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Abu Dhabi
 

Abu Dhabi is the capital and second most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is also the seat of government for the emirate of Abu Dhabi. The city lies on a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf from the central western coast. Approximately 900,000 people lived in Abu Dhabi 2008, of whom 80% were expatriates. One of the world's largest producers of oil, Abu Dhabi has actively attempted to diversfy its economy in recent years through investments in financial services and tourism. Abu Dhabi is ruled by Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also the President of the UAE.

History

Parts of Abu Dhabi were settled as far back as 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, who also assumed control 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, production of dates and vegetables at the inland oases of Al Ain and Liwa Oasis, and fishing and pearl diving off the coast of Abu Dhabi city, which was occupied mainly during the summer months. Most dwellings in Abu Dhabi city were, at this time constructed of palm fronds (barasti), with the wealthier families occupying mud huts. The growth of the cultured pearl industry in the first half of the twentieth 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 August 6, 1966, with the assistance of the British, Sheikh Zayed became the new ruler.

Abu Dhabi

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

Current ruler

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the hereditary ruler of Abu Dhabi (UAE). He is the son of Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, the first president of the United Arab Emirates.

City planning

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-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 city 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 city is known in the region for its greenery; the former desert strip today includes numerous parks and gardens.

Culture and the arts

Abu Dhabi is trying to position itself as the "Cultural hub" of the Middle East, taking this mantle from such neighboring cities as Beirut and Cairo. It 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 makes grants in support of the arts, as well as to advance science and technology, education, environmental protection and social development. IPAF, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, will be based in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi

Colleges and universities

  • Abu Dhabi University
  • Al Khawarizmi International College
  • Higher Colleges of Technology
  • Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Bangladesh Islamia School and College , Abu Dhabi
  • Zayed University
  • Masdar Institute of Science and Technology
  • Petroleum Institute