Of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi (meaning "Father of the Gazelle", most likely due to the large number of gazelles and oryx that once flocked its arid deserts) is the largest geographically, occupying more than 80 percent of the UAE’s total area. The emirate’s capital city of the same name is also the federal capital and seat of government. Distinguished by a skyline of ultramodern high-rises, the city of Abu Dhabi sits on a T-shaped island, one of nearly 200 that dot the emirate’s Persian Gulf coastline.

ABU DHABI ABU DHABI ABU DHABI ABU DHABI
ABU DHABI ABU DHABI ABU DHABI ABU DHABI

With one of the highest GDP’s in the world, third after Luxemborg and Norway, 9% of the world’s proven oil reserves and almost 5% of the world’s natural gas, Abu Dhabi is one of the most prosperous and rapidly developing places in the world. A vast number of the world’s iconic developments (such as Reem Island) are currently taking shape here. In addition, Abu Dhabi is on track to becoming a regional cultural hub, with the Guggenheim and Louvre soon to open their doors.

The Abu Dhabi emirate is also rich in natural beauty. Its island-dotted coastline gives way to a desert interior of fertile oases, scenic wadis, and thousand-foot-high dunes on the edge of the Rub al Khali, or Empty Quarter, a barren tract of sandy wilderness stretching into Oman and Saudi Arabia. In the oases, date palms thrive and forts still stand where caravans once paused along their ancient trading routes and where travelers today will find gardens, spas, museums, and outdoor activities, along with the opportunity to experience Bedouin hospitality.