Surrounded by Oman to the east, Saudi Arabia to the south and the west and Dubai to the northeast, Abu Dhabi is the acclaimed capital city of the UAE. It is divided into three main regions, including Al Ain in the east, Al Dhafrah in the west and the mainland in the centre. Besides these basic facts, there are many important things to know about Abu Dhabi. We bring you a list of many interesting facts about Abu Dhabi that will surprise you.
Historical Facts about Abu Dhabi
We have divided our list into two sections. The first section includes all the important facts about the history of Abu Dhabi, starting from the establishment of the early Arab civilisation to the discovery of oil in the city.
While there is some evidence suggesting that Umm Al Nar and Jebel Hafeet in Abu Dhabi were home to nomadic tribes from as early as the 3rd millennium BC, the most significant settlement was that of the Bani Yas tribe.
In 1761, the western region of Abu Dhabi was home to the Bedouins of the Bani Yas tribe. They were based mainly in the Liwa Oasis with more than 20 individual clans, enjoying great prominence in the area. In 1793, one of these clans, called Al Bu Falah migrated to the main island of Abu Dhabi to access freshwater. One major family that migrated along with this clan, was the famous Al Nahyan family, which later on became the ruling family of Abu Dhabi.
Pearl trade in Abu Dhabi
Prior to the discovery of oil, Abu Dhabi’s economic base rested heavily on the pearl diving business. Most historical sources attest to the fact that the Arabian Gulf was the best place to go and hunt for pearls.
Pearl divers dove up to thirty times per day during those days when no air tanks or any other protective devices were available. Wearing leather coverings on their toes and fingers, they delved deeper into the sea to search for oysters – fearlessly.
The influence of Britain on Abu Dhabi
In the 19th century, Great Britain and the principal Sheikhs of the coast signed many treaties, including a treaty of peace in 1820, the perpetual maritime truce in 1853 (which Trucial coast is named after) and other agreements in 1892 to show their support for Great Britain. The British were establishing themselves all over South East Asia and wanted to protect the trade route to India from pirates. They signed these treaties so that the Sheikhs of the Arab states would support them during this venture. In 1892 the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, Zayed the great announced that the emirate would be under the protectorate of Britain. This was also the time that Abu Dhabi officially became a part of the Trucial States, which then went on to form the different emirates of the UAE.
Although the British withdrew from India in 1947, they continued to maintain their influence in Abu Dhabi as more speculations about the discovery of oil in the Gulf region grew.
Discovery of Oil in Abu Dhabi
Zayed the Great died in 1909, and Abu Dhabi’s prosperity and success began to decline under the subsequent rulers because of the collapse of the pearl diving industry by the intervention of Japan’s pearl industry and by the 1930’s global recession. As the pearl trade declined, the reigning clan’s interest in discovering oil wells grew. Due to the region’s desert terrain, war and lack of advanced technology, the process was fraught with difficulties.
In 1939 the ruling leader, Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the older brother of the founding father of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan granted a concession to the Trucial Coast Development Oil Company to search for oil reserves. This was later renamed to the Abu Dhabi Petroleum Company, ADPC, in 1962. In 1958, Abu Dhabi Marine Areas Enterprise, using a marine drilling platform, discovered oil in the Umm Shaif field at a depth of 2669 metres and subsequently at Murban No.3 in 1959.
This discovery paved the way for many other oil-producing onshore and offshore fields in the city. Now, there are many oil fields available, in addition to the ones mentioned above. Onshore fields include Sahil, Shah and Asab while offshore wells include Abu al-Bukhoosh and Al-Bunduq.
Reign of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and formation of the UAE
In 1966 Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan took over as the new ruler of Abu Dhabi. He was an inspiring leader who was instrumental in the formation of what is now known as the UAE.
In 1968, Sheikh Zayed along with other key leaders from the Trucial States including Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum from Dubai signed the official treaty to form the United Arab Emirates. The ruler of Abu Dhabi then worked hard to enhance the potential of Abu Dhabi. He conceptualised various growth strategies and started to carry out his vision of developing the country with the advantage of increased oil revenues.
Photographic heritage of Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi’s heritage is preserved in the form of photographs. Taken by the German explorer, Hermann Burchardt, the photographs of great historical and cultural sites in the city are available at the Ethnological Museum of Berlin.
Abu Dhabi history is pretty rich. Other than these photographs, museums in Abu Dhabi have also preserved a variety of cultural centrepieces and artefacts that reflect emirate’s diverse historical past.
Interesting facts about Abu Dhabi
Now that you are aware of its history, it’s time to dig deeper and check more amazing facts about the population, architecture and attractions of Abu Dhabi.
Largest emirate in the UAE
Spread over 67,340 sq. km, Abu Dhabi is the largest emirate in the UAE. With 200 islands and a coastline stretching across 700 km, the city enjoys a significant prominence in the UAE.
Designed by Japanese architect
The credit of the architectural planning of Abu Dhabi goes to Japanese architect Katsuhiku Takahashi. He provided guidance during the entire construction process in 1967 when the city housed just 40k residents.
A large population of expats
According to the Abu Dhabi Statistics Centre, a large number of expats are living in Abu Dhabi. Out of the 2.9M residents of the city, 2.3M are expats while 551k are UAE nationals.
Home to one of the world’s largest mosques
Constructed under the leadership of the late President HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is a great icon of Abu Dhabi’s architectural prowess. Designed by British, Italian and Emirati architects, the mosque is a unique celebration of cultural diversity. It has the world’s biggest handmade chandelier and carpet.
Tourism and the economy
Apart from oil, tourism plays an integral role in strengthening the economy of Abu Dhabi. Tourists from different areas of the world come to explore attractions in the city. Some of them enjoy the versatile landscape, friendly environment and luxurious lifestyle in the emirate so much that they end up buying properties in Abu Dhabi.
The city has thriving investment opportunities for everyone. If you are fond of waterfront living, the apartments for sale in Al Reem Island is a great option to consider. There are also several other developments which feature high-end detailing and luxury amenities.
If you are a history buff, check out the interesting facts about Dubai as well. You will get to know that there’s much more to the amazing city that the futuristic skyscrapers and amazing shopping destinations!
Ras Al Khaimah also has a diverse history. It is known for its exciting beaches and exquisite collection of pearls. Delve deeper and learn new facts about Ras Al Khaimah as well.