Hisham N. Ashkouri of Boston, Massachusetts and New York, NY.

Current ruler

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan is the hereditary emir and ruler of Abu Dhabi, as well as the current president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Postage stamps

see: Postage stamps of Abu Dhabi


Sunny/blue skies can be expected throughout the year. The months June through September are generally hot and humid with temperatures averaging above 40ºC (110ºF). During this time, sandstorms also occur intermittently, in some cases reducing visibility down to a few meters. The weather is usually pleasant from October to May. January to February is cooler and may require the use of a light jacket. This period also sees dense fog on some days. The oasis city of Al Ain, about 150 km away, bordering Oman, regularly records the highest summer temperatures in the country, however the dry desert air and cooler evenings make it a traditional retreat from the intense summer heat and year round humidity of the capital city.


Abu Dhabi International Airport- (AUH) serves this city. The local time is GMT + 4 hours. Private vehicles and taxis are the primary means of transportation in the city, although public buses, run by the Abu Dhabi Muncipality, are available, but mostly used by the lower-income population. There are bus routes to nearby towns such as Baniyas, Habashan and the garden city of UAE Al Ain, among others. There is a newer service started in 2005 between Abu Dhabi and the commercial city of Dubai (about 160 km away)

City Planning

The city was planned in the 1970s (all that remains of the previous settlement is Al Hosn Fort) for an estimated maximum population of 600,000. In accordance with what was considered to be ideal urban planning at the time, the city has wide grid-pattern roads, and high-density tower blocks.

On the northerly end of the island, where the population density is highest, the main streets are lined with 20-story towers. Inside this rectangle of towers is a normal grid pattern of roads with lower density buildings (2 storey villas or 6 storey low-rise buildings).

Away from the high-density areas, land is primarily used for government buildings and private villas.

Mail is delivered to post-office boxes only; there is no door-to-door delivery. There are many parks (or 'public gardens') throughout the city. Entrance is usually free for children, however there is often an entry fee for adults.

Planning Problems

  • The city's population far surpasses the original estimated maximum population when it was designed. This causes traffic congestion, a shortage of car parking spaces, and over crowding.
  • Having Post Office mail delivery only, and no widely-usable address system thus far for buildings, causes problems in describing building locations. This means directions must often be given based on nearby landmarks.
  • The lack of a comprehensive, reliable, and frequent public transport system has led to a near complete dependence on private cars as a means of transport.
  • Grid-pattern roads mean a public transportation system is difficult to implement without requiring a moderate amount of walking, which would be a large deterrent to usage.
  • Closely positioned, high-rise towers often means accommodation is dark and claustrophobic.

Future Development

  • The city's exhibition centre ( ADNEC) is currently experiencing huge development.
  • A metro, and improved bus services are planned to resolve traffic problems.
  • Parking meters are currently being tried out as a solution to parking problems.

New developments on islands surrounding the city plan to increase the population of the city by up to 800,000.

Major Projects Under Construction

  • Saadiyat Island ('Island of Happiness')
  • Al Lulu Island
  • Reem Island
  • Al Raha

Culture and the Arts

Abu Dhabi is home to a number of cultural institutions including the Cultural Foundation and the National Theatre. The Cultural foundation is home to the UAE Public Library and Cultural Centre. Various cultural societies such as the Abu Dhabi Classical Music Society have a strong and visible following in the city.

  • Progress on the creation of a major "up-scale cultural district" on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island has begun with the groundwork for a $400 million Guggenheim Museum.
  • The Frank Gehry designed museum will display a "prestige collection" of modernist and contemporary art and is scheduled for completion in 2011. Upon completion, it is expected to be the largest exponent of the prestigious Guggenheim Museums.
  • The island development will also include museums for classical art and performing arts centers among other state-of-the-art cultural facilities.
  • $28 Billion has been set aside to budget this cultural development.
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