Abu Dhabi is the seat of the Federal Government and is the country's political and industrial hub as well as being a major historical and cultural centre. It is a city of contrasts. You'll find the domes and minarets of traditional mosques nestled beside ultramodern skyscrapers, chic five-star hotels near vibrant traditional souks (markets) and futuristic tourist attractions neighbouring kilometres of rolling desert dunes.
Covering around 87 per cent of the UAE's total land area, Abu Dhabi possesses 94 per cent of the country's oil reserves and, as the world's fourth largest oil producer, contributes 10% of the world's oil. An initiative aimed at diversifying its economy has evolved Abu Dhabi into a magnet of foreign investment. It is now a cosmopolitan city boasting one of the highest per capita incomes and one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
The UAE's population has grown exponentially to 8.26 million in mid-2010, a growth of 65% in only four years, as strong economic growth has attracted a workforce from all over the world. The population of Emiratis stands at close to one million. The Emirate has the largest population (42 per cent) of UAE nationals.
Islam is the official religion of the UAE. However, other religions are respected and are diversely represented.
The official language of the UAE is Arabic, but English is widely spoken and understood, with both languages being commonly used in business and commerce.
Heritage and Tradition
The city's progressive vision is tempered by a deep-seated respect for traditions and culture. The artefacts and tools of its early inhabitants, pearl divers, fishermen and dhow builders, are carefully preserved and displayed. Especially honoured is the Bedouin way of life.
Between November and March a moderate, warm climate prevails during the day at an average temperature of 26°C, with cooler evening temperatures averaging 15°C. Humidity levels rise significantly in the summer months, between June and August.
The monetary unit is the 'dirham' (AED) which is divided into 100 fils. The Dirham is tied to the US Dollar at a steady exchange rate of $US 1= AED 3.671.
While it is quite acceptable to take photographs, it is considered offensive to photograph Muslim women. It is also courteous to ask permission before photographing men. Avoid taking photographs of government or military buildings.
Abu Dhabi is generally conservative but tolerant when it comes to dress code. The attitude to dress is relaxed, but visitors (both men and women) are advised not to wear excessively revealing clothing in public places, as a sign of respect for local culture and customs.
Want to know more?
Find out more by visiting the official Abu Dhabi Tourism website or the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority website.
Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) is a master developer of major tourism destinations in Abu Dhabi. Visit their site to read about the staggering plans for Abu Dhabi's development.