Abu Dhabi

This article is about the city. For the emirate, see Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi

Clockwise, from top left: Skyline from Marina, Etihad Towers, Ferrari World, Skyline from Breakwaters Marina, Emirates Palace, Desert Ripples.


Coat of arms
Abu Dhabi


Coordinates: 24°28′N 54°22′E / 24.467°N 54.367°E / 24.467; 54.367Coordinates: 24°28′N 54°22′E / 24.467°N 54.367°E / 24.467; 54.367
Country, city United Arab Emirates
Emirate Abu Dhabi
  Type Absolute monarchy
  Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed
  Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed
  Total 972 km2 (375 sq mi)
Time zone UAE standard time (UTC+4)
GDP US$ 178.3 billion [1]
GDP per capita US$ 61,009 [1]
Website Abu Dhabi Government Portal
Aerial view of Abu Dhabi on the coast of the Persian Gulf.

Abu Dhabi (US /ˈɑːb ˈdɑːbi/, UK /ˈæb ˈdɑːbi/; Arabic: أبو ظبي Abū Ẓabī Emirati pronunciation [ɐˈbuˈðˤɑbi])[2] is the capital and the second most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (the most populous being Dubai), and also capital of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the largest of the UAE's seven emirates. Abu Dhabi lies on a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf from the central western coast. The city proper had a population of 1.5 million in 2014.[3]

Abu Dhabi houses federal government offices, is the seat of the United Arab Emirates Government, home to the Abu Dhabi Emiri Family and the President of the UAE, who is from this family. Abu Dhabi's rapid development and urbanisation, coupled with the relatively high average income of its population, has transformed the city into a large and advanced metropolis. Today the city is the country's center of political and industrial activities, and a major cultural and commercial centre, due to its position as the capital. Abu Dhabi accounts for about two-thirds of the roughly $400-billion United Arab Emirates economy.[4]

Abu Dhabi is the fourth most expensive city for expatriate employees in the region, and in 2014 was the 68th most expensive big city in the world.[5]


Abu Dhabi is full of archeological evidence that points to civilizations, such as the Umm an-Nar Culture, having been located there from the third millennium BCE. Settlements were also found farther outside the modern city of Abu Dhabi but closer to the modern city of Al Ain. There is evidence of civilizations around the mountain of Hafeet (Jebel Hafeet). This location is very strategic because it is the UAE’s second tallest mountain, so it would have great visibility. It also contains a lot of moisture in its springs and lakes, which means that there would have been more moisture thousands of years ago.[6]

Origin of the name Abu Dhabi

The origin of the name "Abu Dhabi" is uncertain. Meaning "Father of the Gazelle", when literally translated from Arabic, it probably referred to the few gazelles that inhabit the emirate. According to Bilal al-Budoor, assistant under-secretary for Cultural Affairs at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development, "The area had a lot of dhibaa [deer (plural)], and was nicknamed after that." An old story tells about a man who used to chase deer [dhabi (deer – singular)] and was named the "father" of the animal. Abu Dhabi's original name was Milh "salt", possibly referring to the salty water of the Persian Gulf, or the ancient salt marshes that surround the city. Some Bedouins called the city Umm Dhabi (mother of deer), while British records refer to the place as Abu Dhabi. According to some historical accounts, the name Abu Dhabi was first used more than 300 years ago. The first word of Abu Dhabi is pronounced "Bu" by inhabitants on the city's western coast. In the eastern part of the city, the pronunciation is "Abu".[2]

Origins of the Al Nahyan family
Main article: Al Nahyan family

The Bani Yas bedouin were originally centered on the Liwa Oasis. This tribe was the most significant in the area, having over 20 subsections. In 1793, the Al Bu Falah subsection migrated to the island of Abu Dhabi on the coast of the Persian Gulf due to the discovery of fresh water there. One family within this section was the Al Nahyan family. This family makes up the rulers of Abu Dhabi today.[7]

Pearl trade

Abu Dhabi worked in the pearl business and traded with others. According to a source about pearling, the Persian Gulf was the best location for pearls. Pearl divers dove for one to one-and-a-half minutes, and would have dived up to thirty times per day. There were no oxygen tanks and any other sort of mechanical device was forbidden. The divers had a leather nose clip and leather coverings on their fingers and big toes to protect them while they searched for oysters.[8] The divers were not paid for a day’s work but received a portion of the season’s earnings.[9]

Trucial coast

In the 19th century, as a result of treaties (known as "truces" which gave the coast its name) entered into between Great Britain and the sheikhs of the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, Britain became the predominant influence in the area.[10] The main purpose of British interest was to protect the trade route to India from pirates, hence the earlier name for the area, the "Pirate Coast". After piracy was suppressed, other considerations came into play, such as a strategic need of the British to exclude other powers from the region. Following their withdrawal from India in 1947, the British maintained their influence in Abu Dhabi as interest in the oil potential of the Persian Gulf grew.[11]

First oil discoveries

In the 1930s, as the pearl trade declined, interest grew in the oil possibilities of the region. On 5 January 1936, Petroleum Development (Trucial Coast) Ltd (PDTC), an associate company of the Iraq Petroleum Company, entered into a concession agreement with the ruler, Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan al Nahyan, to explore for oil. This was followed by a seventy-five-year concession signed in January 1939. However, owing to the desert terrain, inland exploration was fraught with difficulties. In 1953, D'Arcy Exploration Company, the exploration arm of BP, obtained an offshore concession which was then transferred to a company created to operate the concession: Abu Dhabi Marine Areas (ADMA) was a joint venture between BP and Compagnie Française des Pétroles (later Total). In 1958, using a marine drilling platform, the ADMA Enterprise, oil was struck in the Umm Shaif field at a depth of about 8,755 feet (2,669 m). This was followed in 1959 by PDTC’s onshore discovery well at Murban No.3.[12]

In 1962, the company discovered the Bu Hasa field and ADMA followed in 1965 with the discovery of the Zakum offshore field. Today, in addition to the oil fields mentioned, the main producing fields onshore are Asab, Sahil and Shah, and offshore are al-Bunduq, and Abu al-Bukhoosh.[12]

Pictorial essay of old Abu Dhabi

In 1904, German explorer, Hermann Burchardt, took many photographs of historical sites in Abu Dhabi, photos that are now held at the Ethnological Museum of Berlin.[13]


Abu Dhabi seen from SPOT satellite.

The city of Abu Dhabi is on the northeastern part of the Persian Gulf in the Arabian Peninsula. It is on an island less than 250 metres (820 ft) from the mainland and is joined to the mainland by the Maqta and Mussafah Bridges. A third, Sheikh Zayed Bridge, designed by Zaha Hadid, opened in late 2010. Abu Dhabi Island is also connected to Saadiyat Island by a five-lane motorway bridge. Al-Mafraq bridge connects the city to Reem Island and was completed in early 2011. This is a multilayer interchange bridge and it has 27 lanes which allow roughly 25,000 automobiles to move per hour. There are three major bridges of the project, the largest has eight lanes, four leaving Abu Dhabi city and four coming in.[14]

Most of Abu Dhabi city is located on the island itself, but it has many suburbs on the mainland, for example: Khalifa City A, B, and C;[15] Al Raha Beach;[16] Al Bahia City A, B, and C; Al Shahama; Al Rahba; Between Two Bridges; Baniyas; Shamkha; AL Wathba and Mussafah Residential.


Abu Dhabi has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh). Sunny blue skies can be expected throughout the year. The months of June through September are generally extremely hot and humid with maximum temperatures averaging above 38 °C (100 °F). During this time, sandstorms occur intermittently, in some cases reducing visibility to a few meters.[17]

The cooler season is from November to March, which ranges between moderately hot to cold. This period also sees dense fog on some days. On average, January is the coolest month in the year, while August is the hottest. Since the Tropic of Cancer passes through the emirate, the southern part falls within the Tropics. However, despite the coolest month having a 18.8 °C (65.8 °F) average, its climate is far too dry to be classed as tropical.

Climate data for Abu Dhabi
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 33.7
Average high °C (°F) 24.1
Daily mean °C (°F) 18.8
Average low °C (°F) 13.2
Record low °C (°F) 5.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 7.0
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm) 1.2 2.8 2.8 1.2 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.2 1.5 9.9
Average relative humidity (%) 68 67 63 58 55 60 61 63 64 65 65 68 63.1
Mean monthly sunshine hours 246.1 232.6 251.1 280.5 342.2 336.9 314.2 307.5 302.4 304.7 286.6 257.6 3,462.4
Source: NOAA (1971–1991)[18]
Abu Dhabi mean sea temperature[19]
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
22.2 °C (72.0 °F) 20.6 °C (69.1 °F) 22.4 °C (72.3 °F) 25.0 °C (77.0 °F) 29.0 °C (84.2 °F) 31.6 °C (88.9 °F) 32.7 °C (90.9 °F) 33.8 °C (92.8 °F) 33.4 °C (92.1 °F) 31.5 °C (88.7 °F) 28.3 °C (82.9 °F) 24.5 °C (76.1 °F)


Under the rule of the Department of Municipal Affairs, Abu Dhabi Central Capital District has its own local government. Members are selected through the emir.

Councils such as the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council and the Regulation and Supervision Bureau are responsible for infrastructure projects in the city. Finances are mainly through the state government.


Panoramic view of the Corniche.


Skyscrapers on West Corniche Rd, Al Ras Al Akhdar, in March 2013. Etihad Towers at the right.


ADIA Tower to the left and The Landmark at the right in Abu Dhabi.
Street View.

The city was planned under the guidance of Sheikh Zayed by Japanese architect Dr Takahashi in 1967 initially for a population of 40,000.[20] The density of Abu Dhabi varies, with high employment density in the central area, high residential densities in central downtown and lower densities in the suburbs. In the dense areas, most of the concentration is achieved with medium- and high-rise buildings. Abu Dhabi's skyscrapers such as the notable Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority Tower,[21] the National Bank of Abu Dhabi headquarters,[22] the Baynunah ( Hilton Hotel ) Tower.[23] and the Etisalat headquarters are usually found in the financial districts of Abu Dhabi.[24] Other notable modern buildings include the Emirates Palace with its design inspired by Arab heritage.[25]

Etihad Towers

The development of tall buildings has been encouraged in the Abu Dhabi Plan 2030, which will lead to the construction of many new skyscrapers over the next decade, particularly in the expansion of Abu Dhabi's central business district such as the new developments on Al Sowwah Island and Al Reem Island.[26] Abu Dhabi already has a number of supertall skyscrapers under construction throughout the city. Some of the tallest buildings on the skyline include the 382 m (1,253.28 ft) Central Market Residential Tower, the 324 m (1,062.99 ft) The Landmark and the 74-story, 310 m (1,017.06 ft) Sky Tower, all of them completed. Also many other skyscrapers over 150 m (492.13 ft) (500 ft) are either proposed or approved and could transform the city's skyline. As of July 2008, there were 62 high-rise buildings 23 to 150 m (75.46 to 492.13 ft) under construction, approved for construction, or proposed for construction.[27]

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Main article: Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Front and entrance of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

One of the most important architectural landmarks is the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. This is arguably one of the most important architectural treasures of contemporary UAE society—and one of the most opulent in the world. It was initiated by the late president of the United Arab Emirates, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, fondly thought of as the father of the UAE.[28]

Its design and construction reportedly 'unites the world', using artisans and materials from many countries including Italy, Germany, Morocco, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Iran, China, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Greece and of course the United Arab Emirates.[29] More than 3,000 workers and 38 renowned contracting companies took part in the construction of the mosque. Natural materials were chosen for much of its design and construction due to their long-lasting qualities, including marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. Construction began on 5 November 1996. The maximum capacity is approximately 41,000 people and the overall structure is 22,412 square metres (241,240 square feet), the internal prayer halls were initially opened in December 2007.[28]

As one of the most visited buildings in the UAE, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center was established to manage the day-to-day operations, as a place of worship and Friday gathering and as a centre of learning and discovery through its education and visitor programs.[30]

Parks and gardens

Abu Dhabi has more than 2,000 well-maintained parks and gardens[31] and more than 400 kilometres (249 miles) of coastline, of which 10 kilometres (6 miles) are public beaches.[32]


The ADCB Bank Headquarters.

The UAE’s large hydrocarbon wealth gives it one of the highest GDP per capita in the world and Abu Dhabi owns the majority of these resources – 95% of the oil and 92% of gas.[33] Abu Dhabi thus holds 9% of the world’s proven oil reserves (98.2bn barrels) and almost 5% of the world’s natural gas (5.8 billion cubic metres or 200 billion cubic feet). Oil production in the UAE was in the region of 2.3 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2010,[34] and projects are in progress to boost production to 3m bpd. In recent years the focus has turned to gas as increasing domestic consumption for power, desalination and reinjection of gas into oil fields increases demand. Gas extraction is not without its difficulties, however, as demonstrated by the sour gas project at Shah where the gas is rich in hydrogen sulphide content and is expensive to develop and process.[12]

The Heritage Village.

Recently the government has been diversifying their economic plans. Served by high oil prices, the country’s non-oil and gas GDP has outstripped that attributable to the energy sector. Non-oil and gas GDP now constitutes 64% of the UAE’s total GDP. This trend is reflected in Abu Dhabi with substantial new investment in industry, real estate, tourism and retail. As Abu Dhabi is the largest oil producer of the UAE, it has reaped the most benefits from this trend. It has taken on an active diversification and liberalisation programme to reduce the UAE’s reliance on the hydrocarbon sector. This is evident in the emphasis on industrial diversification with the completion of free zones, Industrial City of Abu Dhabi, twofour54 Abu Dhabi media free zone and the construction of another, ICAD II, in the pipeline. There has also been a drive to promote the tourism and real estate sectors with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and the Tourism and Development Investment Company undertaking several large-scale development projects. These projects will be served by an improved transport infrastructure with a new port, an expanded airport and a proposed rail link between Abu Dhabi and Dubai all in the development stages.[35]

Abu Dhabi is the wealthiest emirate of the UAE in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and per capita income. More than $1 trillion is invested worldwide in this city alone. In 2010, the GDP per capita also reached $49,600, which ranks ninth in the world after Qatar, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg and many others. Taxation in Abu Dhabi, as in the rest of the UAE, is nil for a resident and for a non-bank, non-oil company. Abu Dhabi is also planning many future projects sharing with the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) and taking 29% of all the GCC future plannings. The United Arab Emirates is a fast-growing economy: in 2006 the per capita income grew by 9%, providing a GDP per capita of $49,700 and ranking third in the world at purchasing power parity. Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), currently estimated at US$875 billion, is the world's wealthiest sovereign fund in terms of total asset value.[36] Etihad Airways maintains its headquarters in Abu Dhabi.[37]

Abu Dhabi's government is looking to expand revenue from oil and gas production to tourism and other sorts of things which would attract different types of people. This goal is seen in the amount of attention Abu Dhabi is giving to its International Airport. The airport, in 2009, experienced a 30%+ growth in passenger usage.[38] This idea of diversification of the economy is also seen in the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030[39] planned by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council. In this plan Abu Dhabi's economy will be sustainable and not be dependent on any one facet or source of revenue. More specifically the non-oil portion of income is planned to be increased from about 40% to about 70%.[36]

Many Hollywood and other national film production teams have used the UAE as filming locations. Whilst neighbouring Dubai gets a lot of attention, in recent years Abu Dhabi has become a popular destination. The Etihad Towers and Emirates Palace Hotel were some of the city's landmarks used as filming locations for the movie Furious 7. In this movie, cars rush through the building and smash through the windows of the Etihad Towers.[40]

Utility services

The water supply in Abu Dhabi is managed by the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company. As of 2006, it supplied 560.2 MiGD (million imperial gallons per day) of water,[41] while the water demand for 2005–06 was estimated to be 511 MiGD.[42] The Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD) states that groundwater is the most significant source of water, as well as desalinated potable water, and treated sewage effluent. At 40.6 MiGD, the Umm Al Nar storage is the largest water source for Abu Dhabi, followed by the rivers Shuweihat and Taweelah.[43] With falling groundwater level and rising population density, Abu Dhabi faces a severely acute water shortage. On average each Abu Dhabi resident uses 550 liters (120 imp gal; 150 U.S. gal) of water per day.[44] Abu Dhabi daily produces 1,532 tonnes of solid wastes which is dumped at three landfill sites by Abu Dhabi Municipality.[45][46] The daily domestic waste water production is 330 MiGD and industrial waste water is 40 MiGD. A large portion of the sewerage flows as waste into streams, and separation plants.[46]

The city's per capita electricity consumption is about 41,000 kWh and the total supplied is 8,367 MW as of 2007.[47] The distribution of electricity is carried out by companies run by SCIPCO Power and APC Energy.[48][49] The Abu Dhabi Fire Service runs 13 fire stations that attend about 2,000 fire and rescue calls per year.

State-owned Etisalat and private du communication companies provide telephone and cell phone service to the city. Cellular coverage is extensive, and both GSM and CDMA (from Etisalat and Du) services are available. Etisalat, the government owned telecommunications provider, held a virtual monopoly over telecommunication services in Abu Dhabi prior to the establishment of other, smaller telecommunications companies such as Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC — better known as Du) in 2006. Internet was introduced into Abu Dhabi in 1995. The current network is supported by a bandwidth of 6 GB, with 50,000 dialup and 150,000 broadband ports. Etisalat recently announced implementing a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network in Abu Dhabi during the third quarter of 2009 to make the emirate the world's first city to have such a network.[50]

City planning

A Public Park in the city.
Public park in Abu Dhabi.
Greeneries on the roadside near the Corniche Beach.
Waterfront park in Abu Dhabi.
At the corniche during sunset.

Abu Dhabi in the 1970s was planned for an predicted topmost population of 600,000. Following the urban planning ideals of the time period, the city has high-density tower blocks, and wide grid-pattern roads.[51] The population density is at its' apex on the most northerly part of the island. At this point the main streets have a large amount of 20- to 30-storey towers. These towers are in a rectangular pattern, and inside is an ordinary grid pattern of roads with low rise buildings such as 2-story villas or 6-story low-rise buildings.

Due to this planning a modern city with tall offices, apartment buildings, broad boulevards and busy shops is present. Principal thoroughfares are the Corniche, Airport Road, Sheikh Zayed Street, Hamdan Street and Khalifa Street. Abu Dhabi is known in the region for its greenery; the former desert strip today includes numerous parks and gardens. The design of the inner city roads and main roads are quite organised. Starting from the Corniche, all horizontal streets are oddly numbered, while all vertical streets are evenly numbered. Thus, the Corniche is Street #1, Khalifa is Street #3, Hamdan is Street #5, Electra street is Street #7 and so on. Conversely, Salam Street is St #8.[52]

Mail is generally delivered to post-office boxes only; however, there is door-to-door delivery for commercial organizations. There are many parks throughout the city. Entrance is usually free for children, however there is often an entrance fee for adults. The Corniche, the city's seaside promenade, is about 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) in length, with gardens, playgrounds, and a BMX/skateboard ring.[53]

In 2007 the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC) was established, which is the agency responsible for the future of Abu Dhabi’s urban environments and the expert authority behind the visionary Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 Urban Structure Framework Plan that was published in September 2007.[26] The UPC is also working on similar plans for the regions of Al-Ain and Al-Gharbia.

Because of the rapid development of Abu Dhabi, a number of challenges to the city's urban organization have developed, among them:

Human rights

Human rights organisations have heavily criticised violations of human rights in Abu Dhabi. As with other parts of the UAE, foreign workers are not given proper treatment and many companies (both government and private) have yet to improve things.


Historical population
The town of Abu Dhabi first conducted a census in 1968. All population figures in this table prior to 1968 are estimates obtained from populstat.info.

In 2006, the population of the emirate was 1,463,491.[57] As the emirate covers 67,341 km2 (26,001 sq mi), nearly 87% of the UAE, the population density is 21.73/km2 (56.3/sq mi), making it the largest emirate in the UAE.[58]

Abu Dhabi also ranks as the 67th most expensive city in the world, and the second most in the region behind Dubai.[59]

As of 2014, 477,000 of 2,650,000 people living in the emirate were UAE nationals. Approximately 80% of the population were expatriates.[60] The median age in the emirate was about 30.1 years. The crude birth rate, as of 2005, was 13.6%, while the crude death rate was about 2%.[61]

Article 7 of the UAE's Provisional Constitution declares Islam the official state religion of the UAE.[62] The government subsidizes almost 95% of mosques and employs all imams. A majority of mosques are Maliki or Muwahhid oriented.[63] The majority of the inhabitants of Abu Dhabi are expatriate workers from NepalIndia, Pakistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Philippines, the United Kingdom and various countries from across the Arab world. Some of these expatriates have been in the country for many decades with only a few of them awarded nationality[64] Consequently, English, Hindi-Urdu (Hindustani), Malayalam, Tulu, Tamil, Somali, Tigrinya, Amharic and Bengali are widely spoken.[65]

The native-born population are Arabic-speaking Arabs who are part of a clan-based society. The Al Nahyan family, part of the al-Falah branch of the Bani Yas clan, rules the emirate and has a central place in society.[66] There are also Arabs who are from other parts of the Arab World.


The city's Silver Taxi.

Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) is the city's main aviation hub and the second busiest airport in the UAE, serving 9.02 million passengers in 2008, up 30.2% from 2007. Passenger numbers at Abu Dhabi International Airport rose by 17.2 per cent in 2015, with more than 23 million travellers passing through its terminals during the past year.[67] The airport was previously located on Abu Dhabi Island and was moved to its current location on the mainland in 1982.[68] Its terminal spaces are dominated by Etihad Airways which is the UAE's national carrier and the country's second largest airline.[69] Prior to the 2000s, the airport was one of the key supporters of Gulf Air. A new terminal opened in 2009 with total capacity reaching 12 million passengers per annum by 2011.[70] Development work has also started on a new passenger terminal, to be situated between the two runways and known as the Midfield Terminal. The new mega-midfield terminal complex will be capable of handling an additional 20 million passengers a year initially and then later, as Abu Dhabi develops as a major Middle East transport hub, up to 50 million passengers a year, thus providing a major competition to Dubai International Airport.[71] The 5.9-million-square-metre (1,500-acre) terminal will initially include 42 gates, rising to more than 90 gates on completion of the airport.[72]

City Bus Number 56.

Public transport systems in Abu Dhabi include the Abu Dhabi public buses, taxis, ferries, and airplanes.[73] Street taxis are easily recognised. They are either silver with a yellow roof sign (newer taxis) or white and gold with a green roof sign (older taxis). All the old taxis have been phased out. There are no old taxis available for transportation anymore.[74]

The first town bus entered service in about 1969 but this was all part of a very informal service. There are other inter-city buses departing the Abu Dhabi Dhabi central bus station; these inter-city buses are not only intra-emirate buses, but also inter-emirate services. On 30 June 2008 the Department of Transport began public bus service in Abu Dhabi with four routes.[75] There are also public buses serving the airport. In an attempt to entice people to use the bus system, all routes were zero-fare until the end of 2008.[76] The four routes, which operate between 6 am and midnight every day, run at a frequency of 10 to 20 minutes.[76] Within the first week of service the bus network had seen high usage. Some of the buses, which have a maximum capacity of 45 passengers, only had room for standing left. Some bus drivers reported as many as 100 passengers on a bus at one time.[77] Although the new, zero-fare bus service has been a success, many taxi drivers are losing business. Taxi drivers have seen a considerable decrease in the demand for taxis while lines were forming for the buses.[78] The service steadily expanded and by the end of 2008, 230 buses were in service. In 2009, the Department of Transport plans to have 21 bus routes in the city, operated by 820 buses. A total of 1,360 buses are expected to be in operation by 2010.[77]

A massive expansion of public transport is anticipated within the framework of the government's Surface Transport Master Plan 2030.[79] The expansion is expected to see 130 km (81 mi) of metro and 340 km (210 mi) of tramways and/or bus rapid transit (BRT) routes.


Historic photograph of the Abu Dhabi Public Library and Cultural Centre, with the Qasr Al Hosn palace in the background.
Typical Arabic house displayed at the Heritage Village in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi has a diverse and multicultural society.[80] The city's cultural imprint as a small, ethnically homogeneous pearling community was changed with the arrival of other ethnic groups and nationals—first by the Iranians in the early 1900s, and later by various Asian and European ethnicities in the 1950s and 60s. Abu Dhabi has been criticized for perpetuating a class-based society, where migrant workers are in the lower classes, and suffer abuse which "is endemic to the system".[81] Despite the diversity of the population, only minor and infrequent episodes of ethnic tensions, primarily between expatriates, have been reported in the city. Major holidays in Abu Dhabi include Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, Eid ul-Adha which marks the end of Hajj, and National Day (2 December), which marks the formation of the United Arab Emirates.[82]

At the ADIPEC 2013.

This unique socioeconomic development in the Persian Gulf has meant that Abu Dhabi is generally more tolerant than its neighbours, including Saudi Arabia.[83] Emiratis have been known for their tolerance; Christian churches, Hindu temples, and Sikh gurdwaras (but no synagogues) can be found alongside mosques. The cosmopolitan atmosphere is gradually growing and as a result, there are a variety of Asian and Western schools, cultural centers and themed restaurants.

Abu Dhabi is home to a number of cultural institutions including the Cultural Foundation and the National Theater. The Cultural Foundation, while closed for reconstruction as of spring 2011, is home to the UAE Public Library and Cultural Center.[84] Various cultural societies such as the Abu Dhabi Classical Music Society have a strong and visible following in the city. The recently launched Emirates Foundation offers grants in support of the arts, as well as to advance science and technology, education, environmental protection and social development. The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) will be based in Abu Dhabi. The city also stages hundreds of conferences and exhibitions each year in its state-of-the-art venues, including the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) which is the Persian Gulf's largest exhibition center and welcomes around 1.8 million visitors every year.[85]

The Red Bull Air Race World Series has been a spectacular sporting staple for the city for many years, bringing tens of thousands to the waterfront.[86] Another major event is the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC).

The Royal International Hotel.
Sofitel Abu Dhabi.

The diversity of cuisine in Abu Dhabi is a reflection of the cosmopolitan nature of the society. Arab food is very popular and is available everywhere in the city, from the small shawarma to the upscale restaurants in the city's many hotels. Fast food and South Asian cuisine are also very popular and are widely available. The sale and consumption of pork, though not illegal, is regulated and it is sold only to non-Muslims in designated areas.[87] Similarly, the sale of alcoholic beverages is regulated. A liquor permit is required to purchase alcohol; however, alcohol, although available in bars and restaurants within four or five star hotels, is not sold as widely as in its more liberal neighbour Dubai.[88] Shisha and qahwa boutiques are also popular in Abu Dhabi.

Poetry in Abu Dhabi and the UAE is highly regarded and often is centric around the themes of satire, religion, family, chivalry and love. According to an article from an Abu Dhabi tourism page, sheikhs, teachers, sailors and princes make a large bulk of the poets within the UAE. A unique form of poetry to the UAE was formed in the 8th century by Al Khalil bin Ahmed and it was written in 16 metres (52 feet). The first known poet from the UAE, Ibn Majid, was born sometime between 1432 and 1437 in Ras Al Khaimah. According to the tourism page Majid came from a family of sailors and 40 of his works have survived. Another Emirati poet, Ibn Daher is from the 17th century. Daher is important because he used Nabati poetry (AKA Bedouin poetry), poetry written in the vernacular instead of the classical/religious Arabic. Other important poets from the UAE are Mubarak Al Oqaili (1880–1954), Salem bin Ali al Owais (1887–1959) and Abdulla bin Sulayem (1905–1976). These poets made headway in the field of Classical Arabic poetry as opposed to the Nabati poetry of the 17th century.[89]

One of Ibn Masjid's most prominent works is a book called, Kitab al-Fawa'id fi Usul 'Ilm al-Bahr wa 'l-Qawa'id (Book of Useful Information on the Principles and Rules of Navigation), and it was written in 1490. This book is effectually an encyclopædia about navigation and sailing in and around the Indian Ocean. Masjid also goes into detail about the intricacies and technologies of the Arab sailing techniques. An excerpt from his book is:

"We have 32 rhumbs, and tirfa, and zam, and the measurement of stellar altitudes, but they have not. They cannot understand the way we navigate, but we can understand the way they do; we can use their system and sail in their ships. For the Indian Ocean is connected to the All-Encompassing Ocean, and we possess scientific books that give stellar altitudes, but they do not have a knowledge of stellar altitudes; they have no science and no books, only the compass and dead reckoning… We can easily sail in their ships and upon their sea, so they have great respect for us and look up to us. They admit we have a better knowledge of the sea and navigation and the wisdom of the stars."

Ahmad Ibn Majid on European Navigation[90]

Today in Abu Dhabi there is a group called the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation that works to preserve the art and culture of the city. According to an article from the English Pen Atlas Al jawaher wal la'li was the first manuscript to come out of the UAE. According to another article this book was written in the 1990s and was banned in the city for some time for making accusations about the ruling family.[91]


Abu Dhabi is home to international and local private schools[92] and universities,[93] including government-sponsored United Arab Emirates University in Al-Ain, New York University, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, New York Institute of Technology, Higher Colleges of Technology, New York Film Academy, Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi University in Abu Dhabi. These boast several languages that make up the population of the city. For example, the prestigious international business school, established a campus in February 2010, offering an Executive MBA and executive education courses. New York University opened a government-sponsored satellite campus in Abu Dhabi in September 2010.[94] There are institutes such as Altaaat[95] Leadership Development Institute providing training to local people serving in the private, public and education sectors of Abu Dhabi.

All schools in the emirate are under the authority of the Abu Dhabi Education Council. This organization oversees and administers public schools and licenses and inspects private schools. From 2009, the Council has brought over thousands of licensed teachers from native English speaking countries to support their New School Model Program in government schools.

Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) maintains a comprehensive after-school program for interested and talented jiu-jitsu students.[96] The Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Schools Program began in 2008 under the patronage of Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is a keen Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitor. The program launched in 14 schools for pupils in grades 6 and 7 and has since expanded to 42 government schools, with 81 Brazilian coaches brought in as instructors.[97]

9 to 13-year-old students are taught Brazilian jiu-jitsu as part of the curriculum. The plan is for up to 500 schools to be participating in the school-jitsu program by 2015. The project was set up by special request of HH Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the head coach of the Emirates jiu-jitsu team Carlos Santos, now also the managing director of the School-Jitsu Project.[98]

Every year in the season of admissions an exhibition is launched in Abu Dhabi Exhibition Center under the supervision of the government.[99] Universities from every corner of the world exhibit their career programs and scholarship programs for globally bright students. This seems to be a well-defined platform for the students of all nationalities. Heriot-Watt University, University of Bolton, Cambridge University, Oxford University, the Petroleum Institute, Khalifa University and Abu Dhabi University attend.


Abu Dhabi has four football stadiums: Al Jazeera Stadium, Al Wahda stadium and Sheikh Zayed Football Stadium (Zayed Sports City)and Hazza Stadium. ZSC also contains a tennis court, an ice rink, and a bowling alley. The Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium is located on the outskirts of the city and is currently home to the Pakistan Cricket Team. The stadium hosts at least two series per year in the last 4 years. In 2014, the stadium also hosted one leg of the Indian Premier League. It has also been considered as a venue for the B Pakistan Super League too.

Football and cricket are very popular in the city. Many youth play football in parking lots nearby corniche because of the pleasant environment and enough space. Cricket is also popular because of South Asian expats. There have been many small competitions conducted between small-time football and cricket teams.

Another location known as the Dome has been created for mainly football events among others. The purpose behind the development of the Dome@Rawdhat was to create a community football and sporting facility with indoor and outdoor pitches in the heart of the city of Abu Dhabi for everyone to enjoy.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Main article: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Since 2009, Abu Dhabi has hosted a Formula One race every year in November at the Yas Marina Circuit. Motorsport is popular throughout the country and the circuit has also hosted other events such as the V8 Supercars series of Dubai.

In the media

In the comic strip Garfield, the title character repeatedly tries to get rid of the annoying kitten Nermal by mailing him to Abu Dhabi. The 2007 film, The Kingdom, was filmed here, although the movie was about Saudi Arabia. Furious 7 (2015), had some scenes taken and/or based in Abu Dhabi. In Sex and the City 2 (2010), most of the plot takes place in Abu Dhabi, but the movie is not filmed there.[100]

International relations

Twin towns and cities

Abu Dhabi is twinned with:

See also


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