Geography and Landscape


Abu Dhabi: Satellite photoAbu Dhabi Satellite PhotoPhoto: Public domain

Abu Dhabi is an emirate and belongs to the United Arab Emirates along with the emirates Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. South of Abu Dhabi is Saudi Arabia and on east it borders Oman. The emirate is bordered to the northeast by the Emirate of Dubai and to the north by the Persian Gulf.

Abu Dhabi is by far the largest of the seven emirates or city-states. The emirate has an area of 67,340 km², which covers about 80% of the area of the total United Arab Emirates. The coastline, which runs from the eastern border of Dubai to the western border of Saudi Arabia, is approximately 400 km long.

Abu Dhabi SkylineSkyline Abu Dhabi Photo: FritzDaCat CC3.0 Unported no changes made

The capital Abu Dhabi, also capital of the emirate of the same name and of the United Arab Emirates, is situated on a small T-shaped island (102 km²) in the Persian Gulf and is linked to the mainland of the United Arab Emirates by two long bridges, the Maqta and the Musaffah.

Nearly 200, mostly uninhabited islands off the coast of Abu Dhabi, often protected natural areas due to the presence of endangered bird species, fall within the territory of the emirate. Das Island, home to one of the largest offshore oil fields, is located 170 kilometers northwest of Abu Dhabi city, Mumbraz and the Bani Yas are approximately 180 kilometers west of the capital. Also west of Abu Dhabi city is the small archipelago Desert Islands with Sir Bani Yas as its main island. Other islands include Lulu (artificial island), Al Futaisi, Horseshoe, Cut and Bahraini and Dalma, a fertile island, once one of the most important pearl diving centers and one of the oldest sites of date palm culture.


Liwa oase Abu DhabiLiwa oasis, Abu DhabiPhoto: Public domain

Desert area covers 70 percent of Abu Dhabi's land area. The Rub-al-Khali Desert, or the 'Empty Quarter', covers much of Abu Dhabi and parts of Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. With a total area of approximately 650,000 km2, it is the largest sandy desert and also one of the driest deserts in the world.

In the Rub-al-Khali Desert, 100 km south of the Persian Gulf and 150 km from Abu Dhabi, lies the great Liwa Oasis. In this arc-shaped chain of about 50 oasis villages lie the most southerly places of Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates, whereby Muzayri is the most important.

Landscape Abu Dhabi: Moreeb-dune Moreeb-dune Photo: Zamir in the Public domain

At the beautiful, palatial Emirates Palace hotel, is a 1.3 km long sandy beach with white sand imported from Algeria. Near the oasis is the 1,600-meter-long Moreeb sand dune, about 300 meters high, making it one of the highest in the world. Just south of Al Ayn is Abu Dhabi's highest mountain and one of the highest mountains in the United Arab Emirates, Jebel Hafeet (1249 m).

Off the coast of Abu Dhabi, where there are many coral reefs, there is a lot of investment in the island of Saadiyat, which will have to house 150,000 people and become the cultural center of Abu Dhabi, including Abu Dhabi Louvre and Abu Dhabi Guggenheim.

Along the coast, west of Abu Dhabi city, there are extensive salt plains, the 'sabkhas'. The large oil fields lie more than 200 km inland from Abu Dhabi.

Climate and Weather

Abu Dhabi DesertAbu Dhabi DesertPhoto: Cesar 1 Martins CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Lying around the Tropic of Cancer, the United Arab Emirates has a desert climate with a warm and sunny winter and a hot and humid summer. Average daytime temperatures of around 26 ° C in winter are pleasant, November seems to be the best month to visit Abu Dhabi, although at night it can cool down to 12-15 ° C on the coast and deep in the desert and in higher located areas below 5 ° C sometimes occurs. The northwestern shamal wind, which can blow from the northwest in summer and winter, causes sand storms.
In summer, temperatures reach about 45 ° C, and it can get even hotter inland. Humidity on the coast varies between 50-60% in winter to more than 90% in summer and fall. Inland is much less humid. In late autumn and early spring it can be very foggy in the morning combined with high humidity.

Rainfall is scarce. It rains in short, bright showers, especially in the winter months of February and March. Thunderstorms do sometimes occur in summer, especially over the mountains in the south and east of the country. In some years, however, not a drop of water falls, and plants and animals depend on the dew. This even applies to places where it normally always rains, such as in Masafi in the Hajar mountains, where in a 'wet' year there is 350 mm of rain, but only 30 mm in a dry year. Occasionally it can rain so hard in these mountains that the wadis flood, but Abu Dhabi is also sometimes hit by floods, for example in December 2009, when Abu Dhabi city was completely disrupted for two days.


monthavg max tempavg min tempsunshine hrs p/ddays precipitiation p/msea temp

Plants and Animals


Although the diversity of flora and fauna in the United Arab Emirates is not as great as in some other parts of the world, a number of plant and animal species has managed to adapt to the harsh climatic conditions, sometimes with human help. For example, the municipality of Abu Dhabi City has started an extensive green program, which makes it look very colorful and bright with grass, palm trees and flowers along the roads and streets of Abu Dhabi. A special team of green workers ensures that everything that grows and blooms is watered 24 hours a day. This team is also responsible for many parks that are located in Abu Dhabi city.

Abu Dhabi DadelpalmenDate palmsPhoto: Rizwan Ulla Wazir CC3.0 Unported no changes made

There are about 3,500 species of trees, plants and flowers in the United Arab Emirates. This is surprisingly high given the high salinity in the soil and the harsh climatic environment. The most famous appearance is of course the date palm, which is everywhere. In the mountainous areas, acacias and grasses create a landscape somewhat resembling an African savanna. There are a number of oases in the desert, which show a green appearance even in the extremely dry summer months.


Abu Dhabi DromedariesDromedariesPhoto: Martin Falbisoner CC4.0 International no changes made

Native fauna includes the Arabian leopard and the Nubian ibex, but the chance to spot these animals is next to impossible. Realistically, the only large mammals to be seen anywhere are camels, dromedaries or Arabian camels, and goats. There are also desert or sand cats, sand foxes, Cape hares, gerbils, hedgehogs, snakes and geckos living in the desert.

Abu Dhabi Arabic OryxArabic OryxPhoto: Shankar s CC2.0 Generic no changes made

Off the coast of Abu Dhabi lies Sir Bani Yas Island, a conservation project with mainly animals from the Arabian Peninsula, but also from Africa, South America and Asia, including algazel, Indian antelope, Arabian or white oryx, dune gazelle, mountain gazelle, cheetah, man sheep, Cape cliff badger or rock badger, Arabian hare, bustard and Abyssinian hedgehog.

A small archipelago off the coast of Abu Dhabi, Bu Tinah has a rich natural habitat of coral, seagrass, mangroves, flamingos, dolphins, turtles and manatees. Because of this unique combination, Bu Tinah has been nominated as a natural wonder of the world.

White Tiger in the Abu Dhabi ZooWhite Tiger in the zooPhoto: Pelican CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The Abu Dhabi Zoo has an international reputation for protecting and breeding endangered species, including the wildly extinct algazel (also called sable antelope or sabeloryx), the Arabian or white oryx, the addax or Mendes antelope, the desert or sand cat, the white tiger and the rare Arabian leopard.

Off the coast of Abu Dhabi, the sea is home to a rich variety of life, including tropical fish, jellyfish, coral, the dugong or manatee, and sharks. Eight whale and seven dolphin species have been sighted in the waters of the United Arab Emirates. In addition, turtle species such as the loggerhead turtle, the 'real' hawksbill turtle and the green sea turtle or green turtle. Common reptiles are the thorn-tailed dragon, the sand viper, the saw-scale viper and the false cobra. A special animal, like a jumping kangaroo, is the jerboa or jumping mouse.

Arabian CormorantArabian Cormorant Photo: Nepenthes CC4.0 International no changes made

Recent studies have shown that the number of spotted bird species is increasing every year, probably as a result of the many green activities started in Abu Dhabi. The United Arab Emirates is on a migratory bird route between Central Asia and East Africa. But Al Bathba, located south of Abu Dhabi city, is also a resting place for many migratory birds. Abu Dhabi is therefore attracting more and more bird watchers and ornithologists, as birds settling here are not often seen in Europe or the Middle East. About 80 bird species breed in Abu Dhabi, more than 350 species are migratory birds.

Red-bellied Sandgrouse Abu DhabiRed-bellied sandgrousePhoto: Arun Thangaraj CC4.0 International no changes made

In July 2019, 398 bird species were counted in Abu Dhabi, whereby 18 were endangered species and 13 were added.


Antiquity and Middle Ages

The Emirate of Abu Dhabi is rich in archaeological finds, including at Jebel Hafeet near Al Ayn and on the island of Umm al Nar, which show that the first settlements were as early as the 3rd millennium BC. were established in the territory of the present emirate. The lifestyle of those early people was nomadic with a strong emphasis on animal husbandry and fishing.

Heritage Village shows, among other things, the life of the BedouinsHeritage Village shows the life of the BedouinPhoto: ljanderson977 in the public domain

15th to 19th centuries

In 1515, the area around Abu Dhabi was occupied by the Portuguese because of its strategic location. Around 1650 the Portuguese were expelled by the Ottomans. The important Bani Yas Bedouin lived in the Liwa oasis at the time and were divided into about 20 sub-divisions. The Al Bu Falah tribe settled on the island where now Abu Dhabi city is located, due to the discovery of fresh water in 1793. One of the families of Al Bu Falah was the Al Nahyan family, which until now would provide the rulers of Abu Dhabi.

Under Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa, Abu Dhabi developed through the pearl trade, and in 1892 an important treaty was signed between Abu Dhabi and Great Britain. The British were very aware of the strategic position of Abu Dhabi vis-à-vis India and the Far East, among other things to combat piracy, and managed to bind the sheikdoms even more strongly through a treaty, making them in fact a protectorate of Great Britain. In 1820 these sheikdoms had already merged under the name Trucial States.

Zayed bin Khalifa (1840-1909) Zayed bin Khalifa (1840-1909)Photo: Briguy brn in the public domain

20th century

At the beginning of the 20th century, however, an economic hitch arose, Japan's pearl industry became a formidable competitor for Abu Dhabi and the economic depression of the 1930s also hit it. In addition, Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan died in 1928, which resulted in an uncertain time for Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Saqr bin Zayed l Nahyan was the third ruler of Abu Dhabi. He was the brother of Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, who ruled Abu Dhabi from 1922 to 1926. Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan was shot in 1928 by Sheikh Saqr bin Zayed Al Nahyan in revenge for the death of their elder brother Sheikh Hamdan. Saqr bin Zayed Al Nahyan was also the uncle of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who succeeded him after being murdered on New Year's Day 1928 by members of the Al-Bu Shaar branch of the Al Manaseer group. Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan ruled Abu Dhabi from 1928 to 1966 and was succeeded by Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who ruled until his death on November 2, 2004 and formed the federated United Arab Emirates in 1968 after a threat from Britain to withdraw from the Gulf region.

Abu Dhabi Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918-2004) Abu Dhabi Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (1918-2004)Photo: Public domain

21th century

Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan realized that he needed the help of the British to keep the United Arab Emirates' strong position in the oil industry intact. He became the first president of the United Arab Emirates and started his plans for the development of the United Arab Emirates, supported by the ever-increasing revenues from the oil industry. As a result, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan became, of course, particularly popular in his home emirate of Abu Dhabi and proclaimed 'Father of the Nation'.

After his death in 2004, he was succeeded by his son Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan who became president of the United Arab Emirates as well as ruler of Abu Dhabi. In order not to be completely dependent on the oil, the oil profits were mainly invested by him in the tourist industry, about 3 million tourists should travel to Abu Dhabi in 2015.

Abu Dhabi Khalifa Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Abu Dhabi Khalifa Zayed bin Sultan Al NahyanPhoto: Imre Solt CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Since January 5, 2006, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has been head of government and vice president.

Abu Dhabi's Head of Government Mohammed bin Rashid Al MaktoumAbu Dhabi's Head of Government Mohammed bin Rashid Al MaktoumPhoto: World Economic Forum CC2.0 Generic no changes made

On January 24, 2014, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan suffered a brain haemorrhage.

Etihad Airways Logo Photo: Public domainLogo Etihad AirwaysPhoto: Public domain

In October 2014, it was announced that Lufthansa would be discontinuing flights between Frankfurt and Abu Dhabi. Lufthansa was unable to cope with the competition between the UAE's state-owned company Etihad Airways; the connection between the two cities was no longer profitable for Lufthansa, partly because of unfair competition according to Lufthansa. See also the history of the United Arab Emirates.

In November 2017, the Louvre in Abu Dhabi will open its doors, it is a sister museum of the Louvre in Paris.

In February 2019, Pope Francis visited Abu Dhabi and held an open-air mass for 180,000 worshipers, unique in a country where Islam is the state religion.


Abu Dhabi studentsAbu Dhabi studentsPhoto: Firas Elayan CC4.0 International no changes made

According to a 2015 census, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has about 2.7 million inhabitants, but only 30% of the area of Abu Dhabi is inhabited. Abu Dhabi city and surroundings have approximately 1.4 million inhabitants, the second city of the emirate is Al Ayn with approximately 600,000 inhabitants and Al Gharbia with approximately 250,000 inhabitants. Abu Dhabi city is the second largest city in the United Arab Emirates after Dubai. Due to the harsh climatic conditions, few people live outside the cities, only 12% of the population of the United Arab Emirates live in villages or in communities for expatriates. The population of Abu Dhabi has exploded in barely fifty years, from about 90,000 in 1960 to over 2 million today. The population is expected to increase to approximately 3 million by 2030.

The population of the United Arab Emirates has about 150 nationalities. The majority of the inhabitants of Abu Dhabi (approx. 80%) are therefore expats and guest workers from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and North America, but also illegal immigrants, mainly from Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Abu Dhabi Foreign construction workers take a break Photo: Piotr ZarobkiewiczAbu Dhabi foreign construction workers take a restPhoto: Piotr Zarobciewicz CC3.0 no changes made

Of the non-Gulf Arabs, often highly educated, unlike the other Asian foreigners, most come from Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, and Algeria. The majority of Western foreigners are from England, the rest are from countries such as the United States, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland and Canada.

Unique to the United Arab Emirates in general, and therefore also to Abu Dhabi, is the very remarkable population composition with twice as many men as women, especially among the working population aged 15-65, which comprises 70% of the population.

Population distribution among the different emirates:

Abu Dhabi34%
Ras Al Khaimah5%
Umm Al Quwain1%


Arabic is the official language of the United Arab Emirates. In addition, Farsi, English, Hindi and Urdu are spoken by the various immigrant groups. The official language of trade is, of course, also Arabic, but English is so widespread and established that one can trade for years without speaking a single word of Arabic. Most road signs, shop names and, for example, restaurant menus are bilingual.

ArabicArabicPhoto: Sergio in the public domain

Some pronunciation rules of Arabic:

- all letters are spoken

- a "means that a letter is pronounced very briefly

- the r is a rolling r

- the y is pronounced sj

- the sh is pronounced sj

- the gh is pronounced like a brew-r or French r

- the kh is pronounced a hard g

The Arabic script is written from right to left and consists of 28 consonants. Vowels are not written and this creates different Latin spellings for one and the same word. Arabic numerals are written from left to right.

Arabic names have a formalized structure that traditionally identifies family and tribe. Names usually come from an important person in the Quran or from a tribe name. Following is the word 'bin' (son of) for a boy and 'bint' (daughter of) for a girl, followed by the name of the child's father. The last part of the name gives an indication of the tribe name or the family name. Important families have the word 'Al', which means 'the', before it. For example, the president of the United Arab Emirates is fully called 'Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan'. Abu Dhabi means 'father of the gazelle'.


Quran in Arabic script Quran in Arabic scriptPhoto: Public domain

The actions and words of the Prophet Muhammad caused Islam to spread rapidly in the 7th century in the Arabian Peninsula. Mohammed is said to have been visited by the archangel Gabriel, who solemnly read to him the holy word of Allah (God). These words of Allah were put in writing and we now know that as the Quran. Mohammed was the last of a series of prophets, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, who had been sent to earth by Allah. The words of Muhammad thus took the place of the words of all previous prophets and the Quran also states how the people should live. Muhammad's message spread rapidly, eventually reaching the Atlantic coast in the west and the outlying islands of Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, in the east.

Islam is based on five 'pillars', which should give structure to the daily life of Muslims. The first pillar (shahadah) is the Islamic testimony 'there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet'. The second pillar (salat) is the duty to pray five times a day in the direction of Mecca. The third pillar (zakat) is the giving of alms, in the United Arab Emirates 10% of the assets are taxed. The fourth pillar (saum) is the fasting month of Ramadan, during which no eating or drinking is allowed between sunrise and sunset. The fifth pillar (hajj) is the pilgrimage to Mecca, which must be accomplished at least once in the life of a Muslim.

The two major schools of Islam are Shia Islam and Sunnism. This dichotomy arose almost immediately after the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632 AD. and concerns the succession of Mohammed. Sunnis believe that Muhammad had not appointed a successor and therefore made their own choice between Muhammad's two fathers-in-law, and the choice fell on Abu Bakr, the father of Muhammad's favorite wife Aishah. Shites believe that Muhammad had indeed appointed a successor, namely Muhammad's husband daughter Fatima, and thus his son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib. Ali was murdered and his followers demanded that his descendants succeed him. According to the Sunnis, anyone can become a leader of the Muslim world if he sees to the proper exercise and interpretation of the rules of Islam. Shias live mainly in Iran, southern Iraq, Kuwait and as a minority in countries such as India, Pakistan, Lebanon and a number of Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates. Sunnis, about 85% of all Muslims anyway, live mainly in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia and many countries in the Middle East.

As a place of pilgrimage, Mecca is always busyMecca is always crowded as a place of pilgrimagePhoto: Muhammad Mahdi Karim CC2.5 no changes made

According to Article 7 of the UAE Provisional Constitution, Islam is the UAE's official state religion. The government subsidizes nearly 95% of mosques and pays imams. About 5% of the mosques are completely private, and a number of mosques receive large private donations. About 75% of the population of the United Arab Emirates are Sunni Muslims.

Dubai also has large Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and other religious minorities. Abu Dhabi has a thriving Christian community. Non-Muslim groups may have their own places of worship where they can freely practice their religion. However, the distribution of religious literature is strictly prohibited under penalty of criminal prosecution, imprisonment and deportation.

The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is the seventh largest mosque in the world (approx. 22,000 m2), the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and can accommodate 40,000 Muslims, but non-Muslims are also welcome at certain times. The mosque houses the largest Iranian-made carpet in the world (5,627 m2), the largest candlestick in the world (diameter 10 m, height 15 m, weight 12,000 kg), 28 types of marble, 82 domes and four minarets, two of which largest are 115 meters high. The mosque is named after its founder and first president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who is also buried in the building, which was completed and opened in 2005.

SheikhSheikh Zayed MosquePhoto: Starbust 245 CC4.0 Internationaal no changes made

In 1992, the remains of the only Christian monastery in the United Arab Emirates were discovered on Sir Bani Yas Island. Archaeologists estimate that the monastery was built around AD 600, but was abandoned in around 750.


State structure

Coat of arms of Abu DhabiCoat of arms of Abu DhabiPhoto: Public domain

The Head of State of Abu Dhabi is the Federal Head of State of the UAE. He presides over the Supreme Council, which is made up of the heads of state of the seven emirates and is the highest authority in the federation by virtue of the constitution finally adopted in 1971 and dated in 1971. The center of gravity of power rests in Abu Dhabi. The country has had two female ministers since 2004: for economic affairs and for social affairs.

At the federal level, government policy is also largely influenced by the ruler of Abu Dhabi and his family. Foreign policy and education in particular are federal affairs. Many of the other policy areas have a shared responsibility. The Federal Council of Ministers is made up of representatives from the different emirates. This includes the Supreme Court and the Federal National Council (FNC). The officers are appointed by the local authorities. Abu Dhabi city is the capital of the United Arab Emirates.


The United Arab Emirates is a country where Islam and Arab identity are at the forefront. However, the country is averse to fundamentalism and tries to establish a tolerant and liberal society. It may be attributed to President Sheikh Zayed's personal credit that the federation has remained politically united and has become an economic success.

Traditionally, there has been fierce political competition between the various tribal societies, while the economic disparities between oil-rich Abu Dhabi and the smaller dependent emirates have only grown in recent decades. However, there is currently a tendency to be observed that points to further economic and also political integration. The current political situation is described in the chapter history.


In 1976, the first Abu Dhabi University was opened not in Abu Dhabi City, but in Al Ayn. In the first year, approximately 500 students studied at the United Arab Emirates University in four faculties. In 2014 the number of emirati and international students had grown to 14,000 and the number of faculties is now nine. Of those 14,000, the vast majority are women, as many male students study abroad.

Since 1976, several more universities have been added, including Abu Dhabi University, Zayed University, Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and New York University Abu Dhabi.

Logo Abu Dhabi UniversityLogo Abu Dhabi UniversityPhoto: Public domain

In February 2015, it was announced that two universities from Abu Dhabi are in the new ranking of best universities in the Arab world. The United Arab Emirates University was ranked 11th, the Petroleum Institute Abu Dhabi 20th.

Expats with school-aged children can choose from many private schools. Many companies pay the high costs and reserve places in these schools for future expats in advance. Arabic language is compulsory and Muslim students are expected to take Islamic classes. There is no shortage of day-care centers (nurseries and pre-schools), especially for children aged 12-24 months to 5 years. Some nurseries can accommodate babies from three months old.

Public schools in the United Arab Emirates are generally of a much lower quality than private schools. A 2007 report showed that of the 750 schools, approximately 60% were below the level. One of the biggest complaints was that there were hardly any opportunities to give proper gym classes. Schools built before 2000 had no facilities at all. Many school buildings are over thirty years old and either need to be replaced or thoroughly refurbished.


Young Falconer Abu DhabiYoung Falconer Abu DhabiPhoto: TaniaRudenskykh CC4.0 no changes made

Falconry is hunting with game birds, especially falcons, on other animals. This particular type of hunting has been practiced in the United Arab Emirates for centuries and today is more of a sport than a food gathering opportunity. The natural prey for falcons are rabbits, birds and other small desert animals. Falcons can be bought in markets or caught as they migrate south to hibernate. The trick is to teach the falcon to bring the killed prey to the hunter. Falconry as a sport is mainly practiced in the somewhat cooler period, from the beginning of October to the end of March.

The almost mythical status of the falcon in Arab culture is confirmed by the presence of the largest falcon clinic in the world since 1999, treating injured or sick 'patients' from all over the region. In the first fourteen years of the clinic's existence, 67,000 falcons were treated, many from the United Arab Emirates, but also more and more from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. Here you can also visit a falcon museum.

Pearl diving

Until the discovery of the oil, pearl diving was an important economic activity in the United Arab Emirates and therefore also in Abu Dhabi in the 19th century. Yet, despite the income, people were afraid when the pearl diving season started again, because it was a very hard existence. The season started in the scorching summer, because the warm seawater during that period prevented sharks and other large predatory fish, which prefer colder, more fish-rich water, from attacking the divers. They also suffered from poisonous jellyfish and a working day could easily take twelve hours, with only short breaks.

At the end of the 19th century, Abu Dhabi had more than 400 boats, the largest fleet of the so-called Trucial States, the sheikdoms that would later form the United Arab Emirates. Sharjah at the time had 360, Dubai 335, Umm Al-Quwain 70, Ras Al-Khaimah 57 and Ajman 40. The small boats, actually only suitable for six or seven divers, were overcrowded by up to 20 at the start of the season and also loaded with provisions for at least four months, for that was the time the divers stayed at sea.


The UAE has the second largest economy of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries after Saudi Arabia. Its GDP is about a third of that of Saudi Arabia and five times that of Qatar. Because the UAE has not nationalized the oil industry, the country benefits from the latest technologies being developed at the multinational oil companies. The UAE is highly dependent on oil revenues, so current economic policies are focused on diversification and privatization. The government is also trying to create employment for the growing indigenous population (emiratization). Promoting employment in the private sector and limiting the number of foreign guest workers play an important role in this.

Abu Dhabi ExportAbu Dhabi exportPhoto: Alexander Simoes Cesar Hidalgo, et. al CC 3.0 no changes made

In 1958 oil was first discovered in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, in the Umm Shaif oil field, and in 1959 the on-shore field Murban No. 3 followed. In 1962, the Bu Hasa field was discovered and from that time the oil was exported. In 1965 the Zakum offshore field was discovered. In addition to the oil fields already mentioned, the most important onshore fields at present are Asab, Sahil and Shah, and offshore al-Bunduq and Abu al-Bukhoosh.

The emirate of Abu Dhabi accounts for about two-thirds of the total economy of the United Arab Emirates, with about 400 billion dollars. In addition to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi City is also home to many headquarters of large international companies and multinationals.

Abu Dhabi Financial CenterAbu Dhabi financiel centerPhoto: Ian Pudsey CC3.0 Unported no changes made

Currency exchange is free and, apart from a standard import tariff of 4%, there are hardly any trade restrictions. Most foreign companies choose Dubai as their regional center. A large number of trade fairs take place there. The Jebel Ali Free Zone has expanded enormously from approximately 200 branches in 1991 to approximately 1000 companies at the moment. In this Free Zone 100% foreign company ownership is possible, whereas in UAE it is limited to 49%. The major long-term challenges are oil dependence, the large number of foreign workers and growing inflationary pressures. The UAE's strategic plan for the coming years aims to diversify, especially tourism and financial services are becoming increasingly important, and create more opportunities for its nationals through better education and employment in the private sector.

Model of the annex of the Guggenheim Museum Model of the annex of the Guggenheim Museum Photo: Asy arch CC3.0 no changes made

Unlike Dubai, Abu Dhabi is by no means a massive tourist destination, visitors are mainly business people. To attract more tourists, Abu Dhabi wants to create two true tourist magnets on the island of Saadiyat, namely branches of the Guggenheim Museum and the Louvre. In 2007 renowned financial magazine Fortune named Abu Dhabi City the richest city in the world.

Abu Dhabi International AirportAbu Dhabi International AirportPhoto: Rizwan Ullah Wazir CC.0 Unported no changes made

Abu Dhabi International Airport is one of the fastest growing airports in the world in terms of passengers, new airlines and infrastructure. In 2017, 41 airlines flew to 90 cities in 54 countries on all continents. At that time, only Dubai International Airport, Johannesburg Airport and Hamad International Airport (Qatar) could match that. In 2013 the airport handled approximately 16.5 million travelers. Abu Dhabi International Airport serves as the transfer airport (hub) for Etihad Airways. The opening of the new Midfied Teminal Complex is planned for 2018, with a capacity of 30-40 million passengers.

The economy of the large Liwa Oasis is largely dependent on date palms and tourism. There are already several hotels, of which Liwa Rest House is intended for businessmen and civil servants. Historically, fishing, building dhows, wooden fishing boats, and pearl diving were the main economic activities in the United Arab Emirates.

Al Ruwais is a city located about 150 miles west of Abu Dhabi city in the desert. The Ruwais industrial and housing complex was developed by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) with many millions of oil dollars in the 1970s and early 1980s and now makes a significant contribution to the economy of the United Arab Emirates. The complex was officially opened in 1982 by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, later President of the United Arab Emirates, ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the visionary behind Abu Dhabi's remarkable development and wealth. The employees and their families live in excellent houses in beautiful surroundings. The complex has its own shops, schools, banks, mosques, sports facilities and a hospital. In Al Batteen, one of the most expensive areas of Abu Dhabi city, another dhow shipyard is located where traditional wooden dhows are built.

Camel market Al Ayn Abu DhabiCamel market Al Ayn Abu DhabiPhoto: Jon Connell CC2.0 Generic no changes made

Abu Dhabi's second city, Al Ayn, is Abu Dhabi's agricultural center. The fertile soil available here is due to the approximately 200 natural sources that can be found underground here. Just south of Al Ayn is the largest camel and dromedary market in the United Arab Emirates.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Abu Dhabi Corniche Abu Dhabi CornichePhoto: Aravind Sivaraj CC3.0 Unported no changes made

Although it took some time for Abu Dhabi to step out of the shadow of good neighbor Dubai, the city and the entire emirate is now working hard enough to develop into one of the top places in the region in a relatively short time. Some top sporting events and large congresses has certainly contributed to this.

The ever-changing skyline, large hotels, enormous shopping areas, intriguing new buildings, almost always sunshine and the increasingly important position of Abu Dhabi International Airport, not only in the region but also globally, all contribute to the development of Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi Saadiyat IslandPhoto: Imre Solt CC3.0 Unported no changes made

Abu Dhabi is establishing itself as one of the top tourist destinations in the United Arab Emirates in all areas due to a fantastic infrastructure and interesting sights. Souks, fortresses, local restaurants and beautiful nature reserves form a nice contrast with all new developments and building plans, even people do not shy away from the construction of artificial islands such as Saadiyat Island. The art, sports and culture scene is also increasingly making itself heard with galleries and museums that not only provide well-known local artists with a platform to show themselves, but many international top artists also like to come to Abu Dhabi. You can also make impressive desert trips, spend the night in the mountains and enjoy the underwater world while diving and snorkeling.

Abu Dhabi vacation: Ferrari World Ferrari WorldPhoto: Alberto-g-rovi CC3.0 Unported no changes made

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is also special, the world's largest indoor theme park with, among other things, a rollercoaster that has a top speed of 150 miles per hour. Yas Island is home to the Yas Marina Circuit, which cost 1 billion euros, making it the most expensive F1 circuit in the world. Formula 1 races have been held here since 2009.

Yas Marina CircuitYas Marina CircuitPhoto: Planet Labs, Inc. CC4.0 International no changes made

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Last updated December 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb