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Welcome to Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the federal capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the capital of the Abu Dhabi emirate, the largest of the seven emirates making up the UAE. Its history goes back to the third century BC, but its status as one of the richest cities in the world is of more recent origin. Oil was discovered around 50 years ago, in the late 1950s, and it turned out that the emirate’s oil and gas reserves were among the largest in the world. Since then the old fishing, pearling, camel-herding and date-producing village of Abu Dhabi has been transformed into a modern city with plenty of high-rise buildings, broad boulevards and luxury hotels. There are still traces and remnants of the old days in the city, including several souks, markets and craft centres, but they are surrounded by a very modern and extremely affluent urban landscape that is more orientated towards the future than the past.Having long lived in the shadow of neighbouring Dubai, Abu Dhabi is increasingly asserting itself as a luxury travel and business destination as well as a cultural centre in the region. It has several attractions worth checking out, such as the Petroleum Exhibition and the Heritage Village, the beautiful Corniche (beach), the Al Hisn Fort, the old souk (market), the Breakwater Island and Sheikh Zayed’s palace.Many of the city’s top-class hotels and restaurants, including the prestigious Emirates Palace Hotel, allegedly the most expensive in the world, are located along the downtown section of the Corniche, overlooking the many sandy islets that are rapidly undergoing development.One of these, Saadiyat Island, is spearheading the transformation of Abu Dhabi into a world-class tourism destination with a cultural emphasis. It is here that a new US$27 billion cultural district will be located, and it will contain museums, art galleries and performing arts centres. These will include the Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and expected to open in 2012, as well as the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi contemporary art museum, designed by Frank Gehry, which is scheduled for completion in 2011 and is set to become the largest Guggenheim museum in the world.

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