Dubai City Information Site

The Geography of Abu Dhabi



Hi, Sunil here on the geography of Abu Dhabi

Because of the overwhelming focus on Dubai since the early 90s, many are just now hearing about the largest Emirate in UAE (not Dubai).

Abu Dhabi makes up 87% of the entire UAE in land mass (of course the “land mass” is growing because Dubai can’t stop building land on water). It is relatively huge compared to any other Emirate!

It is a member of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), is south of the Persian gulf, borders with Saudi Arabia (in the south) and the Sultanate of Oman (in the east). It also borders Dubai (on the northeast).

Just until the 1950’s or so Abu Dhabi was a merely fishing and diving region with infrastructure limited to just some old buildings air-conditioned by roof-top wind tunnels (the AC system of the pre modern times).

There is a lots of sand, open desert area and oases like the Al-Ain and Liwa surrounding this Emirate.

The Abu Dhabi City stands on an island that is about 250 meters from the mainland.

It is joined to the mainland by two bridges, Maqta and Mussafah.

Other popular islands within the Emirate are the Reem Island and Saadiyat Island. There are bridges that connect Abu Dhabi to these as well in the works. I believe it is 2012 when they are supposed to be ready.

In terms of its natural resources, I have run into some conflicting reports on Abu Dhabi’s oil reserves. I have gathered that they have 50 or so years as of 2008. However as I was writing this I read that the estimate is actually year 2100. That is almost double the 50 years of initial reserve levels that I had thought they had.

You might think the geography of Abu Dhabi is like any other place in the desert, but just like Dubai it is quite green (and maybe artificially and forcefully) to my and maybe your surprise. This Emirate is just now getting the exposure it deserves, and mark my words, it is just the start of something very big.

Abu Dhabi is definitely not as sophisticated, developed and modern (forward) as Dubai is (as of 2008), but it is heading in that direction. It has its current share of advantages such as less traffic, congestion and pollution. Look for that to change as the Emirate develops.

And on a side note, if you are the young, hip and clubbing types, this place may not be for you (right now at least). There are no nightclubs in AD like there are in Dubai. It is a very laid back atmosphere and the government (the Sheikdom) makes calculated decisions about its future (not a jump the gun approach like Dubai).

Geography of Abu Dhabi
The geography of Abu Dhabi from a topological perspective.

Current Issues (as of 2009):

  • Fast growing population (traffic, congestion and pollution) the city did not plan for initially when designed
  • Growing parking shortage
  • Mailing address infrastructure is weak (if non existent). Try doing a MapQuest on it ;-)
  • Weak public transportation (but abundant taxis)
  • Plans are in place to establish a stronger bus system and a light rail system

Future Direction (as of 2009):

Abu Dhabi, in conjunction with the nearby islands plans to get the population of the Emirate to 2.5M+, closer to Dubai’s size in 2008.

I have also read that the Government is committed to funding a remote campus for NYU (New York University).

This is huge! It will be the first time a major US University will be establishing a remote campus outside the US. This project is supposed to be completed sometime in 2010.


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