There are certain cities that resonate worldwide with business, others more with luxury and affluence, and few with culture and arts. And then there is Abu Dhabi who’s fast becoming a hub for all of the above. Whether you’re thinking of the Louvre and the Guggenheim, or you’re after a tax free location for your next venture, or even set on visiting the largest mall in the world or the tallest building to ever be built in the world’s leading airline, then don’t waste time searching because a one way ticket to the UAE is your answer.
The wealthy emirate of Abu Dhabi is, by today’s standards, the undisputed capital of luxury and home to a 1001 record breaking projects and structures. The capital of the UAE and the driving engine behind the country’s unstoppable economic growth, Abu Dhabi came a long way from its humble beginnings when oil was not yet exploited. The city nurtured a bedouin population surviving on fishing, trade and camel herding in the heart of Arabia, and under the exceptional leadership of the Al Nahyan family, the nation’s various emirates and tribes united under one flag in 1971 and declared independence from the British. The newly formed country gave birth to one of the most impressive growth miracles, turning the vast swaths of desert lands into a modern set of mega-cities that even today’s New York or London would be jealous of.
Abu Dhabi first and foremost means Business. The oil rich Emirate, under the leadership of HH Sheikh Khalifa and HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed, turned the city into a hub for technology, services, manufacturing and tourism. A highlight of Abu Dhabi’s strategic vision to diversify its economy is the establishment of Masdar city, a Free Zone complex housing cutting edge green technology development, renewables and electronics. Some of the chip components in your iPhone 6 have been developed and are patented to Masdar, showing just how much the project has proven to be a winning bet for the city and the leadership. Moreover, the Masdar project also focuses heavily on Solar power and smart city technology, and features driverless transportation systems within the complex as well as large solar farms and innovative city-wide ventilation and cooling systems. But most impressive of all is the way Abu Dhabi’s wealth is managed. The Al Nahyan family helped create a number of sovereign wealth funds, chief of which is ADIA (Abu Dhabi Investment Authority) created by HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1977, and whose assets are by some estimates considered to total over 1 Trillion dollars, making it the biggest sovereign wealth fund in the world. Needless to say, Abu Dhabi’s interests are promoted through other key figures, including HH Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan who is currently the owner of Manchester City, and holds sizeable interests in Virgin Galactic and Sky News Arabia. Sheikh Mansour is the deputy prime minister of the UAE, minister of presidential affairs and member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. He is the half brother of the current president of the UAE, HH Sheikh Khalifa. Another Key figure in the Abu Dhabi Business landscape is Khaldoon Al Mubarak, an Emirati businessman who is the CEO of Mubadala and sits on the board of Ferrari and New York University, as well as being the chairman of Manchester City Football Club.
But if you happen to be visiting the UAE for leisure and not business, then you’ll be equally pleased! To name just a few, Abu Dhabi offers dazzling touristic hotspots, ranging from the Sheikh Zayed Mosque to the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club. Sitting at the end of the corniche is Emirates Palace, where your only complain will be that it has too much gold. In fact, anything that looks like gold inside the 7 star luxury hotel is actual gold. The UAE is such a tourist magnet that Donald Trump not only built a Golf course in Dubai, but he’s already planning a second one to cater to an ever increasing flow of expats enjoying the American Dream in the UAE. Abu Dhabi is also home to Yas Marina circuit, a world class F1 circuit where the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix takes place every year. The unique aspect of Abu Dhabi lies in its ability to offer both an opulent and luxurious touristic package for the Elite, as well as enabling them to spend a spiritual experience in the calm deserts at the outskirts of the city where enjoying star gazing and local coffee is just a glimpse into the mesmerising hospitality of the locals.
Abu Dhabi is not only a modern day gold rush. Far from turning into a soulless megapolis fuelled by consumerism, the Al Nahyan family took cautious steps to ensure that the cultural heritage and artistic stature of the city remains as strong as its economic profile. The magical blend of traditional and modern architecture and urban planning is just one example of how Abu Dhabi has managed to conserve a unique traditional character all while creating a modern ecosystem of mega-malls, entertainment venues, beach resorts and luxury properties that rival Marbella and Monaco. The fact that the local population is proud of its history and cultural traits is another testimony to how engrained Emirati culture is in both old and new generations, thanks to a large extent to the efforts of late Sheikh Zayed and his vision for the UAE of tomorrow. This unique blend of tradition and modernity was key in attracting leading artistic institutions to the country, including the Guggenheim and the Louvre who are opening their flagship museums on Saadiyat Island, a pharaonic development project that will station Abu Dhabi as a champion of a modern day Renaissance.
The UAE is indisputably the new land of opportunities, the home of those who want to transcend mundane living. The UAE is the mystic land imagined in much of the orientalist writings centuries ago, romanticising the Middle East and Arabia, except instead of riding camels and wearing wooden sandals, people drive Bugattis and parade in Gucci and Versace!
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