The capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is the very model of a modern Gulf petro-city: thoroughly contemporary, unashamedly wealthy and decidedly staid. The emirate’s lightning change from obscure fishing village into modern city-state within the past forty years is perhaps the most dramatic of all the stories of oil-driven transformation that dot the region, although locals have long prided themselves on the city’s more slow-paced and traditional lifestyle compared to Dubai, happy to live in the shadow of their upstart neighbour. Things are changing, however, and recent years have seen the city increasingly competing for local bragging rights and making its own concerted bid for the global tourist and business dollar, with a string of landmark new mega-projects slowly taking shape across the city and a skyline now almost as upwardly mobile as Dubai’s own.
The city’s two standout attractions are the stunning Sheikh Zayed Mosque, one of the world’s largest and most extravagant places of Islamic worship, and the ultra-opulent Emirates Palace Hotel – while the spectacular new Abu Dhabi Louvre, hopefully open (or about to open) by the time you read this, promises to add further significant gloss to the city’s burgeoning tourist credentials. Other highlights include the memorable modern souk at the World Trade Center, the contrastingly traditional Heritage Village, offering superb views of the sweeping, skyscraper-lined Corniche, and the stunning modern developments gradually taking shape on Al Maryah and Al Reem islands.