Astounding Abu Dhabi Emirate

What do you need to know?

Well, officially the ‘Emirate of Abu Dhabi’, Abu Dhabi Emirate is the largest and richest of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates.

10 Abu Dhabi Emirate Facts:

  • It is the capital of the UAE.  
  • The UAE itself has a surprisingly short history.  It was only officially established in 1971. The region however, has history dating back to the Stone Age. Settlements from 5000BC have been found in some parts of Abu Dhabi. 
  • The President of the UAE is from Abu Dhabi.
  • It is the largest emirate by area by far.  It occupies over 86% of the country. While Dubai is the second largest emirate, Dubai has a slightly larger population.
  • It is the wealthiest of all the emirates due to its large oil ( or black gold) reserves. It is estimated that it has the world’s highest wealth per local national inhabitant.
  • The Emirate’s main revenues are from industry, construction and financial services.
  • Abu Dhabi city itself started life in 1761
  • Abu Dhabi means ‘Father of Deer’.  It is likely named after the gazelle that lived in the area and a man who chased them. Legend has it hunters chased the deer all the way from Liwa to Abu Dhabi city as it was to become.
  • The term ‘emirate’ comes from the word ‘emir’ - a title of high office (commander/prince).  The rulers in the UAE are known as Sheikh (‘elder’ or leader/governor)
  • The geography of Abu Dhabi means it has everything: white sandy beaches, cool mountain oasis and miles and miles of desert to discover. It also has modern Abu Dhabi city with top class shopping, restaurants and hotels.

Did you know:

In 1962 it was estimated the population of Abu Dhabi was 13000. In 2013 it is estimated to be 2.4 million!

Nearly 9 out of 10 UAE residents are expats.

Black Gold

Oil was first discovered in the emirate in the late 1950s.  

It is believed that Abu Dhabi Emirate has 100 years of oil yet to extract, one tenth of the world’s oil still lies beneath the emirate along with huge natural gas assets.   

The wealth gained from oil has led Abu Dhabi to prosper. From a Bedouin society it has transformed into the world class, modern destination that it is today. 

Unlike many other western and Arab countries, the wealth accumulated from the oil is shared out among the local national population who are known as Emiratis. 


The Emirate of Abu Dhabi is in the Persian Gulf. An oil rich and strategic location adjoining the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman.

Abu Dhabi Emirate is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  The others are:

  • Ajman
  • Dubai
  • Fujairah
  • Ras Al Khaimah
  • Sharjah
  • Umm Al Quwain

Abu Dhabi Emirate Geography


Sun, sun and more sun as a general rule! With a ‘hot, arid’ climate sunny blue skies are normal in Abu Dhabi Emirate.  June to September are hot and humid. November to March is more pleasant and January/February can be cool. 

The temperature fluctuates massively over the year.  This can have a big impact on events and plans. Winter is when everyone goes outside but as summer approaches outside shuts down and everything moves inside.

Daytime highs in the summer are up to 48°C (118°F). 

Daytime highs in the winter are 26°C (78°F) or so.  

Sandstorms in summer  and fog in winter are common but rain is less so.  When it rains all the kids run around outside in excitement!

View from Emirates Palace

Town and Cities

Abu Dhabi city, the capital of the UAE, is a modern city. It is also the richest city in the world. Home to architectural masterpieces such as Capital Gate and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, it is still expanding fast.  Here you will find important government offices, the home of the President of the UAE, embassies, multinational businesses and industry.  

Renowned Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld are both located on a ‘new’ island, Yas Island. In 2015 the Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island is expected to open. Some of it’s permanent exhibits are already on show at Manarat Al Saadiyat.

Al Ain is the second largest city of the emirate.  A mountain oasis with hot springs and tranquil greenery is it a world away from the busy city.  Al Ain Zoo is a fun day out or just relax in the soothing mountain waters.

Ruwais or Al Ruwais is about 3 hours away from the city and is mainly a refinery area.  One of the most modern industrial complexes in the Middle East it has a model ‘new town’ away from the industrial area.  Unless visiting for work it’s not a holiday destination!

Language and Culture

The official national language of Abu Dhabi Emirate and the UAE is Arabic.  English, Hindi and Urdu are widely spoken and there are expats from across the globe.  If you look around you will find a huge variety of languages. 

Abu Dhabi has, in a very short space of time, risen to become a modern tourist destination. But it has not forgotten itself.  A rich cultural background embedded within Islamic traditions prevails.  Mosques are scattered around the city. Old traditions are still upheld. 

One of these traditions is dress. Emirates are often distinguished by their traditional national dress. Men in white full length shirt-dress (dishdasha) with a white or red checked head dress (gutra). Women in a long black robe (abaya) and headscarf (sheyla). It is a common site when out shopping to see one man in white with several wives in black.

Most Emiratis are olive skinned with large brown eyes, high cheek bones, strong noses and with shapely lips. They have good features and are considered good looking. They also take great pride in looking well.  There has been a recent, well publicised, case of an Emirati man being ejected from Saudi Arabia for being too good looking!

Abu Dhabi revels in being the cultural heart of the UAE and markets cultural and sporting events that herald a past long gone.  Camel racing, dhow sailing, Arabic poetry, dances and music are just a few.  In the last year the Qasr Al Hosn Festival was magnificent.  

While remembering old traditions, Abu Dhabi Emirate still encourages new ideas, cultures and customs. As long as they do not affect what is already ages old. 

Abu Dhabi Emirate has come a long way in the last 50 years. With the ruling Al Nahyan family at the helm it looks set to continue it’s meteoric rise. Oil is only a small fraction of what it offers to the world and in time it will become one of the world’s leading tourist destinations.

Why not come now? It’s just getting started!

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