Amazing Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is the capital city and the second most populated city of the UAE: at the last count in 2013 the population was 921,000. It is also the largest among the seven emirates that make up the UAE (United Arab Emirates). This culture-rich and opulent city is fast becoming one of the most popular places on earth to visit. The name Abu Dhabi means “Father of Deer” and it is believed that the name came from the great number of deer or gazelle found in the area at one time. Some stories say that the Bedouins called the city Umm Dhabi, which means Mother of Deer, and that Westerners, probably British, registered the city name as Abu Dhabi. The name of the country originally was Milh, which means salt, and probably referred to the salty waters of the surrounding Persian Gulf.
Pearls and Oil
Much of the money in the area originally came from the pearl industry, as the Persian Gulf was rich in pearls. Pearl divers would work without any equipment, apart from leather protection on their fingers and toes, and leather nose clips. They would dive underwater for periods of around one and a half minutes a time, as they had no help from oxygen tanks, and would dive up to 30 times every day. They would not have weekly, monthly or even daily pay, but would have to wait until the end of the season to receive a cut. The decline of the pearl trade in the 30s saw the beginnings of the region's oil prospects, as the first explorations were done in 1936. This was not very successful however, due to the dry desert terrain, and in 1953 the British Petroleum Company D'Arcy Exploration obtained the concession for offshore exploration and a new company was created for this endeavour: ADMA (Abu Dhabi Marine Areas) and in 1958 they had success and finally found oil. This of course was just the beginning and subsequent successes soon established Abu Dhabi as an important area for oil, and as they say the rest is history.
Abu Dhabi enjoys a hot climate all year round; some would say two hot, because of the surrounding desert. It is even hot in the season that is labelled the coolest; from November through March, while the hottest season of June through September as average highs of 100°F or 38°C, with high humidity and intermittent sandstorms.
There is much to be seen and enjoyed throughout Abu Dhabi, which has several fascinating architectural landmarks and archaeological sites
Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Among the most important and exceedingly opulent is the Sheikh Zayed Mosque; important not only in Abu Dhabi but throughout UAE society. It is named after the man who initiated its building; HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, then-President of the UAE, now deceased, who is still often referred to as the father of the United Arab Emirates. The unique design is claimed to be a unification of the world, as it utilises materials and the work of Artisans from all over the globe.
It is constructed with natural materials like stone, marble, ceramics, crystals, semiprecious stones and gold. The construction began in November 96 and the interior prayer halls were inaugurated in December 2007; although construction still continues.
Al Jahili Fort
Al Jahili Fort
Close by is the Al Jahili Fort, one of the most famous historical buildings in the UAE, which was built in 1891 as a city defence. It was once the headquarters of the Oman Trucial Scouts,who were responsible for inter-tribal peace and protecting the mountains and passes, and was also the local governor's residence. The breathtaking landscaped gardens are open to visitors, while the fort itself has been restored and now exhibits the work of Sir Wilfred Thesiger; a British adventurer known to locals as Mubarak Bin London, and the crossings he made of the Rub Al Khali Desert; meaning “The Empty Quarter”.
Hili Archaeological Gardens
Archaeological sites abound, with some of the earlier civilisations to be found in evidence date back from the third millennium BC.
Close to Al Ain, in the direction of Dubai, are situated the Hili Archaeological Gardens, which combine an archaeological site with public gardens; making a popular tourist attraction which is also frequently visited by locals. The archaeological site is the remains of a settlement from the Bronze Age; 2,500 to 2,000 BC, that was excavated in 1995 and restored. It has been a rich source of some very important archaeological finds from more than 4,000 years ago. The park here as a children's play area, fountains, and botanical gardens.
Drive The Circuit
As well as some amazing sightseeing spots, Abu Dhabi provides plenty of entertainment and things to do. The now famous Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has only been running for a few years, but is fast becoming one of the favourites on the Formula One calendar. Enthusiasts can experience the circuit for themselves as Yas Racing offers them the chance to drive the Yas Marina Circuit. There are several packages available that include both driver or passenger experiences, private driving tuition, or racing licence courses. An open cockpit two seater race car in the Le Mans style, with a four-cylinder racing engine allows visitors to drive the course themselves or ride as a passenger with a professional driver. You can also get close to a Formula One experience driving the Formula Yas 3000, which is a 3000 cc V6 from Cosworth, equipped with on-board cameras that will capture your experience as you roar around the Yas Marina Circuit. There are actually several vehicles available and packages at varying prices.
Do and See
There are a number of guided tours on offer, with buses, boats, helicopters and seaplanes, or you can explore for yourself in a rental car or on rented bicycles or mopeds.
Among the most popular guided tours are the seaplane trip operated by Seawings; the Abu Dhabi Pearl aerial trip is a 30 minute ride on a Cessna 208 amphibian craft; beginning with a sea take off and taking in birds-eye views of many landmarks like the Yas Marina Circuit, the Emirates Palace, Sheikh Zayed Bridge, the Corniche and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, along with breathtaking sights of the mangroves and the clear blue sea.
The catamaran cruise is another favourite with those who love the water, and a great way to catch the sun while soaking up the sights, or for a faster pace a speedboat trip.
Horse riding, camel riding, golf, cycling, and water sports are all therefore the more energetic visitor, while others can enjoy watching horse racing and camel racing, or relax in one of many spas and wellness centres.