Abu Dhabi is the capital and second most populous city in the United Arab Emirates, after Dubai. It is also the seat of government of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, which is ruled by Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan – the President of the UAE.
Abu Dhabi is one of the most prosperous and rapidly developing cities in the world, with an impressive population of 1.45 million (2008). In just over half a century it has become a major centre for tourism, as well as transforming from a small Bedouin village into a thriving investment enterprise.
Among the modern island city there are remains of an older and more cultural society. Abu Dhabi comprises of international luxurious hotels, never-ending shopping malls, extensive entertainment and leisure facilities, along beautiful green streets and parks.
The emirate of Abu Dhabi is located in the oil-rich and strategic United Arab Emirates and is an active member of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC). It borders with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (south) and the Sultanate of Oman (east). The emirate borders the emirate of Dubai to its northeast. In the north is the Persian Gulf.
Nearly 200 islands fall under the Abu Dhabi territory including Das, located 170 kilometres northwest of Abu Dhabi city, and Mumbraz and Bani Yas, which are located approximately 180 kilometres west of the capital.
Desert dominates Abu Dhabi’s terrain, covering as much as 70 percent of its land area.
The city of Abu Dhabi, which is located on a low-lying island, features a Manhattan like skyline with tree-lined roads and landscaped parks and gardens. Sparkling waters of the Arabian Gulf, which surround
the city, complete the scenic vista.
The economy of Abu Dhabi is largely based upon the revenue generated from natural resources. Petroleum and natural gas play a vital role, although some other sectors are also emerging in order to support the city’s economy due to the global depreciation of fossil fuels.
Abu Dhabi experiences a rapidly growing economy with a high GDP and per capita income. It is not only the wealthiest emirate of the UAE but also qualifies as one of the wealthiest cities in the world.
Arabic is the official national language, although English, Hindi and Urdu are also widely spoken. Apart from Urdu and Hindi spoken by Indian workers, many Indian expatriates also contribute other South Asian languages to the cultural milieu, including Malayalam, widely spoken in Kerala. Arabic is considered the state’s official business language but English is commonly used from the busy suoqs all the way to the executive boardroom of the region’s blue chip companies. As a rule, the farther away you are from a business or city centre, the less English is spoken or understood. Hence, it is not uncommon for restaurant menus, street names and road signs in the UAE to be printed in both English and Arabic.
Islam is the official religion of the UAE, which is widely practised by Emirati nationals as well as expatriates originating from other Arab countries, Pakistan, Africa and India, amongst others.
Abu Dhabi, as is the entire UAE, is tolerant of other religions. Residents who profess a different faith are allowed to perform their religious duties such as attending worship services or mass in churches or chapels. The government, however, disallows overt religious activities that may interfere with Islam such as handing out evangelical leaflets near a mosque or in other designated public places.
Sunny and blue skies can be expected throughout the year. The months of April through September are generally hot and humid with maximum temperatures averaging above 40 °C (104 °F). During this time, sandstorms also occur intermittently, in some cases reducing visibility down to a few meters.
The official currency of the United Arab Emirates is the dirham (abbreviated to Dhs or AED), with each dirham divided into 100 fils. Dirham notes come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 denominations, while coins come in Dhs 1, 0.5, 0.25, 0.10 and 0.05. The latter two denominations are rarely used anymore.