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Abu Dhabi, UAE

Abu Dhabi is the federal capital and centre of government in the United Arab Emirates. It is the largest city of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and one of the most modern cities in the world.


With a population of just under 1.5 million, Abu Dhabi is the headquarters of numerous oil companies and embassies. With only 420,000 citizens in the entire emirate, each has an average net worth of USD17 million! The city features large gardens and parks, green boulevards lining all the streets and roads, sophisticated high-rise buildings, international luxury hotel chains and opulent shopping malls.

Long viewed as a staid bureaucratic outpost entirely lacking in neighbouring Dubai's pizazz, things started to change radically in 2004 after long-ruler Sheikh Zayed passed away and his son Sheikh Khalifa took over. In a bid to attract tourism and investment, land sales to foreigners were allowed and restrictions on alcohol were loosened.
Homosexuality is currently illegal throughout the United Arab Emirates with possible resulting penalties of deportation, fines, prison time, or the death sentence.

Several massive projects are also under way. Yas Island hosts Abu Dhabi's Formula 1 track and the new Ferrari theme park, while the upcoming USD28 billion cultural zone of Saadiyat Island and its centrepieces the Guggenheim (scheduled to open in 2017) and Louvre Museums (scheduled to open in 2015) have been repeatedly plagued by delays. It remains to be seen how well the strategy will work but the city is certainly experiencing a construction boom.


The core of Abu Dhabi is a wedge-shaped island connected to the mainland by the Maqta and Musaffah bridges. The wide end of the wedge forms the city centre, with the Corniche running along the coast and a road variously known as Airport Rd or Sheikh Rasheed bin Saeed al Maktoum St running lengthwise out to the bridges.
Street addresses in Abu Dhabi are simultaneously very logical and hopelessly confusing.
Many roads have traditional names, like "Airport Rd", which may not correspond to the official names, like "Maktoum St", and the city is divided into traditional districts like "Khalidiyya".
However, by recent decree, the city has been split up into numbered "zones" and "sectors", with all roads in each sector numbered, First St, Second St, etc, and the vast majority of street signs only refer to these. The system of main streets is straight forward enough once you realize that the odd numbered streets run across the island and the even numbers run along it. So First St is in fact the Corniche, and the odd numbers continue out of town to 31st St which is near the new Khalifa Park. Airport Rd is Second St and the even numbers continue to the east through to 10th St by Abu Dhabi Mall. On the west side of Airport Rd, the numbers go from 22nd Street to 32nd St by the new Bateem Marina. Alas, confusion is caused by the local streets, which are on green signs (main streets are on blue signs) and are also called First, Second etc. Most locals opt to ignore the system entirely, and the best way to give instructions is, consequently, navigating by landmarks. If taking a taxi, odds are you will get to "behind the Hilton Baynunah" much faster than "Fifth Street, Sector 2"


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