Introduction to Abu Dhabi

While perhaps not as flashy as its neighbouring emirate and mega-structure mecca of Dubai, the UAE capital Abu Dhabi is nevertheless a thoroughly modern international city with a focus on culture, eco innovations and high-end style. Abu Dhabi has experienced a dizzying ascent from humble pearling village to oil-rich metropolis in just 40 years. And while its reputation was the straitlaced sister to Dubai’s glitzy gal around town, Abu Dhabi is now an exciting city in transition and the one to watch.

Some movie-goers may recognise Abu Dhabi from the second ‘Sex and the City’ movie (actually filmed in Morocco as the film’s subject was deemed inappropriate for the UAE) and while the opulence and stunning physical attributes are there, there’s more to the emirate than the excesses of the film. The largest in size and second-most populous of the emirates after Dubai, Abu Dhabi is 70 percent desert but surprisingly boasts 700 kilometres of coastline as well as 200 islands including Yas and Saadinyat. Abu Dhabi the city is actually located on an island itself!

The city of Abu Dhabi is home to the UAE President and the emirate also contains a second city, Al Ain. The emirate population is over 2.4 million with 1.6 million in the city of which around 80 percent are expats from over 150 countries. Abu Dhabi’s reputation used to be one of uptight conservatism, however local attitudes are now more relaxed and tolerant due to the diversity of the population.

With lots of massive projects on the go, Abu Dhabi is construction central with a focus on positioning itself as a cultural destination while protecting traditional pastimes of falconry, camel racing and dhow sailing. And, with its trajectory toward a ‘2030 Plan’, the best is still yet to come for Abu Dhabi.

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