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Abu Dhabi

View from our appartment over Abu Dhabi city
I've spent a great deal of my adult life in a place called Abu Dhabi. Many people I've met don't have a clue where Abu Dhabi is, let alone what it's like to live there. Some people think it's in Wales! So for those of you who are interested, this is my personal view of it.

Abu Dhabi is in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in the part of the world known as the Middle East, just to the right of the top bit of Africa. Abu Dhabi is one of the United Arab Emirates, and my guess is that most people have heard of Dubai, which is another one. The term Emirate is derived from Emir which is the name for the ruler. Interestingly, localities in neighbouring Oman are known as Waliyats and they're ruled by a leader known as a Wali.

Apart from Abu Dhabi, there are six other emirates. In Geographical order from south to north, starting from Abu Dhabi, there is Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah. The borders of some of the emirates are not continuous, such that you'll find a small part of Sharjah (Kawr Fakkhan) on the east coast within the outer borders of Fujairah. There are also small parts of Oman within the emirates, and some roads, such as that between Dubai and Hatta which cross Omani territory.

Abu Dhabi is an oil-rich state which has undergone massive development over the last 30 years or so. Literally going from a desert oasis to a modern city with all mod cons. Don't expect to find much of antiquity, but do expect eight lane highways, high-rise apartment blocks, shopping malls, and international hotels.

The name Abu Dhabi is a bit confusing, because it's not only the name of the Emirate, but also the name of the capital city, which is situated on a small island connected to the mainland by a couple of bridges. Abu Dhabi means father of the Dhabi, a sort of antelope which once lived wild here, and the term is said to refer to the well, found here in ancient times, and probably where the antelope got their water.

Abu Dhabi is in the tropics, about 24 degrees north of the equator, and as such has a hot climate befitting such a location. Summer temperature can exceed 50 degrees centigrade, but it isn't the temperature that is the problem but the humidity. Being next to the sea we get very high humidity in the summer months, and it's difficult to walk too far in the open, day or night without becoming bathed in sweat. Fortunately, all buildings, offices, and accommodation are air-conditioned. So in the summer you swiftly transfer from building to air-conditioned car and then reverse the exercise at the end of your journey. Even the sea can be hot, so little or no respite there. Some hotel swimming pools actually have a chilling system rather than heating found in most countries.

The UAE borders with Oman to the north and north-east, Saudi Arabia to the south and east, and Qatar to the south-west. There's a long coastline to the west on the Arabian Gulf, sometimes known as the Persian Gulf. There is also a much shorter eastern coastline with the Gulf of Oman which turns into the Indian Ocean if you were to swim out far enough. On the other side of the Arabian Gulf is Iran, and to the north we have Bahrain, Kuwait and Iraq.

Living in Abu Dhabi, is quite pleasant really. You don't have to travel too far between the facilities because everything is concentrated on quite a small island. We want for nothing, you can buy almost anything here, and the variety of food available in supermarkets and restaurants, reflects the diversity of cultures represented. You can feel secure wandering the streets, even at night, and you would be very unlikely to be attacked or mugged.

The city is more geared towards the private car and the taxi than the pedestrian. Walking across town needs a lot of concentration. There are plenty of road works and construction sites to negotiate, and crossing the road requires a fair bit of nerve and good timing; far better to take a taxi for longer trips and reserve walking for shopping and exploring within a small area. You notice I didn't suggest driving yourself. Driving a car in Abu Dhabi is quite easy, once you are used to the traffic, but finding a place to park once you reach your destination is becoming more and more difficult. When I first arrived here in 1979, there was very little traffic, and jams were hardly a problem, but now gridlock is never far away, and nearly all parking spaces are occupied. There is plenty of greenery in the city, despite the harsh climate. The central reservation of main roads and all roundabouts have grass, and flowers on them and some have fountains. There are some rather nice parks scattered around town, but I wish there were more small ones to break up the jungle of concrete and glass buildings.

To be continued......

© Roy L Richards 2012
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Updated Jan 2010

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