Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

When the oil began to flow, according to Countryaah, the city of Abu Dhabi had just 46,000 people, four doctors, and five schools. Rich people had houses in the mud; the poorest families built their houses with reeds. That has been 50 years, when in 1958 British explorers discovered that there was the fifth largest oil reserve in the world, and 90% of it was located just below Abu Dhabi.
Today this city, Capital of the United Arab Emirates, has a tenth of all oil on earth and a city that grows in an unimagined way, generating alliances and urban projects of proportions with the great world powers.

Located about 130 kilometers from Dubai, another of the great cities of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi has an urban development characterized by the abundance of resources based on petrodollars, it tells a story of development unusual in the whole world, only comparable currently with the Asian giants, China and India.

The outlook in Abu Dhabi is auspicious for everything related to construction. Not for nothing will one of the most expensive hotel complexes in the world rise here, three skyscrapers are built, two five-star hotels and a souk. This type of market place can be found in much of North Africa, the Middle East, and the cities of the Arabian Peninsula.


Abu Dhabi city is geographically located in the northeastern part of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula. Its neighbors are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman and to the north it borders the emirate of Dubai. It is located on an island located less than 250 meters from the coast and is linked to the ontinent by the Maqta and Mussafah bridges. A third bridge, designed by Zaha Hadid, is currently under construction. The bridges connecting the Island Reem and Saadiyat Island are also under construction and should be complete in 2011.
Most of Abu Dhabi is on the island itself, but it has many suburbs on the mainland, for example: Khalifa A, B, Khalifa, Rhaha beach, the one between the two bridges, Baniyas and the Mussafah Residential.

There are no rivers in the area, water is only found in the oases, where mangoes, dates, frankincense and myrrh are processed. There are sheep and goats. Pearl oysters are grown in the Gulf area. The main wealth of the country comes from oil extraction. The country is covered practically in its entirety by huge sandy areas and salt flats, the only notable geographical feature being in the N extension of the al-Hajar mountains (3 000 m high). The climate is arid, hot in summer and mild in winter.


Sunny and blue skies predominate throughout the year. The months from June to September are usually hot and humid, with temperatures averaging over 40 ° C. At this time, isolated sand storms can occur, in some cases reducing visibility to a few meters.
The weather is usually pleasant from October to May. The time from January to February is usually cooler, so it may be necessary to wear a jacket. During this period there may also be a dense fog on some days. The city of the oasis Al Ain, some 150 km away, on the border with Oman, regularly records the highest summer temperatures in the country, although the desert air and cool afternoons make it a traditional retreat from the intense summer heat and the humidity that affects the capital throughout the year.

Town planning

The planning of the city was carried out in the 1970s (all that remains of the previous settlement is Al Hosn Fort) for an estimated population of a maximum of 600,000 residents. According to what was ideal planning in those days, the city has wide grid roads and large towers.
In the extreme north of the island, where the population density is higher, the main streets are littered with twenty-story towers. Inside this rectangle, there is a normal grid of roads with not-so-tall buildings (two-story chalets or six-story buildings).
Outside of the more populated areas, the land is often used for government buildings and private villas.
Mail is delivered only to PO Boxes; there is no door-to-door distribution. There are numerous parks (or ‘public gardens’) throughout the city. Admission is usually free for children, although it is often charged to adults.

Planning problems

  • The city’s population far exceeds the maximum population that was calculated when it was originally designed. This causes considerable traffic congestion, lack of parking spaces and overcrowding.
  • Having only one mailbox delivery and a popular address system for buildings creates problems in describing where they are located. In most cases, indications are given based on the nearest representative buildings.
  • The lack of a comprehensive, reliable and frequent public transport system leads to almost total dependence on private cars as a means of transport.
  • Grid roads make setting up a public transport system complicated without having to travel a certain distance on foot, which would be detrimental to its use.
  • The big skyscrapers, close together, usually translate into a dark and claustrophobic accommodation.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates