Abu Dhabi (meaning in Arabic “Father of the gazelle”) is the capital city and the largest of the seven Emirates making up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Abu Dhabi is the seat of the Federal Government and is the country's political and industrial hub as well as being a major historical and cultural centre. It is a city of contrasts. You'll find the domes and minarets of traditional mosques nestled beside ultramodern skyscrapers, chic five-star hotels near vibrant traditional souks (markets) and futuristic tourist attractions neighbouring kilometres of rolling desert dunes.
Covering around 87 per cent of the UAE's total land area, Abu Dhabi possesses 94 per cent of the country's oil reserves and, as the world's fourth largest oil producer, contributes 10% of the world's oil.
An initiative aimed at diversifying its economy has evolved Abu Dhabi into a magnet of foreign investment. It is now a cosmopolitan city boasting one of the highest per capita incomes and one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
The UAE's population has grown to over 9 million, as strong economic growth has attracted a workforce from all over the world. The population of Emiratis is just over one million. According to the Abu Dhabi statistics center, Abu Dhabi's population is over 2.5 million, with around 20% being UAE Nationals.
Islam is the official religion of the UAE, however, other religions are respected and are diversely represented.
The official language of the UAE is Arabic, but English is widely spoken and understood, with both languages being commonly used in business and commerce.
The monetary unit is the 'Dirham' (AED) which is divided into 100fils. The Dirham is tied to the US Dollar at a steady exchange rate of $US1 = AED 3.673.
Abu Dhabi is a destination with almost year round sunshine, little rainfall and near perfect winter temperatures.
The Emirates has a sub-tropical, arid climate. Sunny blue skies and high temperatures can be expected most of the year. Rainfall is sporadic, falling mainly in winter (November to March) and averaging 12 cms per year in most of the emirate. Rain is more common in the Oasis City of Al Ain, the emirate's second largest city, due to its proximity to the Hajar mountains.
Temperatures range from a low of around 13C (50F) on a winter's night, to a high of around 42C (118F) on a summer's day. The cooler months, November to April, are the most pleasant time to visit, when temperatures are around 24C (75F) during the day and 13C (56F) at night.
The city's progressive vision is tempered by a deep-seated respect for traditions and culture. The artefacts and tools of its early inhabitants, pearl divers, fishermen and dhow builders, are carefully preserved and displayed. The Bedouin way of life is especially honored.
Lightweight summer clothing is suitable for most of the year, but something slightly warmer may be needed for the winter months. Be sure to take some sort of jacket or sweater when visiting hotels or the cinema, as the air conditioning can be fierce.
Abu Dhabi is generally conservative but tolerant when it comes to dress code. The attitude to dress is relaxed, but visitors (both men and women) are advised not to wear excessively revealing clothing in public places, as a sign of respect for local culture and customs.
Malls, health clubs and resort facilities are generally more accepting of what's fashionable, but when visiting government offices it is best to cover your shoulders and legs.
In the evenings, restaurants and clubs usually have a mixt of western, Arabic and Asian styles. Again, ladies are advised to take a pashmina or jacket because of cold air conditioning.
Tipping is not expected, but is commonly practised in the emirate. Gratuities to hotel and restaurant staff are at your discretion.
Many fine dining and high-end restaurants may add a service charge (usually around 10%) and a tourism levy of 6% to your bill. These charges are often included in the menu prices and the menu will denote when they are.
If you are very happy with the service, it is not expected but quite common to leave a tip on top of the already included (16%) fees & service charges. If these charges are not included, then you may like to add a 10-15% tip to the total bill.
While it is quite acceptable to take photographs, it is considered offensive to photograph Muslim women. It is also courteous to ask permission before photographing men. Avoid taking photographs of government or military buildings.
The emergency phone number for Abu Dhabi Police is 999. Whether you need police assistance, an ambulance or for any other emergency 999 is the number to call and calls are free!
When calling 999, please remember to state your name, the nature of the accident, address of the emergency and how serious the situation is.
If you’re involved in a traffic accident, it’s important to contact the police immediately. In case of a minor incident, move your car to the road side, as there are fines for obstructing traffic. You cannot file an insurance claim without a police report.
For other enquiries, Abu Dhabi Police operates a dedicated Tourism Police section which will advise and guide you on a range of matters. You can contact them on +971 2 800 2626 and +971 2 512 7777, or visit www.hr.adpolice.gov.ae/tourismpolice
As per UAE federal law and Abu Dhabi Government law, all visitors to the UAE must have medical insurance cover. In case of emergency, treatment to stabilise the case is free. Other treatment must be covered by a cash payment or insurance card for covered individuals.
In a medical emergency, Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (+971 2 610 2000) and Al Noor Hospital (+971 2 626 5265) both have Accident and Emergency units. If you’re injured in a traffic accident, you will automatically be taken to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, as it has the best A&E treatment facilities.
The Abu Dhabi Government portal (www.abudhabi.ae) provides an updated list of 24-hour pharmacies and medical services, including hospitals, clinics, and medical centres. If you don't have internet access you can call the toll free number 800 555 (+971 2 666 4442).