Thought Dubai was the new “It” of the Middle East? Think again. A different Emirate is soaring to new highs and prospering much more than its sister. Its name? Abu Dhabi.
The Emirate of Abu Dhabi is one of seven states (called “Emirates”) of the UAE. Here, the capital of the “constitutional federation of absolute monarchies” is located, also called Abu Dhabi (Wikipedia). The most interesting fact, however, is how this Emirate accounts for about 86% of the total land area of the country!
Abu Dhabi’s boom really happened in 2004, with the death of Sheikh Zayed. His son Sheikh Khalifa took over, and in an attempt to compete with neighboring Dubai, revitalized the tourism industry by loosening strict laws regarding the purchase of land by foreigners and alcohol. Subsequently, this kicked off a myriad of foreign investment and colossal projects, particularly in the capital.
Naturally, some of the Emirate’s best attractions are in the capital of Abu Dhabi. These include the Emirates Palace (gorgeous hotel), Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Abu Dhabi mall, super developments such as Al Reem Island, about 400 km of coastline (10 km of them public), and more than 2,000 parks and gardens (Wikipedia). Moreover, desert safaris, camping trips, and even sandboarding adventures may be booked from here.
It is not all in the capital, though! Other town worth mentioning in the Emirate is Al Ain. An actual oasis located inland, it merges with Oman, giving you the opportunity to easily visit two countries in one trip. The gorgeous views are romantic, plus the few scattered luxury resorts are perfect for a Middle Eastern getaway, far from the tourist crowds.
Another great locale in the Abu Dhabi Emirate is Yas Island. Winner of the World’s Leading Tourism Project Award at the 2009 World Travel Awards, it is a successful development project boasting a Formula One Circuit and will soon open offer golf courses, luxurious residential resorts, hotels, a water park, polo clubs, marinas, and even the amusement park Warner Bros. Movie World.
Indeed, the Abu Dhabi Emirate will keep growing at a steady pace. Most importantly, unlike its sister Dubai, it is doing it slow enough to profit from its investments and thrive in a shaky global economy. The Sheikh is doing something right!
Have you visited Abu Dhabi? What did you think?
(Header Photo: Abu Dhabi city skyline at night – Nepenthes, Wiki Commons)