Abu Dhabi, officially known as Emirate of Abu Dhabi, is one among the seven emirates that constitute the UAE. It is located in the Persian Gulf region, and adjoins the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Sultanate of Oman. Abu Dhabi is the capital of UAE, and is the largest emirate by area (67,340 sq km), and also second largely populated emirate, constituting 86percent of total land area, after Dubai. The seat of President of UAE is located in Abu Dhabi city, which also hosts several oil companies, the federal cabinet and foreign embassies.
Abu Dhabi is not only the wealthiest emirate in the UAE, but is also one of the wealthiest cities in the world. It houses major financial institutions such as the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and Central Bank of UAE, besides headquarters of several other multinational corporations. Being one of the largest oil producers in the world, Abu Dhabi has strived to diversify its economy in recent years by investing in tourism and financial services. Served by high oil prices, the non oil and gas GDP in the country has outstripped that attributable to the energy sector now. This trend has reflected itself with considerable new investment in real estate, retail, and tourism sectors. The main revenue of the emirate is from construction and financial services, industry, all of which constitute USD187bn economy of the emirate. In the year 2008, Abu Dhabi alone, generated 56.7percent of the GDP of the UAE. Abu Dhabi now constitutes 64 percent of the total GDP in the UAE.
Population of Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is the second largest city of UAE in terms of population. The city housed a population of approximately 896,000 in 2009. The population of Abu Dhabi was approximately 1,975,000 in 2011.
Towns and Cities
Major towns and cities in Abu Dhabi are - Abu Dhabi city, Abu al Abyad, Al Ain, Al-Aryam Island, Al Mushrif, Bahrani Island, Dalma, Habshan, Khalifa City, Liwa Oasis, Marawah, Mussafah, Port Zayed, Ruwais, Sila, Sir Bani, Yas Island, Tarif.
Abu Dhabi has grown as the most important cultural and entertainment hub in the UAE, drawing several visitors of all age groups to its multiple cultural events all through the year.
One of the major attractions of this island capital could be the Emirates Heritage Village, which overlooks the Corniche. Run by Emirates Heritage Club, it offers an interesting glimpse into the country’s past, revealing traditional aspects of the desert way of life, including the campfire with coffee pots, falaj irrigation system, goats’ hair tent, all attractively displayed in an open museum. Apart from these, there are reconstructions of palm and other houses, old fishing villages and traditional souqs. Maritime traditions are a special feature here, and there are shops for local crafts, and a unique collection of the Holy Quran.
For a fascinating sneak peek into the life of late Sheikh Zayed, affectionately known as Father of the Nation, visit the Zayed Centre at Al Bateen district in Abu Dhabi. The museum is housed in the Emirati Heritage Village, and consists of photo gallery of Sheikh Zayed and other regional and international royalty and dignitaries lining the walls of the museum. The Museum is full of personal memorabilia, including his favourite hunting rifles.
Al Maqtaa Fort
The Al Maqtaa Fort is a 200 year-old fort that houses ADTA visitor information centre. Standing on the edge of the Abu Dhabi island, the fort was built to fend off bandits and is a wonderful contrast to the adjacent modern bridge.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
A complimentary guided tour through one of the world's largest Mosques, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, is something that you wouldn't want to miss in Abu Dhabi. The architectural work of art features 80 domes, 1000 columns, 24-carat gold-plated chandeliers, and the world’s largest hand-woven carpet. This Mosque is open even to non-Muslims, unlike other Mosques in Abu Dhabi.
Located at Al Matar, behind the old airport of Abu Dhabi, this park is popular among residents and tourists. It offers wonderful landscaped grand avenue, a maritime museum, central plaza for meeting, a monorail, a time tunnel, party hall, amphitheatre, women and children’s garden, mosque, a theme park and an Islamic garden.
Khalifa Park Museum
This offers an insight into the history and culture of Abu Dhabi, and traces back from pre-historic times to the present of Abu Dhabi. The Time Tunnel Ride forms the highlight of the museum, and offers a journey of living history, with all sounds, sights and smells of the past.
This picturesque area of the city is known for its park-lined coastal boulevard, its fountains, and architecturally modern buildings that face the sea. You can enjoy watching gardens and modern high-rises, or enjoy a ride on traditional wooden dhow experiencing the contrasting views of scenic skylines, parks and fountains. There is also the Corniche Park located along the east side of Abu Dhabi Island, and is the perfect setting for fishing and bird-watching.
Better known as white fort or old fort, this palace is the oldest historic building in Abu Dhabi. Located along the Sheikh Zayed First Street, in the centre of Abu Dhabi, this fort was the royal palace and seat of government until 1996. Although not open to public, the place can be photographed, and the area also includes popular Cultural Foundation Centre which houses several art, music and film events every year.
Emirates Palace Hotel
This is an outstanding seven star hotel and one of the most popular landmarks for several cultural activities in the city. The hotel also includes a huge conference centre and large landscaped gardens, fountains and palm trees. It welcomes all non-residents to enjoy the hotels surroundings.
Abu Dhabi Falcon hospital is one of the most advanced award-winning specialist hospitals worth visiting, as you get to visit the birds kept in the luxurious wards, explore the museum, gain an insight into the falconry desert sport, or try to pursuit the lush gardens in the hospital.
Women's Handicraft Centre
This is an enjoyable place to visit for those interested in local crafts. Run by Abu Dhabi Women’s Association, it displays the wares of local women, with products ranging from perfumed oils to local costumes and pottery. Few of these are even open for sale. The kitchen area serves typical Gulf cuisine.
Saadiyat / Yas Islands
Take to the state-of-the-art highway at Saadiyat and Yas Islands. Saadiyat is home to world’s largest single concentration of prime cultural institutions, including the Zayed National Museum, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, and Louvre Abu Dhabi, a performing arts centre and maritime museum. The island is also home to renowned Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, designed by the legendary Gary Player, and is the region’s only ‘ocean’ course with several beach front holes. Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island houses one of the largest indoor theme parks, the ‘Ferrari World’, the destination’s entertainment centre. Yas Island is also home to Yas Marina Circuit, the world-class F1 motor cross race track.
Further along the east in Abu Dhabi, there is the ‘Oasis City’ of Al Ain located in proximity to Oman border. A walk through the well-preserved Al Ain Oasis can be quite calming. There are numerous heritage sites and museums, golf courses, all lying in the shadow of Jebel Hafeet, the tallest peak in the emirate. Another option at Al Ain is to take kids to Hili Fun City, or the Arabian Wild Park, which can be the right place for some cost-effective fun.
Abu Dhabi has also grown to be a major international sporting events destination, with the emirate ready to host competitive events such as golf, water-sports, motorsports, adventure racing and athletics each year.
Abu Dhabi is a cosmopolitan city with urban architecture, green landscapes and fountains. It has several business-cum-leisure amenities, ranging from state-of-the-art convention centre, to designer golf courses, hotels, spas and theatres. The palace-like shopping malls and indigenous souqs in Abu Dhabi make for great shopping expedition, coupled with gastronomic treats from sophisticated restaurants, clubs and cafes.