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Abu Dhabi
أبو ظبي Abū ẓabī
—  City  —
City of Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi's skyline from Marina Mall

Abu Dhabi is located in the United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi
Location of Abu Dhabi in the UAE
Coordinates: 24°28′N 54°22′E / 24.467°N 54.367°E / 24.467; 54.367
Country United Arab Emirates
 - Type Constitutional monarchy[1]
 - Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
 - Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
 - Total 67,340 km2 (26,000.1 sq mi)
Population (2009)[2]
 - Total 896,751
 Density 13.3/km2 (34.4/sq mi)
Time zone UAE standard time (UTC+4)
Website Abu Dhabi Government Portal

Abu Dhabi (Arabic: أبو ظبيAbū ẓabī, literally Father of gazelle[3]) is the capital of, and the second largest city in the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi lies on a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf from the central western coast. The city proper, making up an area of 67,340 km2 (26,000 sq mi), had an estimated population of 860,000 in 2008.[4]

Abu Dhabi houses important offices of the federal government, and is the seat for the United Arab Emirates Government and the home for the Emirati Royal Family. Abu Dhabi has grown to be a cosmopolitan metropolis. Its rapid development and urbanisation, coupled with the relatively high average income of its population, has transformed Abu Dhabi, making the city more advanced than most other Arab cities. Today the city is the country's center of political, industrial activities, and a major cultural, and commercial centre due to its position as the capital. Abu Dhabi alone generated 56.7% of the GDP of the United Arab Emirates in 2008.[5][6] Abu Dhabi is home to important financial institutions such as the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates and the corporate headquarters of many companies and numerous multinational corporations. One of the world's largest producers of oil, Abu Dhabi has actively attempted to diversify its economy in recent years through investments in financial services and tourism. Abu Dhabi is the third most expensive city in the region, and 26th most expensive city in the world.[7] Fortune stated in 2007 that Abu Dhabi was the richest city in the world.[8]



The etymology of Abu Dhabi is uncertain but many possibilities exist. One possibility is that as the area had a lot of ẓaby (antelope, gazelle) it was nicknamed after that. Another story claims that it is named after a man who used to chase antelope, and was named "the antelope man" (in Arabic it would be through the construction "father of the antelope") and then the name caught on for the place. Some Bedouins called the place Umm Ẓaby ("mother of antelope"). However, British archives refer to the city as Abu Dhabi and according to books written by Arab historians and poets, the name was first used more than 300 years ago.

Most likely, the name was originally Dhu Ẓabi, meaning "with/possessing antelope". Dhu was perhaps dropped because it was either deemed too heavy or did not match the idiom of the local dialect.[9]

In old times, Abu Dhabi was called milh (Arabic for "salt"), probably because of the salty water. Today this is still the name of an island on the Abu Dhabi coast.


Qasr al-Hosn, the oldest building in the city of Abu Dhabi showing the The First Tower (1761) seen from the gate

Parts of Abu Dhabi were settled in 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, which also subsequently assumed control of the town 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 and the growing of dates and vegetables at the inland oases of Al-Ain and Liwa, and fishing and pearl diving off the coast of Abu Dhabi town, which was occupied mainly during the summer months. At that time most dwellings in Abu Dhabi town were constructed from palm fronds (barasti), with the wealthier families occupying mud huts. The growth of the cultured pearl industry in the first half of the 20th 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 Nahyan, saw that oil wealth had the potential to transform Abu Dhabi. The ruling Al Nahyan family decided that Sheikh Zayed should replace his brother as ruler and carry out his vision of developing the country. On 6 August 1966, with the assistance of the British, Sheikh Zayed became the new ruler.[10]

With the announcement by the UK in 1968 that it would withdraw from the Persian 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.

Governance and politics

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the hereditary ruler of Abu Dhabi (UAE). He is a son of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of the United Arab Emirates. His half-brother, General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and wields considerable influence as Chairman of Abu Dhabi's Executive Council and Deputy Supreme Commander of Abu Dhabi's armed forces.[11]

The total number of members of the Executive Council has been slimmed down to 12 since the succession and it now consists largely of prominent members of the ruling family as well as a number of respected politicians.[12]

The emirates maintain their hereditary rulers who, as a group, form the UAE’s Supreme Council of Rulers, headed by the president. Although the presidency is renewable every five years through a vote in the council, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan held the presidency from the formation of the UAE until his death in November 2004, and there is an implicit understanding that Abu Dhabi’s ruler will always be elected president.[12]

At a federal level, laws must be ratified by the Supreme Council. The Council of Ministers forms the executive authority of the state. This 20-member cabinet is headed by the president’s chosen prime minister, a post currently held by Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The cabinet also refers to the Federal National Council (FNC), a 40-member consultative body to which each emirate appoints a certain number of members. In the case of Abu Dhabi, this is eight. The procedures for appointment to the FNC have recently been amended so that each emirate must now select its representatives through an electoral body. The size of each electoral authority must be 100 times greater than the number of representatives it appoints. Half the members of each electoral body will be selected by the ruler of the emirate while the other half will be directly elected by residents of the emirate. These amendments are considered to be the first step in a wider electoral reform program which will see greater representation at a federal level.[13]


Abu Dhabi seen from SPOT satellite

Abu Dhabi city is geographically located on the north-eastern part of the Persian Gulf in the Arabian Peninsula. It is on an island located less than 250 metres from the mainland and is joined to the mainland by the Maqta and Mussafah Bridges. A third bridge, designed by Zaha Hadid, is currently under construction. Bridges connecting to Reem Island and Saadiyat Island are also under construction and should be completed in 2011.

Most of Abu Dhabi is located on the island itself, but it has many suburbs on the mainland for example: the Khalifa A, Khalifa B, Raha Beach, Between Two Bridges, Baniyas and Mussafah Residential.



Abu Dhabi has a hot arid climate. Sunny/blue skies can be expected throughout the year. The months of June through September are generally hot and humid with maximum temperatures averaging above 35 °C (95 °F). During this time, sandstorms also occur intermittently, in some cases reducing visibility down to a few meters.

The weather is cooler from November to March. This period also sees dense fog on some days. The oasis city of Al-Ain, about 150 km (93 mi) 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.[14]

Climate data for Abu Dhabi
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 29
Average high °C (°F) 23
Average low °C (°F) 12
Record low °C (°F) 3
Precipitation mm (inches) 23
Source: [15] March 2009



Emirates Palace, the most expensive hotel ever built.[16][17]

The buildings in Abu Dhabi are too diverse to be characterised by one particular architectural style, especially as they have been built over a long period of time and drawn on a wide range of influences.

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 Abu Dhabi Investment Authority Tower, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi headquarters, the Hilton Hotel Tower and the Etisalat headqurters are usually found in the financial districts of Abu Dhabi. Other notable modern buildings include the Emirates Palace with its design inspired by Arab heritage, and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.[18]

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. Abu Dhabi already has a number of supertall skyscrapers under construction through out 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) Landmark and the 74-storey, 310 m (1,017.06 ft) Sky Tower. Also many other skyscrapers over 150 m (492.13 ft) (500 feet) 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.[19]

Parks and gardens

Abu Dhabi has over 20 prim but moribund parks and gardens[20] and more than 400 km of coastline, of which 10 km are public beaches.[21]


Headquarters of ADMA-OPCO (Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company)
Head office of Etihad Airways in Khalifa City

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. 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 trillion cu metres). The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company asserted in August 2006 that the UAE is presently ready to expand production of crude oil to 2.8m barrels per day (bpd) and is on target to push production to 4m bpd by 2010.[13]

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. Remarkably, 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 an industrial free zone, Industrial City of Abu Dhabi, 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.[22]

Abu Dhabi is the wealthiest emirate of the UAE in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and per capita income. The average net worth for Abu Dhabi's 420,000 citizens is AED 62 million (US$ 17 million), and more than $1 trillion is invested worldwide in this city alone. The GDP per capita also reached $63,000,[23] which is far above the average income of the United Arab Emirates and which ranks third in the world after Luxembourg and Norway. 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.[24] Etihad Airways maintains its headquarters in Abu Dhabi.[25]

Utility services

Etisalat Headquarters. The company held a virtual monopoly over telecommunications in Abu Dhabi prior to 2006.[26]

The water supply in Abu Dhabi is managed by the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company. As of 2006, it supplied 560.2 MGD (million gallons per day) of water,[27] while the water demand for 2005–06 was estimated to be 511 MGD.[28] 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 MGD, the Umm Al Nar storage is the largest water source for Abu Dhabi, followed by the rivers Shuweihat and Taweelah.[29] With falling groundwater level and rising population density, Abu Dhabi faces a severely acute water shortage. On average each Abu Dhabi resident uses 550 litres of water per day.[30] Abu Dhabi daily produces 1532 tonnes of solid wastes which is dumped at three landfill sites by Abu Dhabi Municipality.[31][32] The daily domestic waste water production is 330 MGD and industrial waste water is 40 MGD. A large portion of the sewerage flows as waste into streams, and separation plants.[32]

The city's per capita electricity consumption is about 41,000 kWh and the total supplied is 8,367 MW as of 2007.[33] The distribution of electricity is carried out by companies run by SCIPCO Power and APC Energy.[34][35] 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 implememnting 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.[36]

City planning

A Public Park in the City
Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street (formerly Airport Road)
A street in Abu Dhabi city.

The city was planned in the 1970s 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- to 30-story towers. Inside this rectangle of towers is a normal grid pattern of roads with lower density buildings (2-story villas or 6-story low-rise buildings). Abu Dhabi 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. 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 and the vertical ones evenly numbered. Thus, the Corniche is Street #1, Khalifa is Street #3, Hamdan is Street #5, and so on. Conversely, Salam Street is St #8.[37]

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.

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. 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:

  • Today, 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 overcrowding.
  • Although there is an addressing system for the city, it is not widely used, causing problems in describing building locations. 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 and taxis as a means of transport. The addition of zero-fare public transport in the form of public buses has lightened the congestion on the roads recently, and plans to build light railway connections between the center and the airport, and onwards towards Dubai, have been announced.


Interior of Abu Dhabi Airport

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% on 2007.[38][38] Its terminal spaces are dominated by Etihad Airways which is the UAE's national carrier and the country's second largest airline.[39] A new terminal opened in 2009 with total capacity reaching 12 million passengers per annum by 2011.[40] 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.[41] The 5.9-million-square-metre terminal will initially include 42 gates, rising to more than 90 gates on completion of the airport.[42]

Public transport systems in Abu Dhabi include the Abu Dhabi public buses, taxis, ferries, and airplanes. White-and-mustard metered taxis traverse most of the city in UAE. Currently newer silver-colored taxis are coming in, while the old mustard-colored ones are being phased out.[43] Abu Dhabi has about 8,000 old bronze/yellow/gold & white taxis, which will be phased out from 2008 to 2010.[44]

Abu Dhabi's older taxis are being phased out with newer silver taxis[45]

The first town bus entered service in about 1969 but this was all part of a very informal service. On 30 June 2008 the Department of Transport began public bus service in Abu Dhabi with four routes.[46] In an attempt to entice people to use the bus system, all routes were zero-fare until the end of 2008.[47] The four routes, which operate between 6 am and midnight every day, run at a frequency of 10 to 20 minutes.[47] Within the first week of service, the bus network had seen high ridership. 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.[48] 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.[49] 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.[48]

A massive expansion of public transport is anticipated within the framework of the government's Surface Transport Master Plan 2030.[50] The expansion is expected to see 130 km of metro and 340 km of tramways and/or bus rapid transit (BRT) routes.


Year Population
19601 25,000 [51]
19651 50,000[52]
19691 46,400[53]
19751 127,763[54]
1980 243,257[55]
1985 283,361[56]
1995 398,695[2]
2003 552,000[57]
2009 896,751[2]
1 The town of Dubai first conducted a census in 1968. All population figures in this table prior to 1968 are estimates obtained from various sources.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque is the largest mosque in the country and the eighth largest mosque in the world.[58]

According to the Abu Dhabi Department of Planning and Economy, in 2006 the population of the emirate was 1,463,491.[59]

As the emirate covers 67,341 km2 (26,000.1 sq mi), nearly 87% of the UAE, the population density is 21.73/km2.

Abu Dhabi also ranks as the 26th most expensive city in the world, and the second most in the region behind Dubai.[60]

As of 2001, 25.6% of the population of the emirate was made up of UAE nationals. Approximately 74.4% of the population was expatriates.[61] 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%.[62]

Article 7 of the UAE's Provisional Constitution declares Islam the official state religion of the UAE. The government subsidizes almost 95% of mosques and employs all imams.

The majority of the inhabitants of Abu Dhabi are expatriate workers from India, Pakistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Philippines, the United Kingdom and various countries from across the Arab world. Consequently, English, Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog, Tigrinya, Amharic and Bengali are widely spoken. Apart from Urdu and Hindi spoken by Indians and Pakistanis, many South Asian expatriates also contribute other South Asian languages to the cultural milieu, including Malayalam, widely spoken in Kerala.

The native-born population are Arabic-speaking Persian Gulf 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.


The Abu Dhabi Public Library and Cultural Center

Abu Dhabi has a diverse and multicultural society.[63] The city's cultural imprint as a small, ethnically homogenous pearling community was changed with the arrival of other ethnic groups and nationals — first by the Iranians in the early 1900s, and later by Indians and Pakistanis in the 1960s. Abu Dhabi has been criticized for perpetuating a class-based society, where migrant workers are in the lower classes.[64] 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, and National Day (2 December), which marks the formation of the United Arab Emirates.[65]

This unique socioeconomic development in the Persian Gulf has meant that Abu Dhabi is generally more tolerant than its neighbours. While Islam is the main religion, Emaritis have been known for their tolerance; Christian churches, Hindu temples, and Sikh gurdwaras can be found alongside mosques. The country is home to several communities that have faced persecution elsewhere. 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 is home to the UAE Public Library and Cultural Center. 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. 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. Another major event is the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC).

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.[66] Similarly, the sale of alcoholic beverages is regulated. A liquor permit is required to purchase alcohol; however, alcohol is available in bars and restaurants within four or five star hotels but is not sold as widely as in its liberal neighbour Dubai.[67] Shisha and qahwa boutiques are also popular in Abu Dhabi.

International relations

Twin towns - Sister cities

Abu Dhabi is twinned with:


Abu Dhabi is home to several international and local private schools and universities, including government-sponsored United Arab Emirates University in Al-Ain and Abu Dhabi University in Abu Dhabi. These boast several languages that make up the population of the city. New York University is opening a campus in Abu Dhabi in Fall 2010.

See also



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  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ "The secret lives of names". Gulf News. 2007-03-08. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  4. ^ United Arab Emirates: largest cities and towns and statistics of their population. World Gazetteer.
  5. ^ Gulfnews: Dubai contributes more than 30% of the UAE economy. (2009-06-16). Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  6. ^ Gulfnews: Abu Dhabi and Dubai lead in contributions to GDP. Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  7. ^ "Cost of living — The world's most expensive cities". City Mayors. Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "How did Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other cities get their names? Experts reveal all UAE - The Official Web Site - News".,_Abu_Dhabi_and_other_cities_get_their_names?_Experts_reveal_all/24335.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "UAE Government Offices: Abu Dhabi". UAEinteract. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  12. ^ a b "Government in Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Politics - Allo' Expat Abu Dhabi". Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  13. ^ a b "Emirates: Abu Dhabi: Country Profile - Geography, History, Government and Politics, Population and Economy". Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  14. ^ "Sharjah, United Arab Emirates". BBC Weather. Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  15. ^ "Average Conditions of Sharjah, UAE". BBC Weather Centre. Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  16. ^ Letter From Abu Dhabi - The Land With the Golden Hotel -,
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Welcome to Abu Dhabi - Architecture". Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  19. ^ "Skyscrapers of Abu Dhabi |".<!. 2009-06-15. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  20. ^ "Capital Gardens | Capital Gardens, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates | Whatsonwhen". Whatsonwhen<!. 2007-04-04. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  21. ^ "Welcome to Abu Dhabi - Beaches and Coasts". Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  22. ^ "Abu Dhabi - Economic Base Diversifying". 2009-01-05. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  23. ^ Abu Dhabi's GDP per capita reaches $ 63,000,
  24. ^ Asset-backed insecurity. The Economist. 17 January 2008
  25. ^ "Our offices." Etihad Airways. Retrieved on 6 February 2009.
  26. ^ United Arab Emirates. OpenNet Interactive. 2008
  27. ^ 2006 statistical report indd (PDF), Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  28. ^ State of the Environment Abu Dhabi - Themes - Water. Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  29. ^ 2006 statistical report indd (PDF), Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  30. ^ Abu Dhabi faces water crisis - The National Newspaper. (2009-03-22). Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  31. ^
  32. ^ a b State of the Environment Abu Dhabi - Themes - Waste, Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  33. ^ 2006 statistical report indd (PDF), Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  34. ^ 2006 statistical report indd (PDF), Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  35. ^ 2006 statistical report indd (PDF), Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  36. ^
  37. ^ "Google Map of Abu Dhabi". Google Maps.,54.374685&spn=0.022264,0.047035&z=14&iwloc=addr&om=1&output=embed&s=AARTsJrE00-YUggvMJHd59dndcY7Dx3zCA. 
  38. ^ a b Welcome To Abu Dhabi International Airport. Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  39. ^ Etihad Airways. Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  40. ^ Abu Dhabi International capacity reaches 12 million as Terminal 3 fully operational. (2009-04-07). Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  41. ^ Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH/OMAA). Airport Technology. Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  42. ^ Passenger Terminal Today. Passenger Terminal Today (2008-05-12). Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  43. ^ Welcome to Abu Dhabi - Taxis. (2009-07-01). Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  44. ^ Abu Dhabi Taxi. Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  45. ^ Abu Dhabi celebrates the launching of its new taxi fleet | Taxi and Hire Car Regulation Centre. (2007-02-26). Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  46. ^ "Abu Dhabi bus network". The National. 2008-06-29. Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  47. ^ a b "All aboard for a free ride". The National. 2008-06-30. Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  48. ^ a b Kwong, Matt (2008-07-05). "Buses bulge with passengers". The National. Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  49. ^ "Taxis suffer as bus business booms". The National. 2008-07-01. Retrieved 2008-07-12. 
  50. ^ "Mohamed bin Zayed Views ‘The Surface Transport Master Plan 2030’". 'Department of Transport, Abu Dhabi'. 2009-04-01. Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^ "Halcrow project - Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque, Abu Dhabi, The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque video". Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  59. ^ Welcome to Abu Dhabi - Population,
  60. ^ "Gulfnews: Cost of living rises for expats in Abu Dhabi and Dubai". Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  61. ^ "Working in Abu Dhabi" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  62. ^ "The People : AbuDhabi". Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  63. ^ "Country and Metropolitan Stats in Brief. MPI Data Hub
  64. ^ The Dark Side of Dubai, Johann Hari, The Independent, 7 April 2009.
  65. ^ "Official holidays in UAE". Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  66. ^ Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards. GAIN Report. United States Department of Agriculture
  67. ^ Welcome to Dubai New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
  68. ^ "Bethlehem Municipality". Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  69. ^ Madrid city council webpage "Mapa Mundi de las ciudades hermanadas". Ayuntamiento de Madrid. Madrid city council webpage. Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  70. ^ Abu Dhabi, Houston to sign 'Sister City' pact UAE - The Official Web Site - News. Retrieved on 2009-07-16.
  71. ^ Abu Dhabi, Brisbane ink sister city agreement
  72. ^ "Twin towns of Minsk". © 2008 The department of protocol and international relations of Minsk City Executive Committee. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

The turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf along the Corniche, with the Marina Mall in the background
The turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf along the Corniche, with the Marina Mall in the background

Abu Dhabi [1] is the federal capital and center of government in the United Arab Emirates. It is the largest city of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and one of the most modern cities in the world.


With a population of just under 1.5 million, Abu Dhabi is the headquarter of numerous oil companies and embassies. With only 420,000 citizens in the entire emirate, each has a theoretical net worth of $17 million, and Abu Dhabi has been described by CNN as the richest city in the world. The city features large gardens and parks, green boulevards lining all the streets and roads, sophisticated high-rise buildings, international luxury hotel chains and opulent shopping malls.

Long viewed as a staid bureaucratic outpost entirely lacking in neighboring Dubai's pizazz, things started to change radically in 2004 after long-ruler Sheikh Zayed passed away and his son Sheikh Khalifa took over. In a bid to attract tourism and investment, land sales to foreigners were allowed, restrictions on alcohol were loosened and several massive projects are under way, such as the upcoming $28 billion cultural zone of Saadiyat Island and its centerpieces the Guggenheim and Louvre Museums scheduled to open in 2011. It remains to be seen how well the strategy will work, but the city is certainly experiencing a construction boom.

Scale model of Saadiyat Island, with the Guggenheim up front
Scale model of Saadiyat Island, with the Guggenheim up front

The core of Abu Dhabi is a wedge-shaped island connected to the mainland by the Maqta and Musaffah bridges. The wide end of the wedge forms the city center, with the Corniche running along the coast and a road variously known as Airport Rd or Sheikh Rasheed bin Saeed al Maktoum St running lengthwise out to the bridges.

Street addresses in Abu Dhabi are simultaneously very logical and hopelessly confusing. Many roads have traditional names, like "Airport Rd", which may not correspond to the official names, like "Maktoum St", and the city is divided into traditional districts like "Khalidiyya". However, by recent decree, the city has been split up into numbered "zones" and "sectors", with all roads in each sector numbered, First St, Second St, etc, and the vast majority of street signs only refer to these. The system of main streets is straight forward enough once you realize that the odd numbered streets run across the island and the even numbers run along it. So First St is in fact the Corniche, and the odd numbers continue out of town to 31st St which is near the new Khalifa Park. Airport Rd is Second St and the even numbers continue to the east through to 10th St by Abu Dhabi Mall. On the west side of Airport Rd, the numbers go from 22nd Street to 32nd St by the new Bateem Marina. Alas, confusion is caused by the local streets, which are on green signs (main streets are on blue signs) and are also called First, Second etc. Most locals opt to ignore the system entirely, and the best way to give instructions is thus navigating by landmarks, if taking a taxi, odds are you will get to "behind the Hilton Baynunah" much faster than "Fifth Street, Sector 2".

Abu Dhabi Airport
Abu Dhabi Airport

Abu Dhabi International Airport [2] (IATA: AUH, ICAO: OMAA) is the UAE's second busiest airport (after Dubai) and the home base of Abu Dhabi's flag carrier Etihad [3]. Launched in 2003, Etihad Airways has been expanding rapidly and now flies everywhere from the United States to Australia, and its services (particularly on long-haul flights) are remarkably good in all classes.

Despite its slightly dingy appearance and the spectacularly bizarre blue-lime tiled mushroom canopy that awaits you at the gates, the airport itself is quite well-maintained and has duty-free shopping. However, it can get a little overcrowded at peak hours around midnight. The airport is currently undergoing a major expansion which is proposed to be completed by 2010. Picking up luggage is also quite easy, although, be forewarned that airport personnel may remove a flight's bags from the carousel and stack them in a pile next to it, as the airport has few baggage carousels. Al Ghazal taxis travel to the city at a flat rate of Dhs.75 and take around 40 minutes. Public bus route 901 also heads to the city every 30-45 minutes and costs just Dhs. 3

A viable alternative is to fly to Dubai instead, and continue onward by bus or, if really in a hurry, by taxi. A metered Dubai airport taxi direct to the town center will cost about Dhs 300.

If you are flying on Etihad, complimentary shuttle buses are provided at regular intervals to the centre of Abu Dhabi and to Dubai. These depart from the main car park at the front of the airport, by the car hire offices.

By bus

You can get into Abu Dhabi from the other Emirates of Dubai Sharjah etc by bus. The Emirates Express between Abu Dhabi and Dubai is operated jointly by the Abu Dhabi and Dubai municipalities. The 150 km route takes around two hours and the cost per person is Dh.20 one way. The first bus departs from the Abu Dhabi main bus terminal on the corner of Hazza bin Zayed the First (11th) St and East (4th) Rd at 6:30AM and the last leaves at 9:30PM; they leave at 45 minute intervals. From Dubai, the buses leave from 6:00AM, and run until 9:00PM, from the Al Ghubaibah station. For bus times, see the timetable publishd in the Government of Dubai website.

By road

The five-laned highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is the country's heaviest-traveled route, and the 170-km journey can be covered in two hours. While there is a national speed limit of 120 km/h, this is often wildly exceeded by young Emiratis and the highway sees over 20 accidents monthly. Stay out of the leftmost lane and drive carefully, especially at night.

Get around

Abu Dhabi is built for cars. As a result, there are a lot of them and lots of traffic jams in the down town area.

By taxi

The best way to get around if you haven't rented a car is by taxi. Basic white-and-gold taxis with green signs on top are ubiquitous and crossing town won't cost more than Dhs. 10 ($3.7) or so. Basic metered fares start from Dhs. 2.50. Slightly more luxurious silver cabs, have white signs on top and charge a little more with a Dhs. 3 starting fare and Dh. 1 per km thereafter. They are probably the safer bet in the unruly traffic. Taxis like Al Ghazal and National monopolize the hotels, and charge roughly twice what the local Silver or White and Gold cabs charge.

A host of silver colored taxis have now entered the local taxi business. Though the cars used are of a higher standard, have better educated and trained drivers, they charge a little more. These cabs charge the metered fare plus Dhs.10 for a trip to the airport, which usually works out cheaper than the White and Gold cabs, bargained fares.

The local white and Gold cabs or silver cabs, are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport as this service is reserved for the Al Ghazal limousine service, who charge around AED 75/- for a trip to the city. The white and Gold taxis do not go to the airport by the meter, and will usually bargain for the fare from the city. The normal being between Dhs. 35-50, depending on your race and bargaining ability.

You are not expected to tip cab drivers, but gratuity will be extremely appreciated. Many taxi drivers are displaced persons, far from their home countries and families, so don't be surprised if they take out pictures of family members for you to comment on.

White and Gold taxi drivers are not patient enough at busy times for you to count your change in a leisurely way before you pay them. Most white and Gold cabs try and negotiate a fare that is usually higher than the Silver Cabs, and will decide where they would like to go, and whom they would like to drive. They also prefer working as car pools whereby they take 4-5 individual passengers to improve their revenues. This is because the fares for these cabs were frozen to 2000 levels.

By bus

The main Bus station in Abu Dhabi is on Hazaa Bin Zayed Road. You can get buses here going to the different points within the city as well as inter city buses. The bus stand also serves as a Taxi stand, for inter emirate taxis.

Abu Dhabi has recently invested considerable sums in improving its long skeletal bus network and the fleet is set to increase from 120 buses at the end of 2008 to 1360 by the end of 2010. The fare system is simple: Dhs. 1 for a single ride, Dhs. 3 for a day pass, or Dhs. 40 for a one-month Ojra pass. The dark bluish green buses are air-conditioned but not wheelchair accessible. Passengers can board and alight at the designated stops along the route. These locations can be identified by the temporary Department of Transport bus stop poles. Beware: bus stops which do not have the DoT bus stop sign may not be serviced as not all bus stops along the route are used.

The City Bus routes are:

  • Route 5: Al Meena to Marina Mall via Abu Dhabi Mall and Hamden Street. Every 10 minutes 6:30AM-11:30PM.
  • Route 7: Abu Dhabi Mall to Marina Mall via Zayed the 1st Street (also known as Electra). Every 10 minutes 6:30AM-11:30PM.
  • Route 8: Tourist club to Break Water via Hamdan st,Zayed the 2nd(via 4th)street,Airport Rd,Al Manhal Street. Every 20 minutes 7:15AM-11:30PM.
  • Route 32: Sports City Carrefour to Marina Mall via Airport Road, Bus Station and Zayed the 1st St. Every 20 minutes 6AM-10:40PM.
  • Route 54: Sports City Carrefour to Abu Dhabi Mall via East Read, Bus Station and Hamden Street. Every 20 minutes 6AM-11PM.

The older bus service operated by The Abu Dhabi Municipality operates bus routes within city and to the other emirates. The routes within the city are very few. The buses are very modern and air-conditioned. The services are as punctual as possible and operates more or less around the clock and charge Dhs.1 for travel within the Capital. The front few seats are reserved for ladies, so men should avoid occupying them.

By car

Unless they are very aggressive drivers or accustomed to reckless road behaviour, most visitors find the Emirati style of driving far too dangerous to be willing to get behind the wheel themselves. Those who do should be aware that any traffic accidents between locals and expats will ultimately mean that the expat is deemed at fault in most cases. Rented cars/visitors are not treated differently if they get into a car accident. However, it must be known that if you do get in a car accident that you should never move your car unless 1) you are asked by the police to do so over the phone, or 2) the police ask you to move it upon their arrival to the scene. It doesn't matter how you feel about your car blocking three lanes in the middle of the rush hour while waiting for the police. If you move your car, you will be in some serious trouble. Tests for alcohol can also be administered, and even the blood-alcohol level rise from a glass of wine will be sufficient grounds for one month's incarceration.

If you do decide to take the plunge, beware that the street numbering system is unusual and it can take 30-45 days to get used to it. U-Turns are allowed at almost every intersection. When the left lane signal turns green, you simply have to swing a U-turn and come back. One tip – whatever other flaws drivers here may have, they do not run red lights. There are cameras at many intersections, fines are high (about Dhs. 370-551 or US$100-150), and residents who are not citizens can be deported for running too many red lights. When the light turns yellow, that taxi in front of you will jam on the brakes, and you should, too. But when the light turns green, expect someone behind you to honk at you immediately to get you moving.

Unfortunately, despite excellent roads, and a traffic signal system, vehicle accidents remains the largest cause of deaths in the UAE.

On foot

Navigating Abu Dhabi on foot is difficult due to the spread-out nature of the city and the oppressive summertime heat and humidity. Pedestrian crossings across the massive boulevards are few and far between.


Abu Dhabi offers little in the way of historical or cultural sights.

  • Cultural Events The Abu Dhabi Cultural Centre has become a landmark in the Emirates and holds cultural events and workshops throughout the year. It has a well-stocked library, children's programs, art exhibitions, benefits, and other culture-related activities that are the hallmark of any city. It's well worth a look.
  • Flagpole. At 123m, this is among the world's tallest flagpoles, and you won't miss the massive UAE flag hanging off it. On Marina Island across from Marina Mall.

Abu Dhabi has several large green spaces, many of which include play areas and equipment for children, and the city is studded with lovely fountains, swathes of neon light, and the occasional sculpture.

  • Khalifa Park, (off Al Salam St (8th) near the Grand Mosque). The best park by far, built at a cost of $50 million. Has its own aquarium, museum, train, play parks and formal gardens.  edit
  • Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The 6th largest mosque in the world. Construction is mostly completed. Entry into the mosque for non-Muslims is restricted to Saturday-Thursday mornings.

There are a vast number of projects coming up in Abu Dhabi. In addition to the cultural haven of Saadiyat Island (see Understand), the alpha-male motorsports den of Yas Island will feature a world-class motor sports racetrack which held the final Formula 1 race of the 2009 season and is on the race calendar for 2010 - the Ethiad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a Ferrari theme park, water park, and — of course — enormous shopping malls. Last and least, the Lulu Islands are a group of artificial islands, already built just offshore at great expense, but currently sitting there doing absolutely nothing after a tourism venture failed to even start construction.

Abu Dhabi may not be rich in historical sights, it certainly isn’t lacking in attractions, and many of them are free. Here are just a few of the things you can see and do in Abu Dhabi without spending a dirham.

  • Swimming Nearly all hotels and private clubs in Abu Dhabi offer swimming facilities, usually in the form of private beaches. You can pay for a day's use, or for a year's. Another, notably cheaper, option is The Club, an organization geared towards expatriates.
  • Lessons Some hotels also offer dance lessons, aerobics classes, and other physical entertainment.
  • Desert Safari trips are a tourist but fun experience. They must be booked ahead, but can often be booked as late as the day before, most hotel receptionists can arrange this for you. Trips start late afternoon and end late evening. You will be collected from your hotel and driven to the desert in a 4 x4 vehicle. Most packages include a bone-rattling drive over the dunes, a short camel ride, a mediocre Arabic buffet and a belly dancer. Note that the belly dancer is normally only included if there are enough of you in your party so enquire at the time of booking.
  • The official sport of the Emirates is shopping, and Abu Dhabi offers plenty of opportunity in this area.


Abu Dhabi is a compulsive shopper's dream. There are several malls, most of which have the same stores as other malls. Besides establishments aimed at locals, malls also include popular English, American, and Canadian chain stores, as well as designer places. Many visitors will be surprised at the female fashion dichotomy - while local custom calls for women to be covered in public, most stores sell short skirts and halter tops alongside the more sedate floor-length skirts and high-necked shirts.

  • Abu Dhabi Mall is a three story shopping mall located in Tourist Club Area, adjacent to the Beach Rotana Hotel.
  • Marina Mall boasts a musical fountain and ceilings that thunder and rain. It is in the Water Breaker area near the magnificent Emirates Palace. It also contains one of two Carrefour hypermarkets in town and the Abu Dhabi branch of IKEA.
  • Al Wahda Mall, opened in 2007, is a large, modern mall in the center of downtown (11th and 4th Streets). Stores are high-end, the food court is extensive, and the LuLu Hypermart in the basement is probably the largest grocery and dry goods store in, well, anywhere.

There are also millions of small, independent stores around the city. On the bottom floor of one building, a person can purchase fancy chocolates, computer parts, antiques, and clothing. It is better to purchase things like carpets, art, native jewelry, and antiques at the independent or souk-like places than at the malls, as the price will be lower and the shopkeepers more willing to haggle.

Bargaining is a big part of shopping in the Emirates, but be prudent. Don't bargain at Marks and Spencer or Hang Ten. Save your discounting skills for independent shops dealing in antiques and the like.

Shopping in most places can be frustrating, as the clerks will follow you around the store. This is partly due to their concept of what constitutes good service, and partly because there is a shoplifting problem. Most will not be intrusive, but some employees can be very pushy and overly obsequious. Smile and thank them often, and you're more likely to be left alone after a bit.

In carpet stores - or anywhere that sells tapestries, Indian antiques, and the like don't feel too pressured to buy, and don't be shocked if they start unrolling beautiful rug after beautiful rug at your feet. You are under no obligation to buy, no matter how much time they spend with you. However, the pressure will be very steady, and shyer shoppers may want to travel in packs for comfort's sake.

Grocery stores such as Spinney's, Carrefours, and the Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society are inexpensive and usually stocked with Western goods. Be careful to examine all produce before purchasing. Visitors wishing to purchase pork products will likely have to enter a separate room to do so, as no nationals are permitted in these sections of the grocery stores.

Prices in Abu Dhabi tend to be very competitive, and there is no tax.

General discount season - end of the year and midyear. These are the time where you can get some branded items with a very low price, maybe last season stock.

  • Khalidiya Mall. Khalidiya mall is a nice place to visit but the droll fashion stores and unopened cinema may grip you for maybe several seconds, but then the obvious lack of things to do kicks in. However, the food court is popular, alongside the well known New York Fries, a fully fleged Chilli's and a Dunkin' Donuts + Baskin Robbins. Downstairs there is an extortionate Krispy Kreme and Starbucks, and a what looks to be a Indian/Arabian cuisine restaurant which seems good but looks to be unpopular.  edit


Abu Dhabi is host to a wide range of palates and ethnicities when it comes to cuisine. Lebanese/Arabic, or Indian food is usually the cheapest. Hotel restaurants are usually the most expensive. The city is home to all manner of fast food like McDonald's and Hardees, but there is little call for most people to eat at those places. Some foreign residents complained of a lack of good Chinese food, but several Chinese restaurants have opened in recent years and serve reasonable Chinese food.

The fun thing about Abu Dhabi is that everywhere, literally from tiny falafel shacks to the cushy hotel restaurants to Burger King, delivers to anywhere in the city. Delivery is quick and reliable, and usually doesn't cost extra.

Vegetarians will find the city's selection of meals very satisfying. Vegetable and bean-heavy native dishes, the array of splendid pure vegetarian Indian cuisine, and the ready availability of fresh salads make eating in Abu Dhabi a stress-free experience. Strict vegans may have a little difficulty communicating their precise demands, but most places offer vegan dishes and are always willing to accommodate a paying customer. The best choice for pure Vegans would be one of the many Indian veg restaurants.

Visitors should always check the Islamic calendar to determine whether they will be visiting during the month of Ramadan. Since Muslims fast during daylight hours, restaurants are, by law, closed during the day. It is also against the law to eat or drink anything, even water, in public and tourists (and non-Muslim residents) have been arrested and given fines. Large hotels generally have one restaurant open during the day to serve meals to non-Muslims. During the evening, however, it's quite a different story, as the festive atmosphere of iftar (breaking the fast) begins and residents gather for lavish, Thanksgiving-like meals. As long as you don't mind tiding yourself over in private, the evening meals are magnificent.


Some of the best and cheapest food in the city can be found at its many Indian restaurants. Portions are almost always generous, prices low, and quality excellent. Set meals of rice, fish curry, lentil curry (dhal), peppery soup (rasam), a vegetable side dish and perhaps a small fried fish, served on a large steel tray (thali) with little steel bowls for the accompaniments, can go for as low as Dhs.5.

  • Arabian Palace, (behind Baynunah Tower), +971 02-6343396. The decor is basic and the food, while cheap and filling, is forgettable, but the shisha here is excellent. Puff up a pipe, order their excellent "lemon with mint" drink and gaze at the skyscrapers. Dh 50.  edit
  • Anand Vegetarian Restaurant, Hamdan Street (behind Ex-Standard Chartered Bank Building and Al Mansouri Plaza), +971 2 6775599. This is a pure veg Gujrati (North Indian) style restaurant. The demand for Puri Bhaji (a deep fried bread and Potato and Chick Pea veg dish) is so great that you will have to wait your turn but it's worth it. There is a special part for ladies and families. Friday lunch with sweets and as much Puri as much as u want only at Dhs 12. Sometimes you will have to wait for 10 mins to get a roti. Dhs.10 per person Eat all you can and various.  edit
  • Anjappar Chettinad Restaurant, (Behind the NDC building on Salam St). Excellent South Indian food from the Chettinad kitchens of Madras. Food can be spicy. Portions usually small, though worth it for the taste.  edit
  • Cettinad Restaurant, (Behind ELDARADO Cinema/National Cinema, in between Hamdan and Electra street, Next to Abudhabi Floor Mill), +971 02-6777699/6780002. Authentic Chettinad food available at reasonable price. Also serving North Indian,Chinese,Tandoor and Mughalai food. Both vegetarian and Non vegetarian foods are available. From 1st Week of June 09, Cettinad Restaurant Branch will be opened in the Muroor Area, Next to Taxi Station Flyover Traffic Light, Back Side of Brightway Advertisement building, Tel : 024454331/024454332  edit
  • Rodeo Grill at the Beach Rotana Hotel is an excellent steak house that is a bit pricey.
  • Prego's at the Beach Rotana Hotel is a very good Italian restaurant with a good wine selection, and an Artichoke dip appetizer to die for
  • Benihana at the Beach Rotana Hotel is the world famous Teppan-yaki chain
  • Zen, Al Ain Palace Hotel, +971 02-6794777, [4]. 12PM-3PM, 7PM-12AM. The more widely known and older Japanese restaurant, serving traditional Japanese foods and drinks. The fine dining experience is accompanied with a great decor.  edit


Only restaurants located in hotels are allowed to serve alcohol. Therefore, all nightlife is associated with hotels. The drinking age is 21, but most places don't care. Unlike some other Middle Eastern nations, the bars in Abu Dhabi will be able to accommodate most drink orders.

Technically, you are supposed to purchase a permit to buy alcohol for private storage, although Spinney's and other liquor stores usually take proof that you aren't a local Muslim (a military ID or driver's license.)

  • Hemingway's, Hilton Abu Dhabi (Corniche West) – There are three different places inside. The main restaurant has a good tex-mex menu, a wide selection of beer on tap and features live music in the evening. Jazz Bar – The second venue, has great food and a good jazz band. The band normally changes every six months or so, but the quality is consistent and they take requests. The bartenders normally put on a show by tossing bottles around while mixing a mean cocktail. The third place is Cinnabar, a nightclub that normally gets going after midnight, although it can be a nice place for a quiet drink early in the evening. The music is mostly house/club, although they have a salsa night.
  • The Captain's Arms Le Meridien (Eastern Abu Dhabi) – Traditional British pub located in the hotel courtyard. The pub features traditional food and a great selection of beer on tap. The large terrace is great during the cooler months of the year. A typical hang-out for the expat crowd, but try to get there early, as it attracts a large after-work crowd.
  • Wakatua, Le Meridien (Eastern Abu Dhabi) is a Polynesian-themed cocktail bar located at the far end of the courtyard, right on the water. The cocktails are amazing. The Navy Grog is highly recommended. It has a nice view at night, over the water.
  • Rock Bottom, at the Capital Hotel, is one of the most popular night club locations in all of Abu Dhabi. It stays open later than most venues, and is cheaper. If you get there early enough, they have decent food you can enjoy in the restaurant area. They have both a live band and an excellent DJ, along with black lights and lasers. There is even a hot dog stand later in the night, providing some delicious drunk snacks. Thur nights can get extremely crowded, be warned.
  • The Embassy is a fairly new nightclub in The Emirates Palace Hotel. Though drinks are expensive, it is worth a visit. The grand hotel is a must-see in Abu Dhabi and the actual club is nicely decorated, comfortable, has great service, a balcony overlooking the hotel grounds, and provides a fun time with great music and very colorful laser shows.
  • Sax is a popular night club located in The Royal Meridian Hotel (not to be confused with Le Meridian Hotel). Next door to the restaurant/bar "Oceans", Sax is a beautifully decorated club with sleek black marble floors, two bars, a DJ, and depending on the time, a Jazz band. The club is often very loud and very dark with little more than lasers lighting the room. It's not a place to go if you expect to talk at all, at least not on a weekend night. Collared shirts are required for men, and sneakers usually don't pass the bouncers either. It's not uncommon to have to pay an entry fee. There are free drinks for the ladies on Wednesday nights, so expect it to be crowded.
  • PJ's is a 'traditional' Irish Pub in the Royal Meridian Hotel, boasting brunch buffets and a long happy hour. The majority of the guests are usually English/British/American/Australian. There is something entertaining going on every day of the week, from 'Quiz Night' to 'Ladies Night'. If you want to start drinking early, this is the place to go. No one will bat an eye if you order beer with brunch, and you'll probably find yourself staying for more than one round. The music earlier in the day is a mix of oldies and rock with faster-tempo songs for the late night crowd. This is also a great place to come to watch sports, as the quiet daytime atmosphere and televisions throughout ensure a pleasant experience. The outdoor seating near the hotel's pool is also a great asset on cooler days.
  • Zenith at the Sheraton Corniche is nicely decorated club and has a nice sized dance floor. If you like the local Abu Dhabi crowd and Arabic music, this is a great place to go. The drinks can be expensive,but the presentation is entertaining. Just around the corner is a quiet outside venue where you can drink and smoke sheesha near a pond.
  • Trader Vic's is a famous cocktail bar/restaurant located in The Beach Rotana Hotel (connected to The Abu Dhabi Mall). The flattering lighting, interesting menu, and soft but fun island music make this a great place for a date or hanging out with people you actually want to talk to. The cocktail menu is pages long, and ordering a complicated fruity concoction is a must. The drinks may be a little on the expensive side at times, but the atmostphere is great. Try ordering one of their two or four person drinks, which come in a giant fishbowl. They're a lot of fun if you don't mind sharing!
  • 49ers is a steakhouse/bar. It is often quoted as "More of a meat market than a steakhouse" because of its solid reputation for prostitution. I wouldn't recommend a non-prostitute woman going there. It is uncomfortable and the men in the bar will probably assume you are for sale. The Novotel Hotel and The Sands Hotel are also notorious for their nightclubs that men frequent when looking to purchase a date for the night.
  • Heroes is a friendly sports grill/bar. Located in The Crowne Hotel's basement, it offers reasonable meals, and fair drink prices. The bar is often full of men and women watching various sports games on television. Later at night they have a DJ and a live band that play softer rock songs. It is a pleasant place to hang out with friends, though the lack of windows or ventilation can make it stuffy and smoke-filled quickly.
  • Mardi Gras is a small restaurant/bar located in The Capital Hotel. Its ambiance reminds one of a spa. The service is good, the drinks are reasonable, and the food is tasty. The band often leaves much to be desired, and the DJ is worse.
  • The Yacht Club at the Intercontinental Hotel is newer bar/restaurant, and offers a gorgeous view of the sunset over the marina if you sit outside. Inside has a very modern, minimalistic feel. The cocktails are delicious, but expensive.
  • Left Bank at the Souk at the Shangrila Hotel (between the two bridges)is a popular and lively spot. It serves a wide range of interesting cocktails (try the pineapple-ginger collins) as well as nicely prepared and presented meals. They are still new so they are trying a little harder right now, and the service tends to be pretty good. Worth the 15 to 20-minute trip out of the downtown core.
  • Rabbit Hutch. The dedicated British Embassy Rabbit Hutch is a nice pub with music, a pool and a small play area for children. Although you have to know someone on the inside to get into this rather exclusive pub, the British friends and the refreshing pool is definitely worth it. They do all sorts of drinks, but don't ask for a martini, on the rocks, shaken not stirred.  edit
The over-the-top opulence of the Emirates Palace
The over-the-top opulence of the Emirates Palace

Hotels in Abu Dhabi used to be half price compared to Dubai but no longer. You'll be be looking at north of US$150/night. However, all are well-tended and host to first class restaurants, pools, and other high-end hotel facilities.

  • Emirates Palace, Corniche East, [5]. Built at an estimated cost of US$3 billion, this was by many accounts the world's most expensive hotel to build, with oodles of gold and marble plating every available surface. The scale of everything is gargantuan — you need directions just to find your way from the gate to the lobby! — and the hotel feels like it's straight out of Las Vegas, minus the slot machines. Day tripping visitors are welcome, and entertainment options include caviar and champagne at the Caviar Bar, a fine Cohiba and cognac at the Havana Club, or a Turkish coffee (Dh 30) at Le Cafe. Rooms for the night start from about US$500.  edit
  • Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche East, +971 02-6811900, [6]. One of the older hotels in Abu Dhabi, but kept in good shape and recently renovated. Huge Hiltonia beach/pool/spa complex across the street (free for guests), small gym in hotel itself. "Plus" rooms face the sea but are otherwise identical to normal ones. Located a fair distance from the city center, which is both good (no construction noise) and bad (virtually nothing within walking distance). However, there are shuttle services to the Marina Mall and the city center). US$150.  edit
  • Hilton Baynunah, Corniche, +971 02-6327777, [7]. Popular with business travelers, the Baynunah's main selling points are the central location and spacious rooms equipped with kitchens. Indoor pool, gym, small lounge open to all guests. Downsides are thin walls and a construction site next door which is unlikely to be completed before 2009. US$120.  edit
  • Beach Rotana Hotel and Towers (Beach Rotana), Tourist Club Area, +971 02-6979000, [8]. Marble everywhere sums it up. It is luxurious and the luxury is well done from the lady who welcomes you to the hotel to the concierge. Of course, it is also expensive, very expensive if you don't arrive off peak and off peak is rare in Abu Dhabi. The Club rooms are worth it if you are having to pay full rates for the classic rooms in the main older hotel. They are not much bigger but the use of the Club lounge is valuable if you are going to be in the hotel a lot and the TV arrangements are more modern, the view wide. It now looks over the hectic construction on the new artificial islands across the creek. The rooms could use headphones to allow watching of TV at a louder but more personal level. The Club rooms jacuzzis in the bath are OK for the user but a noisy nuisance for the neighbours.  edit
  • Cristal Hotel Abu Dhabi (Four Star Business Hotel), Zayed the 1st Street (Behind Hamed Center), 00971 2 652 00 00, [9]. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Cristal Hotel Abu Dhabi is located in the downtown banking district just a short drive from Abu Dhabi Airport. We offer our guests 192 rooms and suites. State-of-the-art conference and business center, as well as an indoor pool and spa facilities. All of our rooms and suites have been designed with contemporary luxury in mind. Features include Cristal's unique executive desk, a 32 inch Flat Srceen LCD TV and high speed internet access. No detail has been left unattended.  edit
  • Novotel Centre Hotel Abu Dhabi (Novotel), PO box 47136 (Hamdan Street & Airport Road), +971 02-6333555, [10]. Adequate rooms but inadequate and expensive breakfast in a tower block. Reception is cramped and lacks style. The lifts (elevators) are very slow. You pay for internet access. Only the cheerful staff and, if relevant to you, the central location redeem the place. The Chinese restaurant is said to be good, too.  edit
  • Grand Continental Flamingo (Grand Continental), P.O.Box 28080 (Visible across Capital Garden, Near Hamdan St and Khalifa Bin Zayed St), +971 02-6262200, [11]. This is the hotel the taxis can't find. A 2 story atrium, quiet setting, rooms with bidet, bath and over-bath shower and wide screen TVs all contribute to a pleasant stay. Only the dimness of the lighting and the overdone carpets in the room lets it down. The bath towels are also a bit small. Dhs. 200.  edit
  • Park Inn Abu Dhabi Yas Island (Park Inn Abu Dhabi Yas Island), P.O.Box 93725 (Golf Plaza, Yas Island), +971 02-656 22 22, [12]. A great new hotel in Yas Island. Clean rooms, excellent service and nice and friendly staff. The restaurant is a great option for dinner. Dhs. 550.  edit

Other luxury hotels include:

  • One To One Hotels - The Village, Al Salam Street, +971 02-4952000, [13]. A four-star hotel.  edit
  • Le Royal Meridien, Sheikh Khalifa Street, +971 02-6742020, [14].  edit
  • Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort, Corniche Road, P.O. Box 640, +971 02-6773333, [15].  edit
  • InterContinental Abu Dhabi, [16].  edit
  • Le Meridien Abu Dhabi, Tourist Club Area, +971 02-6446666, [17].  edit
  • International Rotana Inn Hotel, [18].  edit
  • Millennium Hotel Abu Dhabi, Khalifa Street, PO Box 44486, +971 02-6146000, [19].  edit
  • Sheraton Khalidiya Hotel, Zayed the First Street, Khalidiya Area, P.O. Box 6727, +971 02-6666220, [20]. 50.  edit
  • Hilton Corniche Residence, Corniche Road, +971 02-6276000, [21]. 100.  edit
  • Dubai — a two-hour drive down the highway
  • Al Ain — the UAE's largest oasis
  • Kish Island — Iranian tourist island
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Arabic أبوظبي ('Abū ẓabī), father of the gazelle).

Proper noun

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Abu Dhabi

  1. One of the United Arab Emirates, and the capital of UAE.


Simple English

[[File:|thumb|View of Abu Dhabi|right|300px]]

File:Abu Dhabi from Space-ISS006-E-32079-March
Satellite image of Abu Dhabi (March 2003)

Abu Dhabi (Arabic: أبو ظبي ʼAbū Ẓaby) is one of the emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. It is the largest of the seven and was also the largest of the former Trucial States.

Abu Dhabi is also a city of the same name in the Emirate that is the capital of the country, in north central UAE. The city lies on a T-shaped island going into the Persian Gulf from the central western coast. An estimated 1,000,000 lived there in 2000, with about an 80% expatriate population. 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.bjn:Abu Dhabi


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