Abu Dhabi is the federal capital and the seat of the three branches of government of the United Arab Emirates.
It is the largest city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
The city is a collection of islands connected and features colossal monuments, elegant museums, green boulevards, high-rise buildings, international luxury hotel chains, and opulent shopping malls.
History of Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is the capital and seat of the government of the United Arab Emirates, hence it is the go-to destination for any major political event or ministerial headquarters.
The city was not intended to be the capital of the UAE.
The capital of the UAE was supposed to be a planned city between Abu Dhabi and Dubai and was to be called ‘Al Karama’ (which means dignity in Arabic) as stated in the first version of the constitution.
However, considering the earlier stage of the union was a volatile time, with multiple issues and various ordeals occurring, Abu Dhabi was made the temporary capital as it was the home of the UAE founding father Sheikh Zayed.
Later, Abu Dhabi was declared to be the permanent capital of the UAE by the agreement of the rest of the seven UAE founding fathers.
The capital and the seat of the three branches of the government were to be in the Abu Dhabi Capital District, while the rest of the city would continue to be a city catered to the native population and residents.
Abu Dhabi is also the headquarters of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, with an enormous walled city outside of Abu Dhabi called Sheikh Zayed Military City hosting the defensive headquarters of the military.
As a result, it is a common sight to see Emiratis in military fatigue around the city.
People of Abu Dhabi
Many international companies, diplomatic outposts, and embassies are based in Abu Dhabi.
The city has a population of approximately 1.5 million residents, while the native population forms the minority with approximately only 420,000 UAE nationals in the entire emirate.
In a bid to attract foreign investors and urban planners, the city followed in Dubai’s footsteps by forming tax-free zones, loosened Islamic laws, and increased real estate sales to expatriates.
As a diplomatic center of the government, various monuments and museums were built.
The most recognizable icon is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque which is a common visiting site for tourists and diplomats.
The mosque allows non-Muslims to enter and explore the Islamic architecture of the mosque.
Various monuments honoring Emirati achievements also exist, with the most commonly recognized the Oasis of Dignity (called Wahat Al Karama locally).
The large monument faces the mosque and has the names of fallen Emirati soldiers inscribed in the memorial.
The story behind the name of Abu Dhabi
“Dhabi” is the Arabic word for a particular antelope species of gazelle that was once common in the Arabian region.
“Abu” means father; hence, Abu Dhabi means “Father of the Dhabi”.
The name of the city is thought to have originated from an old folklore legend in which Bedouins from Bani Yas tribal affiliation hunting a gazelle chased it from the desert to the land on the coast and discovered the location.
The Bedouins called it “Abu Dhabi”, about the gazelle that led them there.
Diplomacy of Abu Dhabi
To build the international status of the city as a diplomacy center, the UAE government formed a very close relationship with other governments; most recognizably France and the United States.
As a result, a lot of American-based companies and personnel are based in the city.
The American embassy is the largest embassy in Abu Dhabi and is almost recognizable as a landmark with its triangular design, as well as Abu Dhabi airport is one of the few airports which allows pre-clearance immigration to the United States; allowing travelers to enter the US as domestic US travelers.
The official language of Abu Dhabi and the rest of the UAE is Arabic, however, English is the de facto lingua franca, and almost everyone speaks it.
All signs are bilingual in Arabic and English and the city’s atmosphere is very friendly to visitors.
Occasionally, a foreign head of state visits Abu Dhabi, so seeing roads lined with flags of various countries is a common sight.
Seeing F-16 fighter jets flying over the skies of Abu Dhabi is also a common sight, as a major UAE-US airbase (Al Dhafrah airbase) is near the city and sometimes jets escort foreign dignitaries traveling to the UAE.
The city’s vibe changes depending on which foreign head of state visits it.
The city was decorated with Chinese flags and the red color when the Chinese president visited, while the city was garnished with yellow and white when Pope Francis visited.
The UAE flag is almost always everywhere, decorated with the red-white-black-green colors decorating the streets, buildings, tunnels, and skyscrapers.
Entertainment of Abu Dhabi
The city has also been expanding its entertainment industry vastly, creating massive projects such as Formula 1 track, the Ferrari World theme park, and Warner Bros.
World Abu Dhabi.
There are several museums, such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim museum (under construction), and the UAE’s national museum – Zayed Museum (under construction).
The city is also a frequent host of Judo competitions by the International Judo Federation, Formula One races, and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) championships.
The city also hosts the finals of the UAE football Pro-League as well as the Asian Federation Cup games in Sheikh Zayed Sports Stadium.
Climate of Abu Dhabi
The city has an arid climate, with very hot temperatures in the summer.
Annual precipitation totals 57 mm (2.2 in).
Orientation of Abu Dhabi
Most of Abu Dhabi is on a wedged-shaped island connected by two bridges to the mainland, and two other bridges to other islands which also eventually connect to the mainland.
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, 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 straightforward enough once you realize that the odd-numbered streets run across the island and the even numbers run along with it.
So First St is 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”.
Thankfully, GPS and Google Maps have made life much easier.
Using ride-share apps or even telling the name where you want to go to a taxi driver will let them immediately know where exactly you want to be dropped.