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Dubai may spring to mind when most people think of the United Arab Emirates, but go on an Abu Dhabi holiday and you’ll see that it is bigger, richer, and more powerful than its Emirate cousin.
Reserve a flight to Abu Dhabi to get a glimpse of the luxuries that having a tenth of the world's oil supply can buy you—opulent hotels, enchanting mosques, and even purpose-built pleasure islands.
However, there are affordable ways to enjoy this millionaires’ playground—you just have to know where to look.
There is evidence of settlement some five thousand years ago in the area now known as Abu Dhabi. However, these nomadic farmers and fisherman were not interested in setting up a permanent base in the region.
It was not until the 18th century AD that the first permanent settlement was founded. Enticed by the excellent fishing, the Bani Yas tribe decided to stay put, setting up their Bedouin encampments and coming up with the name Abu Dhabi. The translation is 'Father of the Gazelle' and relates to an early tale of Bani Yas tribesman on the hunt for the speedy antelope.
There were skirmishes with the British over control of the Arabian Gulf in the following years but the most important moment in Abu Dhabi history did not come until the discovery of oil in 1958. In the 60s they started to export the black stuff on a large scale and soon the petrodollars were rolling in. Even then, the cautious Sheikh Shabut invested the cash, worried the well would dry up soon.
But with the oil and money flowing, the Al Nahyan family soon ousted Sheikh Shabut in favour of his more ambitious brother, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyran. When the United Arab Emirates gained their independence in 1971, Sheikh Zayed was given free rein to build his vision of a new, modern Abu Dhabi. He dedicated himself to the project until his death in 2004.
Sheikh Zayed opened up Abu Dhabi to western visitors and set in motion the explosion of high-rise buildings that dominate the city's skyline today.
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