Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the largest emirate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the second-best city in the world to live, work and do business. It's as well the capital city of UAE.

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. Abu Dhabi's rapid development and urbanisation, coupled with the relatively high average income of its population, has transformed the city into a large and advanced metropolis.


Abu Dhabi is full of archaeological evidence that points to civilizations, such as the Umm an-Nar Culture, having been located there from the third millennium BC. Settlements were also found further outside the modern city of Abu Dhabi but closer to the modern city of Al Ain.

There is evidence of civilizations around the mountain of Hafeet (Jebel Hafeet). This location is very strategic because it is the UAE’s second tallest mountain, so it would have great visibility. It also contains a lot of moisture in its springs and lakes, which means that there would have been more moisture thousands of years ago.

Archeological excavations shows that there have been trading relationships and connections between those civilizations and the Mesopotamia civilization and the Indus valley.

The legend of Abu Dhabi formation is fairly well known. The summary is that a group of Bedu hunters from Liwa, following the tracks of a gazelle to the coast, found that the animal had crossed a shallow creek to a nearby island. They also crossed the stream and tracked the gazelle to a small spring.

While the fate of the gazelle disappears from the history books, the hunters are said to have reported back to their chief, Sheikh Dhiyab bin Isa. Recognizing the importance of the discovery of fresh water on the island, he instructed that a settlement should be founded there and declared that the name of the island should be Abu Dhabi - father of, or possession of, the gazelle.

Abu Dhabi Formation

The Bedouin of the Bani Yas tribe settled on the island of Abu Dhabi in 1761. Early on, the centre of power for the tribe remained at Liwa Oasis, where the ruling Al-Nahyan family was based, but in 1793 the family moved to Abu Dhabi. At this time a haven for wildlife (Abu Dhabi literally means ‘Father of the Gazelle’), the town expanded rapidly during the heyday of the pearl trade in the late 19th century.

In 1892 its ruler, Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed al-Nahyan (known as Zayed the Great), agreed that the emirate would become a protectorate of Britain and it joined the Trucial States. Zayed the Great died in 1909, and under five subsequent rulers the emirate’s power and prosperity declined, largely due to the collapse of the pearling industry.

Everything changed in 1958 when oil was discovered, and it is from this date that the development of modern Abu Dhabi can be said to have commenced. The late ruler, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, used his vast diplomatic skills to be the main player in creating the UAE and became its first president, a role he held up until his death in November 2004. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Zayed’s oldest son, became ruler of Abu Dhabi and was elected President of the UAE soon after.

It probably referred to the few gazelles that inhabit the emirate. According to Bilal al-Budoor, assistant under-secretary for Cultural Affairs at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development, "The area had a lot of dhibaa [deer (plural)], and was nicknamed after that."

A prominent historical feature in Abu Dhabi, the Al Hosn Fort, was built roughly 220 years ago by Shaikh Shakhbout Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It was also the palace where the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan held his court on his accession in 1966.


Abu Dhabi lies on the coast of the Arabian Gulf and is bordered by Sultanate of Oman to the east, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the south and the emirate of Dubai to the northeast. Located between latitudes 22°40 and around 25° north and longitudes 51° and around 56° east.

Abu Dhabi occupies major portion of the land occupying roughly 86 per cent of the UAE. The emirate comprises 200 islands and has 700 kilometres coastline.


According to the Abu Dhabi statistics center, the estimated population of the emirate around mid-2014 was 2.65 million (comprising 1,766,140 males and 890,308 females). 507,479 million were UAE nationals and 2,148,969 million were expatriates. The average annual population growth rate for the years from 2005 to 2014 was 7.6 per cent.


Abu Dhabi is ruled by H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also the President of the UAE since 3 November 2004. The ruling Al Nahyan family descends from a sub-section of Bani Yas tribe, known as Al Bu Falah. They originally lived in the Liwa oasis and settled in Abu Dhabi in 1793 where they lived in Qasr Al Hosn for almost two centuries.

Abu Dhabi has an Executive Council chaired by its Crown Prince, H. H. General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, under which separate departments function like ministries. It also has several autonomous agencies with clearly specified powers and a 60-member National Consultative Council comprising representatives of the main tribes.

The western and eastern regions of the emirate and its oil terminal of Das are headed by the rulers' representatives, while its main cities, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, are administered by municipalities. A municipal authority for the western region has been created.


Abu Dhabi economy is largely based upon the revenue generated from oil. In 1958 Abu Dhabi discovered oil in commercial quantities at Umm Shaif close to Das Island and officially began producing oil in 1962. In just her first year of oil production, Abu Dhabi produced 14,200 barrels per day (b/d) of oil. The following year, production rose by a staggering 239% to 48,200 b/d and by an even bigger jump to 186,800 b/d in 1964. Abu Dhabi continued to discover new fields and increase production throughout the years.

Today Abu Dhabi has a total of 979 producing oil fields, and controls more than 85% of the UAE’s oil output capacity and more than 90% its reserves. In the context of global energy, Abu Dhabi possesses nearly 8% of the world’s oil reserves. GDP of Abu Dhabi for the year 2014 was AED 960,146 million (at current prices).

Over the recent decades, the emirate of Abu Dhabi has undergone a significant transformation in economic growth. Due to the vision of Abu Dhabi's leaders and the abundance of oil and natural gas reserves, the emirate has grown to become a dynamic hub and major competitor on the global stage. While recognising the success of the oil sector, Abu Dhabi is working hard to reduce its hydrocarbons reliance and broaden the emirate's economy. Investment in infrastructure, tourism, transport, health and education is continuing, in line with the government's 2030 economic plan.

Tourism is playing in integral role in Abu Dhabi's economic development. Major investment in new luxury resorts and business hotels is underway. Abu Dhabi has many things to offer to its visitors and residents: a versatile landscape, thriving investment hub, and a friendly environment boasting one of the highest per capita incomes and one of the lowest crime rates in the world.


Education in Abu Dhabi is undergoing a significant transformation as it quickly becoming a major global economic player. The Abu Dhabi vision is to produce a society that is confident in its growing roles as a global econonic center, and the key to turning this vision into a reality lies at the heart of quality education.

Abu Dhabi Emirate currently has 250 public schools, 28 Adult Education Centre and 192 private schools operating in three regions; Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and Al Dhafra Region in school year 2016/2017.

All schools in the emirate are under the authority of the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC). ADEC created Abu Dhabi Education Policy Agenda in 2008 to frame the guiding principles, vision, and objectives for Abu Dhabi’s education system. The Policy Agenda set the defining principles and goals of Abu Dhabi’s public policy in education.

It provides a broad framework for developing policies in education as a whole, and policy priorities in specific educational sectors. These priorities are captured in each of ADEC’s strategic plans for P-12 education, private education and higher education.

  • P12 Education

ADEC use the P-12 system to organize education from Kindergarten through to Grade 12.

Kindergarten: a voluntary level that prepares children for Cycle One.

Cycle One, for students in Grades 1 to 5.

Cycle Two, for students in Grades 6 to 9.

Cycle Three, for students in Grades 10 to 12.

Special Education: our services for students with special educational needs.

Adult Education, including evening classes and female-only courses.

  • Higher Education

In Higher Education, Abu Dhabi’s mission is to lay the foundation for an innovation-based, knowledge producing society. In 2012, there were 18 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) operating in Abu Dhabi. These are classified as Federal, Public Non-Federal and Private institutions.

Each emphasizes particular fields of study or programs, but all aim to prepare well-qualified graduates for the labor market. In addition, some have a specific mission to focus on research and advance knowledge. Besides the 18 institutions, there are four HEIs that prepare students directly for military or police careers.

Federal institutions are primarily funded by the federal government. They provide free undergraduate education to all eligible nationals. These institutions serve the whole country, with campuses in different Emirates. Two of them, UAE University and Higher Colleges of Technology, are the largest Higher Education Institutions in Abu Dhabi in terms of students’ enrolment.

The first university established, the United Arab Emirates University, was founded in 1976. The two other federal HEIs, Higher Colleges of Technology and Zayed University, were established in 1988 and 1998 respectively.

Nearly all Public Non-Federal and Private HEIs were founded between 2000 and 2009. Out of the nine Public Non-Federal institutions, all but one was launched between 2005 and 2009. This reflects the government’s intent to achieve the goals of the Economic Vision 2030.


Abu Dhabi has become one of the leading areas in the international forum to develop its health care system.

It has some world class medical facilities both private and government owned and every speciality and emergency can be accommodated. Abu Dhabi has comprehensive government-funded health services and a developing private health sector. Substantial government investment has enabled this Emirate to make major strides in healthcare.

The Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD) is the regulative body of the Healthcare Sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and ensures excellence in Healthcare for the community by monitoring the health status of the population.

According to law all employers and sponsors are responsible for the procurement of health insurance coverage and possession of valid health insurance at all times for their employees and their families (1 spouse and 3 children under 18).


Abu Dhabi has become a centre for world-class sporting events such as: the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the prestigious Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge cross-country rally and the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

In addition, the city will soon house the world's largest concentration of premier cultural institutions which will include the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi is rich in natural wonders too. While the emirate's famous Liwa oasis in the south of the emirate is home to some of the largest and most beautiful sand dunes in the world, the garden city of Al Ain in the foothills of Jebel Hafeet is home to several heritage sites.

Shopping Malls in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Mall: is a shopping mall in central Abu Dhabi, UAE. It opened in May 2001 and has over 200 shops. The Mall is located next to the Beach Rotana hotel, with a direct internal entrance from the hotel. http://www.abudhabi-mall.com

Al Raha Mall: is a pioneer shopping mall, situated away from Abu Dhabi City Centre, that caters to community development. With avant-garde offerings in fashion, jewellery, fine dining, restaurants, cinema, electronics, entertainment, salons, supermarket and other services in a serene and friendly atmosphere. http://www.al-rahamall.com/en

Al Wahda Mall: was established in 2007 the mall is a leading shopping destination attracting over 30 million visitors annually, with over 350 brands spanning across a total size of 3.3 million square feet area.

Anchored with Lulu Hypermarket, Al Wahda Cinema, H&M, Iconic, Gold’s Gym, Healthy Sports, Wanasa Land, Mamas & Papas, Orange Wheels and Sportsone, the mall flaunts very good retail mix across Fashion, Jewellery, Electronics, Food & Beverage, Home improvement, Entertainment, Health Beauty & Wellness and a Kids section with some renowned high-street brands such as Mango, Banana Republic, Gap, and many more. https://alwahda-mall.com

Bawabat al Sharq Mall: is the home for a variety of brands that will satisfy your every need. Ranging from global high-end brands to local uprising brands. The mall boasts traditional design features, with expansive spaces covering 62,265 sqm across two floors. With over 150 stores currently operational, and many more soon to open, shoppers are spoilt for choice at Bawabat Al Sharq mall. http://www.bawabatalsharqmall.ae

Dalma Mall: is one of the most diversified shopping malls in Abu Dhabi and UAE. It"s an established destination of shopping, joining the latest in the world of retail and hospitality under one roof, and occupying a total build-up area of 255,000sqm with a total gross leasable area of 150,000sqm. Residing under one roof is an array of 425 retailers, with unique experiences in fashion, F&B, entertainment and wide services, Dalma Mall is the home to some of the biggest box-crashers in the retail scene, hosting a countless number of entertainment spots in addition to a full-fledged hospital. https://dalmamall.ae/en/

Khalidiyah Mall: : is located in the most prestigious area of Al Khalidiyah. Situated at the nerve centre of the city, the mall provides a complete shopping experience to tourists & residents. The malls distinctive Islamic Architecture design is the perfect blend of the past with the present. Three levels of elegantly laid out space with outlets offering everything from fashion to furnishing and cosmetics to consumer electronics. The malls expansive multicultural food court offers an intriguing array of international cuisine, alongside a number of cafes and restaurants. http://www.khalidiyahmall.com/en/

Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre & Gold Centre: offers a wide array of brands and stores that offer the discerning shopper everything from high end fashion, perfume, household goods, groceries, electronics and lots more. With more than 70 jewelry stores that offer traditional and contemporary gold, diamond and pearl jewelry from across the globe, the Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre is a true jewel in the cityscape. It also showcases the Madinat Zayed Gold Centre, the only Gold Centre in Abu Dhabi. https://www.madinatzayed-mall.com

Marina Mall: houses more than 400 retail and services outlets, including designer and high-street fashion brands, beauty department stores, home furnishings and electronics stores. In addition, there is a Mercedes-Benz car showroom, specialty shops, bank offices and a hypermarket. It also has a variety of F&B options including upscale cafes. The entertainment and leisure offerings include a bowling alley, a 9-screen VOX cinema, and a children’s entertainment area. Some of the world’s most renowned brands can be found in Marina Mall, such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Tiffany & Co, Hugo Boss, Tod’s, Chanel, Gucci, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent and many more. As one of Abu Dhabi’s distinctive landmarks, Marina Mall also offers a range of exciting programming and events that draws in the larger community. http://www.marinamall.ae

Mazyad Mall: aims to be the first full fledged mall in the “New Downtown” of Abu Dhabi. Its unique retail offerings include a wide range of fashion items for the entire family along with sporting goods, toys, cosmetics, jewellery, books, home furnishing, hypermarket and electronics. https://www.mazyadmall.com

Mushrif Mall: is well designed, and provides the right mix of shoping, dinning, leisure, and entertainment options in order to satisfy the needs of growing consumer base in Abu Dhabi. http://www.mushrifmall.com

The Galleria, Al Maryah Island: is Abu Dhabi’s luxury shopping and dining destination set on the stunning waterfront promenade. With more than 130 offerings under one roof, The Galleria houses a mix of high-end retailers and licensed and unlicensed chef-driven restaurants and cafes. Since its opening in August 2013, The Galleria has become home to the world’s most iconic luxury fashion and fine jewellery brands, along with world class dining. https://www.thegalleria.ae/en/

Yas Mall, Yas Island: is Abu Dhabi"s must visit, vibrant getaway shopping experience for every day, where everyone belongs. The experientail shopping destinatioin, offers three floors of exciting, leading international and regional retails and restaurant brands, a 20 screen state-of-art cinema operated by VOX cinemas and a family entertainent zon by funworks. https://www.yasmall.ae/en-us/


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. The Bedouin way of life is especially honored.


Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)

Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) is the second largest airport in the UAE and one of the fastest growing aviation hubs in the world. Located in the capital of the UAE, and operated by Abu Dhabi Airports since 2006, AUH runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

As a base for national carrier, Etihad Airways, and over 30 airlines currently flying to and from more than 100 destinations, in over 50 countries. Passenger numbers at AUH reached over 23 million in 2015, and that figure is expected to rise to over 45 million in the coming decade.

Abu Dhabi Airports is carrying out a number of major initiatives at AUH aimed at increasing capacity, enhancing passenger experience and establishing the airport as world-class transit hub.

One of the main projects currently under construction is the Midfield Terminal Building (MTB), which will increase the airport’s overall capacity to 45 million passengers a year. This state-of-the-art structure is designed to serve as the primary gateway for the national carrier, Etihad Airways, and its codeshare and equity partners. It is being constructed between the airport’s two runways, allowing for the shortest possible journey from runway to parking stand. The new terminal will include passenger and cargo facilities, duty free shops, restaurants and a transit hotel.

Bus Transportation

The Public Bus Transportation Service was announced in 2008 as part of DoT's endeavour to develop a world-class integrated public transport network catering to the needs of the community in different parts of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Since its launch in 2008, DoT has focused on continuously developing and enhancing the coverage and quality of its bus services at all levels. As of the end of 2011, the Bus Office at the Department of Transport in Abu Dhabi operates around 650 busses on over 95 service routes catering to more than (50m) fifty million passengers within the different regions of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.


Street taxis are easily recognised, they are either silver with a yellow roof sign (newer taxis) or white and gold with a green roof sign (older taxis). All the old taxis have been phased out. There are no old taxis available for transportation anymore.

Ferry Services

The Department of Transport operates two passenger and vehicle ferries to and from Delma Island through Jabal Al Dhanna (Mugharaq Port) and Delma Island Port. Both ferries have daily trips departing from each port, thus making it possible to visit Delma Island and return to the mainland in one day.

Tickets and fares: Below are the fares and ticket fees for taking the ferry from Abu Dhabi or Delma Island:

Individuals with the age of 12 years and above: 20AED.

Individuals aged below 12 years: Free.

One Vehicle: 100AED.

Park and Ride

Under the Abu Dhabi Park and Ride Scheme, motorists can park their vehicles at a safe and secured Park and Ride site located at Zayed Sports City and continue the journey free of charge to the city centre on an express Park & Ride shuttle. The driver will collect free tickets (one for the driver and up to three for passengers) from the Ticket Office located at the site. These tickets offer free rides on Park & Ride Express Buses and all Public Buses within Abu Dhabi Island, for the whole day as per the validity of the ticket.


The official currency in Abu Dhabi is named Dirham (or United Arab Emirates Dirham; AED). The Dirham (AED) is abbreviated as DH or Dhs. It is not the currency of Abu Dhabi only, but also other emirates including Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah,Sharjah, Ras al-Khaimah,Umm-Al-Quwain.

The most common notes in circulation are the 100 Dh, 50 Dh, 20 Dh, 10 Dh and 5 Dh note although there are three other less commonly used notes – 200 Dh, 500 Dh and 1000 Dh notes. 1 Dh = 100 fils and coins are available in 25 fils, 50 fils and 1 Dh denominations.

Dollars is widely accepted in Abu Dhabi and the major credit cards such as American Express, Diner’s Club, Visa and MasterCard are acceptable throughout Abu Dhabi . ATMs can be found across the UAE in malls, hotels and gas stations. ATMs accept foreign credit and debit cards including Switch, Maestro, Cirrus, Union Pay, Visa and MasterCard.