The Abu Dhabi emirate occupies the western half of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is on the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere’s ‘desert belt’.
At around 75,000 square km, Abu Dhabi is the largest of the UAE’s seven emirates and accounts for approximately 86 per cent of the country’s total land mass.
Abu Dhabi borders the emirate of Dubai to the north-east, the Sultanate of Oman to the south-east and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the south and west. To the north lies the Arabian Gulf.
The emirate’s south-western region, at the edge of the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) desert, has the most challenging and dramatic terrain. Sparsely populated, the area is now accessible but its inhabitants’ beliefs, customs and traditions have changed little for hundreds of years. In the last quarter 2009, the first luxury desert retreat will open on the edge of Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter. Qasr Al Sarab (Mirage Palace) will be a five-star resort which will celebrate desert traditions with visitors being able to engage in a number of Bedouin pursuits, including falconry.
Throughout Abu Dhabi’s interior are oases, marked by clusters of date palms, watering holes and lush green fields of crops. The biggest is Liwa, a super-oasis near the Oman border where miles of green, fertile land are in vivid contrast to the white-hot desert sands. Liwa is home to some of the world’s largest and most beautiful sand dunes.
East of Abu Dhabi city, near the Oman border, is Al Ain, home to a series of oases and the highest peak in the emirate: Jebel Hafeet, a rocky outcrop which rises up 1,240 metres from the desert. The Hajar Mountains form the backbone that runs down this eastern side of the country. Blessed by underground springs, Al Ain is a green, fertile destination much of which is given over to agriculture and which has earned the mantle of ‘The Garden City of The Gulf.’
Deep beneath much of Abu Dhabi is the source of its wealth: crude oil. This carbon deposit is evidence that this part of the Arabian Gulf once had a much milder and wetter climate. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of lakes, rivers, wildlife and vegetation. Over the millennia, this ancient vegetation compacted to form Abu Dhabi’s oil reserves.
Abu Dhabi is the largest and richest of the seven emirates that make up the UAE. It has 80 per cent of the nation’s oil. The UAE supplies between nine and ten per cent of the world’s oil
The Ruler of Abu Dhabi, HH Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is also the President of the UAE. He succeeded his father, HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, as both Ruler and President when the latter passed away in 2004.
Many government responsibilities, including health, education, defence etc, are handled on a federal basis. Others, including tourism affairs, are the responsibility of individual emirates.