Qasr Al Hosn is the oldest building in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, built by the Bani Yas tribe in 1761. It was once the seat of the government and the palace of the ruling Al Nahyan family. Today, it is a museum open to all visitors portraying the history of Abu Dhabi and early lifestyles.
The Bani Yas bedouin was originally centered on the Liwa Oasis in the western region of the Emirate. This tribe was the most significant in the area, having over 20 subsections. In 1793, the Al Bu Falah subsection migrated to the island of Abu Dhabi on the coast of the Persian Gulf due to the discovery of freshwater there. One family within this section was the Nahyan family, which is now the ruling family of Abu Dhabi.
In 1904, German explorer, Hermann Burchardt, took many photographs of historical sites in Abu Dhabi, photos that are now held at the Ethnological Museum of Berlin.
In the mid to late 1930s, as the pearl trade declined, interest grew in the oil possibilities of the region. On 5 January 1936, Petroleum Development Trucial Coast Ltd (PDTC), an associate company of the Iraq Petroleum Company, entered into a concession agreement with the ruler, Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to explore for oil. This was followed by a seventy-five-year concession signed in January 1939. However, owing to the desert terrain, inland exploration was fraught with difficulties. In 1953, D'Arcy Exploration Company, the exploration arm of BP, obtained an offshore concession which was then transferred to a company created to operate the concession: Abu Dhabi Marine Areas (ADMA) was a joint venture between BP and Compagnie Française des Pétroles (later Total). In 1958, using a marine drilling platform, the ADMA Enterprise, oil was struck in the Umm Shaif field at a depth of about 2,669 metres (8,755 ft). This was followed in 1959 by PDTC's onshore discovery well at Murban No.3.
In the 19th century, as a result of treaties (known as "truces" which gave the coast its name) entered into between Great Britain and the sheikhs of the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, Britain became the predominant influence in the area. The main purpose of British interest was to protect the trade route to India from pirates, hence, the earlier name for the area, the "Pirate Coast". After piracy was suppressed, other considerations came into play, such as a strategic need of the British to exclude other powers from the region. Following their withdrawal from India in 1947, the British maintained their influence in Abu Dhabi as interest in the oil potential of the Persian Gulf grew.
In 1962, the company discovered the Bu Hasa field and ADMA followed in 1965 with the discovery of the Zakum offshore field. Today, in addition to the oil fields mentioned, the main producing fields onshore are Asab, Sahil and Shah, and offshore are al-Bunduq, and Abu al-Bukhoosh.
The city was planned under the guidance of Sheikh Zayed by Japanese architect Katsuhiko Takahashi in 1967 initially for a population of 40,000. The density of Abu Dhabi varies, with high employment density in the central area, high residential densities in central downtown and lower densities in the suburban districts. In the dense areas, most of the concentration is achieved with medium- and high-rise buildings. Abu Dhabi's skyscrapers such as the notable Burj Mohammed bin Rashid (World Trade Center Abu Dhabi), Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority Tower, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi headquarters, the Baynunah (Hilton Hotel) Tower. and the Etisalat headquarters are usually found in the financial districts of Abu Dhabi. Other notable modern buildings include the Aldar Headquarters, the first circular skyscraper in the middle east and the Emirates Palace with its design inspired by Arab heritage.
Al Bateen Executive Airport was the old international airport in Abu Dhabi until the one above opened in 1982. Now it is being used by the military and small commercial planes.
State-owned Etisalat and private du communication companies provide telephone and cell phone service to the city. Cellular coverage is extensive, and both GSM and CDMA (from Etisalat and Du) services are available. Etisalat, the government-owned telecommunications provider, held a virtual monopoly over telecommunication services in Abu Dhabi prior to the establishment of other, smaller telecommunications companies such as Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC – better known as Du) in 2006. The Internet was introduced into Abu Dhabi in 1995. The current network is supported by a bandwidth of 6 GB, with 50,000 dialup and 150,000 broadband ports.
The mosque was constructed with materials from countries around the world, including Italy, Germany, Morocco, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Iran, China, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Greece, and the United Arab Emirates. More than 3,000 workers and 38 contracting companies took part in the construction of the mosque. Consideration of durability motivated the choice of many materials specified in the design of the structure. These materials include marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals, and ceramics. Construction began on 5 November 1996. The building is large enough to safely contain a maximum of approximately 41,000 people. The overall structure is 22,412 square metres (241,240 square feet). The internal prayer halls were initially opened in December 2007.
The Founder's Memorial, a monument and visitor center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a memorial to Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first President of the United Arab Emirates, who died in 2004. The memorial consists of an open Heritage Garden and Sanctuary Garden at the center of which is a cubic pavilion housing The Constellation, an artwork dedicated to Zayed's memory.
Abu Dhabi's Emirate is the wealthiest of the UAE in terms of Gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita income. More than $1 trillion is invested worldwide in the city. In 2010, the GDP per capita reached $49,600, which ranks ninth in the world. Taxation in Abu Dhabi, as in the rest of the UAE, is nil for a resident or a non-bank, non-oil company. Abu Dhabi is also planning many future projects sharing with the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) and taking 29% of all the GCC future plannings. The UAE has a fast-growing economy: in 2006 the per capita income grew by 9%, providing a GDP per capita of $49,700 and ranking third in the world at purchasing power parity. Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), currently estimated at $875 billion, is the world's wealthiest sovereign fund in terms of total asset value. Etihad Airways maintains its headquarters in Abu Dhabi.
In 2007 the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC) was established, which is the agency responsible for the future of Abu Dhabi's urban environments and the expert authority behind the visionary Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 Urban Structure Framework Plan that was published in September 2007. The UPC is also working on similar plans for the regions of Al-Ain and Al-Gharbia.
Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) maintains a comprehensive after-school program for interested and talented jiujitsu students. The Abu Dhabi Jiujitsu Schools Program began in 2008 under the patronage of Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a keen Brazilian jiujitsu competitor. The program launched in 14 schools for pupils in grades 6 and 7 and has since expanded to 42 government schools, with 81 Brazilian coaches brought in as instructors.
The first town bus entered service in about 1969 but this was all part of a very informal service. There are other inter-city buses departing the Abu Dhabi central bus station; these inter-city buses are not only intra-emirate buses, but also inter-emirate services. On 30 June 2008, the Department of Transport began public bus service in Abu Dhabi with four routes. There are also public buses serving the airport. In an attempt to entice people to use the bus system, all routes were zero-fare until the end of 2008. The four routes, which operate between 6 am and midnight every day, run at a frequency of 10 to 20 minutes. Within the first week of service, the bus network had seen high usage. Some of the buses, which have a maximum capacity of 45 passengers, only had room for standing left. Some bus drivers reported as many as 100 passengers on a bus at one time. Due to the new, zero-fare bus service success, many taxi drivers were losing business. Taxi drivers have seen a considerable decrease in the demand for taxis while lines were forming for the buses. The service steadily expanded and by the end of 2008, 230 buses were in service. In 2009, the Department of Transport plans to have 21 bus routes in the city, operated by 820 buses. A total of 1,360 buses are expected to be in operation by 2010.
Abu Dhabi's government is looking to expand revenue from oil and gas production to tourism and other things that would attract different types of people. This goal is seen in the amount of attention Abu Dhabi is giving its International Airport. The airport experienced a 30%+ growth in passenger usage in 2009. This idea of diversifying the economy is also seen in the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 planned by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council. In this plan, Abu Dhabi's economy will be sustainable and not dependent on any single source of revenue. More specifically the non-oil portion of income is planned to be increased from about 40% to about 70%. As of July 2019, Abu Dhabi allocated $163 million to finance global entertainment partners as part of its plan to diversify the economy and wean it off oil.
In 2009, the government diversified its economic plans. Served by high oil prices, the country's non-oil and gas GDP outstripped that attributable to the energy sector. Non-oil and gas GDP now constitutes 64% of the UAE's total GDP. This trend is reflected in Abu Dhabi with substantial new investment in industry, real estate, tourism and retail. As Abu Dhabi is the largest oil producer of the UAE, it has reaped the most benefits from this trend. It has taken on an active diversification and liberalization program to reduce the UAE's reliance on the hydrocarbon sector. This is evident in the emphasis on industrial diversification with the completion of free zones, Industrial City of Abu Dhabi, twofour54 Abu Dhabi media free zone and the construction of another, ICAD II, in the pipeline. There has also been a drive to promote tourism and real estate with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and the Tourism and Development Investment Company undertaking several large-scale development projects. These will be served by improved transport infrastructure, with a new port, an expanded airport and a proposed rail link between Abu Dhabi and Dubai all in the development stages.
The UAE's large hydrocarbon wealth gives it one of the highest GDP per capita in the world and Abu Dhabi owns the majority of these resources—95% of the oil and 92% of gas. Abu Dhabi thus holds 9% of the world's proven oil reserves (98.2bn barrels) and almost 5% of the world's natural gas (5.8 billion cubic metres or 200 billion cubic feet). Oil production in the UAE was about 2.3 million barrels per day (BPD) in 2010, and projects are in progress to boost production to 3m BPD. In recent years, the focus has turned to gas as increasing domestic consumption for power, desalination and reinjection of gas into oil fields increases demand. Gas extraction is not without its difficulties, however, as demonstrated by the sour gas project at Shah where the gas is rich in hydrogen sulfide content and expensive to develop and process.
Abu Dhabi is home to international and local private schools and universities, including government-sponsored INSEAD, New York University, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, New York Institute of Technology, Higher Colleges of Technology, New York Film Academy, Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi University. These boast several languages that make up the population of the city. For example, the international business school established a campus in February 2010, offering an Executive MBA and executive education courses. New York University opened a government-sponsored satellite campus in Abu Dhabi in September 2010.
The Emirate has many ports. One is Port Zayed. The others are Musaffah Port and Khalifa Port, which opened in 2012. They are owned by Abu Dhabi Ports Company and managed by Abu Dhabi Terminals.
Abu Dhabi has four football stadiums: Al Jazeera Stadium, Al Wahda Stadium and Sheikh Zayed Football Stadium (Zayed Sports City) and Hazza Stadium. ZSC also contains a tennis court, an ice rink, and a bowling alley. The Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium is located on the outskirts of the city and is currently home to the Pakistan Cricket Team. The stadium hosts at least two series per year in the last 4 years. In 2014, the stadium also hosted one leg of the Indian Premier League. It has also been considered as a venue for the B Pakistan Super League too. The stadium also hosts the annual Abu Dhabi T10 Cricket League which sees international players from around the world and U.A.E. play competitive limited overs games. In 2021 the postponed 2020 competition was held in January and February with the scheduled 2021 competition to be held later.
Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) is the city's main aviation hub and the second busiest airport in the UAE. Passenger numbers at Abu Dhabi International Airport rose by 17.2 percent in 2015, with more than 23 million travelers passing through its terminals during that year. A 2nd runway and new terminal was also built recently
Abu Dhabi regularly hosts the International Judo Federation Abu Dhabi grand slam. Engendering some criticism, the International Judo Federation refused to allow the Israeli flag and the Israeli national anthem at the international games in 2017. Some referred to this action as anti-Semitic. The ban on Israeli symbols was lifted in 2018 and Israeli flag and the national anthem was allowed to be displayed. Israeli minister of sports Miri Regev was also allowed to attend the event.
Under the rule of the Department of Municipal Affairs, the city is part of the Central Capital District, which is separate from the eastern and western municipal regions of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The main settlement of the eastern region, officially "Al Ain Region" since a decree by Sheikh Khalifa in March 2017, is Al Ain City, and that of the western region, officially "Al Dhafra Region" as per the same decree, is Madinat Zayed.
In 2018, Abu Dhabi launched Ghadan 21, a string of initiatives to diversify the economy. The total injection is AED 50 billion.
In 2018, Abu Dhabi was ranked the safest city in the world for the second year running by the statistical analysis website Numbeo.
The UAE Presidential Palace, Qaṣr Al-Waṭan ("Palace of the Nation"), opened to the public in March 2019. It was built on the grounds of Ladies beach and construction was finished in 2018.
The Abu Dhabi Government Media Office (ADGMO) was formed in 2019 and is responsible for representing the government in the media, organizing press conferences for the emirate and monitoring local and international media. It is a state-sponsored organization that communicates the latest developments in the capital, and the emirate's vision, values and traditions.
In March 2019, Abu Dhabi hosted the first Special Olympics World Games in the Middle East. The event took place from 14 to 21 March 2019 and featured more than 7,500 athletes participating in 24 sporting disciplines. The official World Games Flame of Hope was lit in Athens and flown to Abu Dhabi, where it then embarked on the torch run, visiting all seven emirates of the UAE.
On 30 June 2019, the Department of Community Development (DCD) in Abu Dhabi officially inaugurated a multi-faith prayer room at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Located away from the main airport, the prayer room aims at enhancing the country's "position as an international hub for tolerance".
In July 2019, the Grand Mosque was listed among the top global attractions by TripAdvisor. As a part of its Travelers Choice Awards, the travel website placed the architectural masterpiece on number three out of the 750 landmarks considered from 68 different countries.
The city's per capita electricity consumption is about 41,000 kWh and the total supplied is 8,367 MW as of 2007 . The distribution of electricity is carried out by companies run by SCIPCO Power and APC Energy. As part of UAE's Energy Strategy 2050 to reduce the carbon emission of power generation by 70%, Noor Abu Dhabi solar park project which is the largest solar project in the world was completed on 2 July 2019. The Abu Dhabi Fire Service runs 13 fire stations that attend about 2,000 fire and rescue calls per year.
In September 2019, the construction of UAE's first official synagogue was announced to begin in 2020, as a part of the multi-faith "Abrahamic Family House" complex in Abu Dhabi. It will also give space to a mosque and a church, the full construction of which was announced to be completed by 2022.
On 22 September 2019, the Department of Community Development (DCD) in Abu Dhabi held a ceremony to grant licenses to 17 churches and the first-ever traditional Hindu temple. The listed churches were Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches, including St Joseph's Cathedral. The initiative was taken under the slogan "A Call for Harmony", to allow people from all religions and cultures to practice their faith in the country.
In October 2019 Abu Dhabi announced the world's first graduate-level AI research institution, Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI). It enables graduation for students, businesses and governments to advance artificial intelligence. The university began accepting applications for masters and PhD programmes a year before the classes, which are scheduled to begin in September 2020.
In 2020, low oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic pressed the regional banks of Abu Dhabi to cut off their employees. In July, UAE’s third-largest lender, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) laid off 400 employees, breaking its commitment to not cut staff due to the crisis.
This unique socioeconomic development in the Persian Gulf has meant that Abu Dhabi is generally more tolerant than its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia. Emiratis have been known for their tolerance; Christian churches, Hindu temples, and Sikh gurdwaras (with the first synagogue commencing construction in 2020) can be found alongside mosques. The cosmopolitan atmosphere is gradually growing and as a result, there are a variety of Asian and Western schools, cultural centers and themed restaurants.
On September 21, 2020, Abu Dhabi removed the requirement for an alcohol license for drinkers in the emirate, despite being the conservative capital of the UAE. The historic modification was implemented due to the economic challenges that occurred amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
The city of Abu Dhabi is on the southeastern side of the Arabian Peninsula, adjoining the Persian Gulf. It is on an island less than 250 metres (820 ft) from the mainland and is joined to the mainland by the Maqta and Mussafah Bridges. A third, Sheikh Zayed Bridge, designed by Zaha Hadid, opened in late 2010. Abu Dhabi Island is also connected to Saadiyat Island by a five-lane motorway bridge. Al-Mafraq bridge connects the city to Reem Island and was completed in early 2011. This is a multi-layer interchange bridge and it has 27 lanes which allow roughly 25,000 automobiles to move per hour. There are three major bridges in the project, the largest has eight lanes, four leaving Abu Dhabi city and four coming in.